13 July 1769–14 May 1855
MR. KELLY was the only son of the Rt. Hon. Chief Baron Kelly, one of the Royal Judges. He was born, July 18, 1769, at Kellyville, near Athy, Queens County, Ireland. His youth was passed in the midst of affluence, and he was favored with the very best advantages of social and intellectual training. He pursued a preparatory course of education at the schools of Port Arlington and Kilkenny. He completed his education at the University of Dublin, graduating with distinction.
He now entered, as a student of law, at the Temple, London, and was a welcome visitor at Edmund Burke’s. He had, from an early age, been seriously inclined, and, but for his father’s wishes, would have sought the ministry. The perusal of one of the excellent works of the evangelical Romaine led him to consider his ways, and to be a Christian indeed. He renounced the world, relinquished the law, and consecrated himself to the service of his Master. He took orders early in 1792, with three others of his University associates of similar views, John Walker, Henry Maturin, and Walter Shirley (a son of the Hon. and Rev. Walter Shirley), all of whom became useful ministers of the Gospel. Mr. Kelly’s change was a great disappointment and mortification to his parents and kindred. Evangelical religion had but few followers and advocates, at that time, among the gentry and aristocracy of Ireland.
French infidelity had cast its blight over the land. The heart-searching doctrines of the Gospel were seldom proclaimed from the pulpits of the Established Church. Kelly and his three young brethren began their ministry in Dublin, but were regarded by the clergy with suspicion. They obtained the Sunday afternoon service at St. Luke’s, and their preaching drew a crowd, to the displeasure of the rector, who soon stopped it. They were permitted to conduct the Sunday morning service at Irishtown; but Dr. Fowler, the Archbishop of Dublin, closed the pulpits of his diocese against them. They now betook themselves to Lady Huntingdon's Chapels, Plunket Street, and Bethesda, in the vicinity of Rutland and Mountjoy Squares. Alderman Hutton, also, opened his house, Luson Street, near St. Stephen’s Green, for Friday evening worship, and Mr. Kelly took charge of the service. He preached, also, at Blackrock. Such was his entrance on a ministerial career, of great labor and service, protracted to extreme old age.
He married, in 1800, Miss Tighe, of Rosanna, County Wicklow, whose mother was the only child of Sir William and Lady Betty Fownes, and inherited their large fortune and estates. At his father's death, Mr. Kelly, also, came into possession of ample wealth. But all his possessions he held in trust for his divine Redeemer. He erected a chapel at Blackrock; another at Athy, the place of his family residence; another at Port Arlington; another at Wexford; and another at Waterford. These chapels were supplied by godly ministers sent by the Haldanes of Scotland. Disowned by the rulers of the Established Church, he pursued his work independently; and, eventually, through conviction, became an avowed Dissenter. His chapels and preachers were classified as of “The Rev. Thomas Kelly's Connection.” His winters were spent at Dublin, and his summers at Athy, in both places as a pastor. But his labors were widely extended. He delighted in the work, and embraced frequent opportunities to preach the Gospel in all the surrounding region.
He took a most lively interest in the spread of the Gospel abroad, as well as at home, especially in the work of the London Missionary Society. He was a most diligent and laborious servant of Christ. His varied and extensive learning was employed without pedantry, and with unaffected humility, in the advancement of his Master’s cause. His preaching was thoroughly evangelical, and was characterized “by surprising variety, depth, and richness of thought, accompanied by the unction of genuine piety.”
He was a poet and musician, as well as a theologian. He wrote hymns, and composed the music for their proper expression. He published (1804) a volume of 96 original Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture. His third edition (1809) contained 304 hymns; the fifth (1820), 433 hymns ; the sixth (1889), 503 hymns ; and the seventh (1858), 765 hymns—all original. The hymns and tunes composed for them were, also, published together, as Kelly’s Hymns set to Music by the Author.
He published but little else. His “Andrew Dunn” was written for the Religious Tract Society, and is an admirable specimen of controversy against Romanism. He wrote for a Dublin periodical a short series of articles, containing incidents in his early life, and entitled, “Reminiscences of the Church.” He issued in pamphlet form a few “Thoughts on Imputed Righteousness,” and three other pamphlets, at various times, in reply to Canon Stowell, Archbishop Whately, and another clerical writer.
He continued in the exercise of his ministry until October, 1854, when, while preaching to his people in Dublin, he had a slight stroke of paralysis, from which he recovered, though with an evident loss of vigor. In the following spring, an alarming illness supervened, which he bore with great meekness and resignation. He died, May 14, 1855, in his eighty-sixth year.
by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)
Collections of Hymns:
Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1802): PDF
Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture
1st ed. (1804): PDF
2nd ed. (1806): PDF [index]
3rd ed. (1809): PDF [index]
4th ed. (1812): Archive.org
5th ed. (1820): PDF
6th ed. (1826): PDF
New ed. (1837): PDF
Appendix No. 1 (?)
Appendix No. 2 (1846): WorldCat
7th ed. (1853): PDF
Hymns Adapted for Social Worship (1811): PDF
Hymns Not Before Published (1815): PDF
Missionary Hymns (n.d.): PDF
John Hall, The Memory of the Just: A Tribute to the Memory of the Late Rev. Thomas Kelly (Dublin: John Robertson, 1855): WorldCat
“Memoir of the Late Rev. Thomas Kelly of Dublin,” Evangelical Magazine, vol. 34 (Feb. 1856), pp. 61-71: HathiTrust
Josiah Miller, “Thomas Kelly,” Singers and Songs of the Church, 2nd ed. (1869), pp. 337-339: Archive.org
John Gadsby, “Thomas Kelly,” Memoirs of the Principal Hymn-Writers & Compilers of the 17th, 18th, & 19th Centuries, 4th ed. (London, 1870): HathiTrust
Edwin F. Hatfield, “Thomas Kelly,” The Poets of the Church (NY: Anson D.F. Randolph, 1884), pp. 362-365: Archive.org
Samuel Duffield, English Hymns: Their Authors and History, 3rd ed., rev. (NY: Funk & Wagnalls, 1888), pp. 206-207: Archive.org
John Julian, “Thomas Kelly,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 614-615: Google Books
J.R. Watson, “Thomas Kelly,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
Grayson Carter, “Thomas Kelly,” Oxford Dictionary National Biography:
“Thomas Kelly,” Dictionary of Irish Biography:
Thomas Kelly, Hymnary.org: