> Coope Boyes & Simpson > Songs > Only Remembered

Only Remembered

[ Roud 7557 ; Ballad Index R627 ; DT ONLYRMBR ; Mudcat 67873 ; Horatius Bonar, Ira D. Sankey, John Tams]

Lisa Null sang Only Remembered in 1980 on her and Bill Shute’s Green Linnet album American Primitive. She noted:

I found this gospel in Vance Rudolph’s Folksongs of the Ozarks, Vol. 4 (Columbia, Missouri, State Historical Society, 1946-50) and responded to its mystical lyricism and all-purpose theology. How hard it is to find gospel music I can sing with sincerity and belief. This is one I subscribe to completely and its message transcends dogma. Some may remember The Patons singing this at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival right after Richard Nixon resigned.

Swan Arcade sang Only Remembered in 1986 on their Fellside album Diving for Pearls. It track was included in 2001 on their Fellside compilation CD, Round Again. A Folk Roots review noted:

[…] A more uplifting din is made by the band on the final track, Only Remembered, one of two sacred harp songs on the album. On this, and Dwelling in Beulahland, the trio is joined by the Dawn Caesar Singers—(plus) Linda Adams, Georgina Boyes, Colin Davidson and Maddy Prior—and it does your heart good to hear them.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Only Remembered in 1993 on their No Masters CD Funny Old World, in 1995 on their No Masters Passendale album with Willem Vermandere and Norbert Detaeye, We’re Here Because We’re Here (also included in 1999 on their compilation What We Sing), in 2006 on their No Masters with Michael Morpungo, Private Peaceful, and in 2014 on their No Masters CD In Flanders Fields. They noted on Private Peaceful:

Text: Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), additional and adapted verses John Tams.
Tune: Ira D. Sankey (1840-1908), adapted Coope Boyes & Simpson.

Called “the Prince of Scottish hymn writers”, Horatius Bonar began writing songs for children in the parish when he was an assistant preacher at St James’ in Leith—eventually producing around six hundred hymns. His simple and evocative texts have been sung to many tunes—I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say is associated with at least four different scores, including Vaughan Williams setting to the traditional tune for Dives and Lazarus. Only Remembered, however, seems just to be sung to the tune written by Ira David Sankey—one of several collaborations on hymns which resulted from their meeting in Edinburgh in 1873 when Sankey was on a Revivalist preaching tour. Sankey composed about 1200 songs and—with Bonar—is credited with making the singing of hymns as well as psalms acceptable in Scottish services.

John Tams’ adaptations make Only Remembered a fitting tribute to lives and memories.

Finest Kind sang Only Remembered in 1996 on their Fallen Angle album Lost in a Song. They noted:

This is an unusual version of an old song, well known in North America but sung to a different tune. It comes to us courtesy of the English trio Coope Boyes & Simpson, and is recorded on their CD Funny Old World. Jim Boyes says that as far as he is aware, the tune and the first two verses are traditional, but the third verse was written by John Tams.

Craig Morgan Robson sang Only Remembered in 2005 on their CD Peppers & Tomatoes. This track was also included in 2013 as the title track of Sarah Morgan’s WildGoose anthology Only Remembered. They noted on the original album:

Sarah [Morgan] learned this fine old hymn from the singing of Sally Rogers. It appears in Randolph’s Folksongs of the Ozarks, in Sankey and Moody’s Sacred Songs and Solos (with a completely different tune) where it is credited to H. Bonar and Ira Sankey, and in On Joyful Wing (pub. 1886) where it is credited to J.R. Sweeney and W.J. Kirkpatrick. Whoever the author and composer were, they have provided us with a perfect “end of the evening” song.

Bob Fox sang Only Remembered in 2006 on the Radio Ballad The Ballad of the Big Ships and on his Topic album The Blast where he noted:

I was honoured to be the lead voice in the anthemic version of this song that finished the Ballad of the Big Ships and indeed the series of 2006 Radio Ballads. It says it all.

Bob Fox also sang it in 2015 on his album The Song Man, and in 2016 on his War Horse Songbook album on Fledg’ling, A Garland for Joey.

The Unthanks sang Only Remembered in 2012 on their CD Diversions Vol. 3: Songs From the Shipyards.

Paul and Linda Adams with Susan Reid and Bob Hallard sang Only Remembered in a 2017 recording on the anthology of Fellside recordings 1976-2018, Destination.

The McCalmans sang Only Remembered on the 2018 Greentrax anthology of songs, poems and music of World War 1, Far, Far from Ypres, and Stephen Quigg sang it on the same-named DVD Far, Far from Ypres.

Andy Turner sang Only Remembered as the 24 November 2021 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Coope Boyes & Simpson sing Only Remembered

Fading away like the stars in the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun—
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered for what we have done.

Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
Only the seed that in life we have sown:
These shall pass onwards when we are forgotten,
Only remembered for what we have done.

Who’ll sing the anthem and who’ll tell the story?
Will the line hold? Will it scatter and run?
Shall we at last be united in glory?
Only remembered for what we have done.


See also Will Quale’s Song History: Only Remembered with much more details on Horatius Bonar’s original poem The Everlasting Memorial, Ira Sankey’s additions and music, and Coope Boyes & Simpson’s and John Tams’ versions.