Born: November 4, 1771, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Died: April 30, 1854, Mount, Sheffield, England.
Buried: Sheffield Cathedral, England. A statue was erected in his memory in the Sheffield cemetery, a stained glass window was installed in the parish church, and a public hall was named after him.
When Montgomery was five years old, his family moved to the Moravian settlement at Gracehill, near Ballymena, County Antrim.
Two years later, he was sent to the Fulneck Seminary in Yorkshire. He left Fulneck in 1787 to work in a shop in Mirfield, near Wakefield. Soon tiring of that, he secured a similar position at Wath, near Rotherham, only to find it as unsuitable as his previous job.
A trip to London, hoping to find a publisher for his youthful poems, ended in failure. In 1792, he gladly left Wath for Sheffield to be assistant to Mr. Gales, auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register.
In 1794, Gales left England to avoid political prosecution. Montgomery took the Sheffield Register in hand, changed its name to the Sheffield Iris, and continued to edit it for 32 years. During the next two years he was imprisoned twice, first for reprinting a song in commemoration of the fall of the Bastille, then for giving an account of a riot in Sheffield.
The editing of his paper, the composition and publication of his poems and hymns, the delivery of lectures on poetry in Sheffield and at the Royal Institution, London, and the advocacy of foreign missions and the Bible Society, gave him great variety, but little of stirring incident in his life.
However, he did find time to write 400 hymns. In 1833, Montgomery received a royal pension of £200 per year.
How few and evil are thy days,
Man, of a woman born!
Trouble and peril haunt thy ways—
Forth like a flower at morn,
The tender infant springs to light,
Youth blossoms with the breeze,
Age, withering age, is cropt ere night—
Man like a shadow flees.
And dost Thou look on such an one?
Will God to judgment call
A worm, for what a worm hath done
Against the Lord of all?
As fail the waters from the deep,
As summer brooks run dry,
Man lieth down in dreamless sleep—
Our life is vanity.
Man lieth down, no more to wake,
Till yonder arching sphere
Shall with a roll of thunder break,
And nature disappear—
Oh! hide me, till Thy wrath be past,
Thou, who canst kill or save;
Hide me, where hope may anchor fast,
In my Redeemer’s grave.
Greenland, and Other Poems, 1819