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Thomas Whytehead › Texts

Short Name: Thomas Whytehead
Full Name: Whytehead, Thomas, 1815-1843
Birth Year: 1815
Death Year: 1843

Thomas Whytehead was born at Thormanby, York, in 1815. He studied at Beverly Grammar School, and S. John's College, Cambridge; graduated B.A. in 1837, and M.A. in 1840. He received various honours at the University, among them the Chancellor's medal for English verse. In 1839, he was appointed Curate of Freshwater, Isle of Wight. In 1841, he was appointed chaplain to the Bishop of New Zealand, but died the next year after reaching Sidney. One of his last works was to translate Bishop Ken's "Evening Hymn" into Maori. The few works which he published give a favorable impression of the piety and learning of their author.
-Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872.

Whytehead, Thomas, M.A., son of H. R. Whytehead, Rector of Crayke, and Prebendary of Lincoln, was born at Thormanby, Nov. 30, 1815. He was educated at Beverley Grammar School, and St. John's College, Cambridge. He was Bell University Scholar; he also won the Chancellor's medal for English Verse twice; the Hulsean prize of 1835; and other distinctions. He was also twenty-second senior optirae in the Mathematical Tripos, and second in the first class in the Classical Tripos; B.A. in 1837, and Foundation Fellow of his college the same year. In 1838 he was classical lecturer at Clare College, but left the University for the Curacy of Freshwater, Isle of Wight, on taking Holy Orders in 1839.
In 1841 he was appointed Chaplain to Dr. Selwyn, Bishop elect of New Zealand, and sailed for that country in 1842. He was appointed the first Principal of the College which the Bishop established in New Zealand; but owing to the rupture of a blood vessel shortly after landing in New South Wales, he never took any duty in New Zealand. The little time and strength which remained to him he spent in correcting the Maori translation of the Bible and Prayer Book. The end came, however, only too soon, and he died at Waimate, New Zealand, March 19, 1843. The esteem in which he was held is emphasised by the fact that

"When the new chapel of his college [St. John's Cambridge] was erected and the vaulted roof was enriched with a series of figures, beautifully executed, according to the several successive centuries of the Christian era, the five which received the distinguished honour of being selected to represent the nineteenth century, all members of his college, were Henry Martyn, William Wilberforce, William Wordsworth, James Wood, and Thomas Whytehead."—( Mission Life, July 1873, p. 390.)

Whytehead's Poems were published by Rivingtons in 1842, and his College Life, posthumously in 1845. In the former there are seven "Hymns towards a Holy Week." Of these "Last of creation's days" (Sixth day) and the widely known "Sabbath of the saints of old" (q.v.). Five days before he died he wrote to a friend:—

"I took up the translation of the Evening Hymn (four verses for service) into Maori rhyming verse, the first of the kind of the same metre and rhythm as the English. Two hundred and fifty copies have been printed, and sung in church and school by the natives, and several of them came and sang under my window. They call it the 'new hymn of the sick minister.' Bishop Ken's lines ['Glory to Thee, my God, this night'] it is very hard for one to compress within the same bounds in a rude language. However it is done, and people seem pleased with it; and it is a comfort to think one has introduced Bishop Ken's beautiful hymn into the Maori's evening worship, and left them this legacy when I could do no more for them."

A life so short and holy could have had no more beautiful ending.

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

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