A Newsletter of Opinion on Current Australian Christianity


Robert Harkness – 4


The Torrey-Alexander Mission team spent five months of 1903 in England, Scotland and Ireland, conducting their trademark missions after the great successes in soul-winning in Australia the previous year.  In every case of their visits around the world the team had been invited to come at the invitation of the combined Churches of the area/district.


Money to pay for the travel was in some cases provided by the missioners themselves, or by the fundraising activities of the home committees.  Robert was probably paid a “living wage” for a single man and realised his work for the Lord would not allow him to receive private donations, although it is thought he may have  been partly supported by his parents and Charles Alexander.

Harkness lancashire 1904



Above: Robert Harkness (circled) at a Children’s Mission in Lancashire in 1904.


In 1904 Alexander married Helen Cadbury, the daughter of Christian philanthropist of the famous chocolate family as well as conducting other missions in England.  Robert, as yet, was still unmarried. 


Norman Field, a contemporary musician, has written:


“A striking instance of the way in which Alexander turned to account any opportunity for bringing the Gospel-song messages to the notice of people occurred during the great London Mission of 1905. As was often the case, malicious reports had been industriously circulated that both Dr. Torrey and Mr. Alexander were making a fortune out of their work. London was already ringing with the new melodies which had captivated the great throngs at the Royal Albert Hall day after day.


The Gramophone Company approached Alexander with a handsome business proposition for the making of a number of records, which, with the additional royalties, would have brought him in a large sum of money.


To their surprise he definitely refused at first.  On further persuasion he said: “I will not accept one penny for myself, either now or later. But I’ll give you some records, both in song and in spoken incidents, if you will take a big space in one of the leading London dailies, and print the “Glory Song” above your advertisement, also adding that I am giving you the records free, without remuneration or royalty.”


Astonished by the unselfish generosity of the proposal, and finding it useless to persuade him to receive any payment, the conditions were readily acceded to, with the result that “Glory Song” entered hundreds of thousands of homes in Great Britain; while, by means of the gramophone records, the very voice of the singer carried its message in song, and told incidents of the meetings to people even in far-off lands.  It was reported at the time that the sales during the first few days amounted to ten thousand records. In their distant journeyings, Alexander and his wife met with some strange surprises at unexpectedly hearing the sound of his voice.” 


The faithful Robert Harkness officiated on the studio grand piano in the recordings.


NEXT ISSUE:  The Recordings.


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