Kelly, Thomas


b Stradbally (Kellyville), Queen’s County, Ireland 1769, d Dublin 1855. Trinity Coll Dublin. Although trained in law and intending to follow his father in a legal career, he was converted from carelessness and self-righteousness, and in 1792 he was ordained in the Ch of Ireland. But because of his evangelical convictions, preaching, and indirect association with Lady Huntingdon’s circle, he was inhibited by Archbishop Fowler of Dublin from preaching in his diocese; Rowland Hill (qv) came under the same ban. Kelly then became an independent minister and established his own network, starting at Athy, Portarlington and Wexford, and building a series of chapels from his own resources, which survives in a form akin to the Christian Brethren gospel halls. He was a skilled linguist, and a biblical scholar whose practical concern for his sometimes desperately poor neighbours became a byword, especially in the famine years. A Collection of Psalms and Hymns appeared in 1800, closely followed by Hymns on Various Passages of Holy Scripture. This latter and more ambitious book enjoyed several (and growing) edns between 1804 and 1853, by which time the total of hymns had reached 765. Being also a musician, he published in 1815 a companion volume containing his own tunes for every metre represented by the book of texts. While his finest work is in CM and LM, he seemed specially drawn (like the great Welsh hymnwriters) to the 87 87 77 metre, rhyming ABABCC. Routley rates much of his writing as doggerel (a comparative term in the century of the Wesleys etc) but his best work ‘magnificent’, even unsurpassed; Julian saw his own late-19th-c contemporaries as ‘being apparently adverse to original investigation’ of Kelly’s many other ‘hymns of great merit’—a situation which has not greatly changed. GH has 17 of his hymns; CH, 14 (9 in its 2004 edn); and Christian Worship (1976), 13. Nos.443, 447, 476, 493, 498.