Foley, William Brian


b Waterloo, Liverpool 1919; d 2000. St Mary’s Irish Christian Brothers Sch, Crosby, and Upholland Coll nr Wigan; ordained (RC Church) 1945. Served parishes in Liverpool, Bootle, Birkdale and (from 1971) Chorley, Lancs. A pianist and organist who regretted the loss of plainsong and traditional liturgy after the 2nd Vatican Council, and began to write hymns in 1958, ‘in sheer desperation at the appalling stuff our Church was using for hymns!’ (letter of 29 Jan 1979). Few of his early texts survive, but the first seeds of his later writing were clearly there. 14 of these, many based on Scripture, were included in the modernising New Catholic Hymnal (1971), in the compilation of which he had a share and which first brought him into much wider prominence and his work into extensive use. In including 2 of his texts in his revised edn of A Panorama of Christian Hymnody (2005), Paul A Richardson says that in him NCH had ‘discovered a brilliant new writer’ whose work is ‘very polished, modest and moving’. Foley’s expressed aim was ‘to base everything as far as possible on Scripture and theology, in simple language and avoiding Victorianisms, word inversions and exotic rhythms’ (quoted in the Companion to the Church Hymnal 2005). 2 of WBF’s best-known items are included here; another is in the 2004 CH and another is See, Christ was wounded for our sake, based on Isa 53. Baptist Praise and Worship (1991) features 3 of his texts. He should not be confused with the American John B Foley, another late-20th-c hymnwriter among RC clergy, nor with the RC Bp Brian C Foley (1910–1999). Nos.22, 220

Hymns and songs by Foley, William Brian

Number Hymn Name
22 Why, God, have you forsaken me
220 Lord, as I wake I turn to you