Addington, New Zealand. One of the many world-wide Torrey-Alexander Missions.
Two postcards from the Torrey-Alexander Missions to London, 1904-1905.
The above photographs are of Robert Harkness, CMA’s regular piano accompanist at this time; they met in Harkness’s native Australia in 1902, and he played for CMA until 1914. We are therefore as certain as can be in identifying him on the records, especially as he used a special, highly interactive style of accompaniment which may sound eccentric to our modern ears, but which was then innovative.
That the Alexanders used gramophone records in their work is not specifically stated in the book ‘C.M.A.’, but may safely be inferred, as the photograph you see here plainly shows the polished brass horn of a gramophone on the upstairs balcony of ‘Tennessee’. The photograph dates from 1910. These police officers and their ladies were members of the ‘Pocket Testament League’, which was founded by the young Helen Cadbury in 1893. It still exists, and has 450,000 members in 140 countries.
Above are seen Helen and Charles, not long after their arrival home. Alas, they were not to enjoy a long and peaceful time together after their travels; indeed, they were back in the U.S.A. in 1920, not returning home until September that year. His health was weakened by so many years of world-wide toil, and CMA suffered a heart attack at the end of that month, but seemed to recover quickly. However, on October 13th, another occurred, and he expired peacefully in his sleep.
In the CMA book, there appears a photograph of his memorial in the Lodge Hill Cemetery, Birmingham.
The grave is next to that of Richard and Emma Cadbury, Helen’s parents, both of whom died in tragic circumstances, but that is quite another story…
Here is another photograph, from the book, of the headstone. The Cadbury family were Quakers, and a Quaker Burial Ground is very much different from a Church of England cemetery; but the municipal authorities of Birmingham provided for this, right from the very beginning of the Lodge Hill. This municipal Cemetery was opened around 1897, when the city of Birmingham was expanding at a tremendous rate. It was open country at the time, and as you can see, the trees, probably purposely planted, are still quite small in 1920. But today they have had over a century in which to grow.
Here you see the Alexander and the Richard Cadbury graves as in the 1920s photograph above. The additional grave between them is that of other family members: Arnold E. Butler (1872-1949) and his wife Edith Cadbury 1872-1951. Edith was the sister of Helen. CMA’s grave is in Plot B6, number 290.
Birmingham – at least until the last 25 years or so – has always been a city of Industry: metals, foundries, chemicals: manufacture of many things requiring the burning of coal & producing disagreeable emissions. So the quality of the air, even in a place several miles from the City Centre such as Lodge Hill, would have been very poor for many years following 1920.
Accordingly, the grave marker, though essentially in good condition, has suffered from surface erosion, and is discoloured. And the inscriptions (which are intact, being metal letters inlaid into the stone) are rather hard to read unless you get close up.
Four people are interred here. C.M.A. and Helen had one child, a boy, who died within a few hours of his birth, in 1911. C.M.A. himself died on 13th October 1920.
My initial visit to the grave had overlooked a curious fact, only rectified when I returned to take more photographs. On the right hand side of the monument is recorded the fact that also buried here is Robert Harkness, the pianist who, as told above, had first met C.M.A. in Australia in 1902, and who worked so well with Alexander that he remained his accompanist for twelve years, travelling round the world in this capacity. He died in London on 8th May 1961, aged 81, and being buried here, so rejoined his old master after a space of forty-seven years.
Helen Cadbury Alexander Dixon died on 1st March 1969, aged 92. Romans I : 16 reads: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek”.
In his excellent book, Simon Fox tells us of Helen (p. 142): “She never lost her youthful love of music and retained a fine singing voice well into her old age, continuing to sing in one of the local choirs until she was ninety! She especially loved to sing songs from the hymnals which Charles had published. They brought back to her many happy memories of the fascinating and exciting life she had led with him. She was always in love with him, and until her dying day kept his Den, with its innumerable papers, books and lantern slides, just as it had been when he was alive”. [My italics]
To conclude, here is a transcription of the wording on CMA’s memorial.
Charles M Alexander
II Timothy 2:15
Born at Meadow, Tennessee, U.S.A. on Oct. 24 1867.
Went home from “Tennesee” Moor Green Lane, Birmingham on Oct 13 1920.
“When by the gift of his infinite grace
I am accorded in Heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on his face
Will through the ages be a glory for me.”
If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him…
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout… and the dead in Christ shall rise first : Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them .. to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
I Thessalonians IV 13-20.
Page transferred & re-compiled 22nd December 2015.