Many years ago John Macduff and his young bride left Scotland on a sailing vessel for America, there to seek their fortune. After tarrying a few weeks in New York they went West, where they were successful in accumulating a good competence. By and by the wife's health began to fail. The anxious husband said that he feared she was homesick.
“John,” she replied, ”I am wearying for my ain countrie; will ye not taik me to the sea, that I may see the ships sailing to the homeland once more?"
Her husband's heart was moved with compassion. In a few weeks he sold their Western home and took his wife East to a pleasant little cottage by the sea, whose further shore broke on the rocks that line the coast of Scotland. She would often sit and gaze wistfully at the ships sailing from the bay, one after another disappearing below the horizon on their way to her ain countrie. Although she uttered no complaint, it was evident that she was silently pining away. John was afraid that she would die in a foreign land; and as an effort to save her he sold his New England home, and took her back across the ocean. She was speedily recovered by the keen mountain air, the sight of purple heather, nodding bluebells, and hedge-rows white with fragrant hawthorn blossoms in bonnie Scotland, her own dear native land. To her it was home. And there is no sweeter word in any language than home!
A few years prior to this time, in 1838, Mary Lee was born at Croton Falls, New York. At an early age she lost her mother and was left in charge of a Scotch nurse, from whom she learned something of the Scottish dialect. And her grandfather, a native of Scotland, had often sung little Mary to sleep with Scottish lullabies. As a young woman she was refined and highly educated, and she exhibited unusual literary talent. Most of all she was esteemed for her noble Christian character, manifested in daily life. At the age of twenty-three, Mary Lee wrote this immortal poem after hearing the story of John Macduff and his wife, and published it first in "The New York Observer." Later it appeared in a volume of her poems. After her marriage to Mr. Demarest they resided in Fasadena, California, where she died in 1887. While visiting that town a number of years later, I went to the cemetery to see if I could find the grave of the beloved hymn-writer, but was unable to do so. Afterward I learned that her body was brought East and buried in a small town not far from Albany, New York.
This hymn was one of my favorite solos, and was much loved by Mr. Moody.