Devilish Publishing Music Publishers

Jessie Seymour Irvine

Composer

Jessie Seymour Irvine was a Scottish composer born on the 26th July 1836 in Dunnottar in Kincardineshire. Her father was the reverend of the local parish church. He also served as minister in Crimond and Peterhead.

During her teenage years, Jessie was an organist in training in Banff. It is widely believed that in 1871, she composed a tune for a version of Psalm 23, The Lord’s My Shepherd, which she named Crimond after one of her father’s churches. She composed it as her entry for a composition class and it was premiered in a performance at an evening worship at the parish church in Auchterless. However, she was not happy with it and asked a musician, called David Grant from Aberdeen, to reharmonise it for her. He was already working with a group who were compiling psalms and hymns across northern Scotland, to make into a book. He wanted to include Jessie’s piece, so it was published in 1872 in the hymn book they named 'The Northern Psalter'; this was very triumphant, selling over 70000 books. Sadly, Jessie never got the credit for Crimond, which went to Grant himself.

This was never challenged until 1911, when Jessie’s sister Anna, wrote a letter to the minister of Crimond Church, who explained that it was actually Jessie who composed the tune herself and Grant had only supported her with the harmonies. Anna’s account was published in both The Scotsman newspaper and the Bulletin of the Hymn Society. Consequently, Jessie Irvine started to get the credit she rightly deserved for Crimond as well as other pieces. It still remains one of the most well-known hymn tunes ever and has been sung on many occasions, even at the wedding of HM Queen Elizabeth II. More recently, in 2018, it was arranged for brass band by James McFadyen.

Jessie Seymour Irvine died aged 51 on the 2nd September 1887 in Aberdeen. She is buried at St Machar’s Cathedral in the graveyard within the family grave. As a tribute to her, in 2002, the parish church at Crimond commissioned 4 glass-etched panels that were put inside.