Higham, William Vernon


b Caernarfon, Gwynedd, N Wales 1926. His bilingual family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, in 1939, after years of widespread poverty, and he attended the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel with them. At the age of 14 he was asked to write an essay on the 1859 Welsh revival, and during his research into contemporary accounts in weekly magazines, the quest for true revival was born in his heart. After some wartime mining, he trained as a teacher at Carmarthen, teaching for a time in Cardiff, including art, and then near Bolton, later preparing for pastoral ministry at Aberystwyth. In 1953, early in his training there, he experienced a deep spiritual conversion. He then ministered in the Welshspeaking churches of Hermon at Pontardulais nr Swansea, and Bethesda at Llanddewi Brefi in W Wales, before being called to the pastorate of Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff, in 1962. Until then he had preached in English only 6 times. During his second year there he became seriously ill with an affliction which remained with him for 15 more years, during which time the gift of verse which he had coveted seemed to be granted to him; see no.908, note, in EP1. He wrote later, ‘It has been my desire from my early days in the Christian faith to write at least one hymn of some spiritual value’. His hymns have come to be well-known and well sung wherever CH (1977, 2004) is used; 10 of his texts are included there, and 6 in GH (1975) including its extra pages. They have been published as The Hymns of W Vernon Higham (1998), which supersedes 3 smaller collections issued between 1968 and 1981; here the author expresses his aim as to provide ‘simple hymns that express a longing for God and for his influence upon our lives’. After 40 years at Heath which saw its secession from the Presbyterian Ch of Wales, he retired in 2003, but continues a ministry of preaching in many other places including special occasions for several evangelical churches. His hymn texts are predominantly salvation-centred, and he has declined to adapt them for those unused to the archaic pronouns and obsolete verbforms with which he is familiar. His voice has been widely heard through the church’s tape ministry, and other books include the ‘small but meaty’ doctrinal summary, Unsearchable Riches (2001). He was recently involved in planning the hymn-book Christian Worship (2010), also the title of the 1976 Brethren collection; this paradoxically broke new ground by its unprecedented conservatism in by-passing recent writing. Nos.178, 275, 664, 908.