Cherry, Edith Adeline Gilling
b Plymouth, Devon 1872, d Plymouth 1897. Disabled by poliomyelitis from the age of 16 months until her death at the age of 25, she walked with a pair of light crutches which she called ‘my ponies’. A further outbreak when she was 12 seemed to prompt her to writing, and she produced many poems before she was 15. Edith Cherry founded a ‘Whatsoever Band’ of committed friends, and supported Sunday School work and the YWCA. She was also a gifted illustrator of cards and porcelain which she neatly embellished with flower or fern sprays and Bible texts. Of the ‘unpremeditated art’ of her verse, she said on her death-bed, ‘They were given to me just ready, and all I had to do was to write them down’. She waited ‘until some theme found her’ (said Samuel Vincent) while ‘listening heavenward’ during her daily work. But she was much encouraged by praise and sensitive to criticism; some poems appeared in the periodical The Christian without significant response at the time. On hearing that Spurgeon was dying, by a telegram read out to a Plymouth audience of 3000, she wrote ‘The passing of Pastor C H Spurgeon’ that night, and when the morning papers announced his death, she wrote ‘Morning’ before getting up. The death of her only sister at the age of 4, when Edith was about 6, had made a lasting impression; heaven is a recurring theme of her writing and she was ready for ‘Home’ in the few hours between a 3rd stroke and her death. She expressed sorrow that what she had done for Christ seemed so small, but also said, ‘I think I am going, mother…I’ve been hungry to go for some while…I shall be really disappointed if I don’t go now’. She dwelt much on forgiveness; knowing Christian assurance but admitting ‘The hardest part is to forgive myself!’. John 6:37 was a favourite text. The Master’s Touch and other Poems, published by Morgan and Scott in 1903 with F B Meyer’s prefatory note, enjoyed a worldwide readership; it included her best known text, as here in modified form. An earlier tune was composed for this by James Mountain (see Composers’ index) and appears in Hymns of Consecration and Faith together with another of her hymns. Bishop Handley Moule (qv) prefaced her 2nd collection, The Master’s Treasures, and 3 further hymns were published elsewhere in the early years of the 20th c. No.769.