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Katherine (Kate) Hankey: Author of The Old, Old Story

compiled by Stephen Ross

Katherine HankeyArabella Katherine (Kate) Hankey (1834-1911) was born in London, England in 1834, into a home of a wealthy English banker. Nothing is known of how or when Kate came to Christ, but early in her life, she developed a fervent evangelistic zeal and started a Bible class for the girls in her neighborhood. In her late teens, she began organizing Sunday schools for girls in London and not only taught each week, but wrote and published poems and Gospel tracts to hand out in her classes. She was also very supportive of foreign missions.

Katherine and her father belonged to an influential group called "Clapham Sect." Most members of this group were prominent and wealthy evangelical Anglicans. A well known member of this group was William Wilberforce.

In her thirties, Kate became seriously ill and it was during the lengthy period of recovery that she wrote The Old, Old Story, a long poem about Jesus. The poem consisted of two main parts. The first part is titled, The Story Wanted and was written in January, 1866. The second part is titled The Story Told, and was written in November, 1866. The complete poem was first published in 1867. The author was not identified, nor was she noted as the author in the 1875 edition of this poem.

From this poem come two well-known hymns: "Tell Me the Old, Old Story" and "I Love To Tell the Story."

"Tell Me The Old, Old Story" was taken from eight stanzas of four lines each in the first part of the poem. William H. Doane (1832-1915) composed the music for this hymn and first published it as no. 240 in his Songs of Devotion, 1870. Doane indicates the author as anonymous. A collection of Kate Hankey's hymns that she published in 1870, including "Tell me The Old, Old Story," titled Heart to Heart: Hymns by the Author of "The Old, Old Story," also does not identify Hankey specifically.

"I Love to Tell the Story" was adapted from the words of the second part of Hankey's poem with the music composed by William G. Fischer (1835-1912), and first published in Joyful Songs, 1869.

In addition to "The Old, Old Story" (1866) her publications include Heart to Heart (1870) and The Old, Old Story and Other Verses (1879).

Kate Hankey died May 9, 1911, in London, England.

Compiled by Stephen Ross from various sources 2011.

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