John Arlott (1914-1991) is not a name that is immediately associated with hymnody. He was nicknamed the ‘Voice of Cricket’ and he is well-known known for his contribution to the game of cricket. He wasn’t a hymnwriter, but as well as being a cricket commentator, he was also a writer and poet, who did on one occasion turn his craft towards hymnwriting.
The story goes that he was once approached by a producer at the BBC to write a hymn for each of the festivals of Rogation, Harvest and Plough Sunday. Arlott obliged and produced three hymns which were published together with English folk melody tunes in the 1951 BBC Hymn Book:
‘By the rutted roads we follow’ (SUSSEX) for Plough Sunday;
‘We watched the winter turn its back’ (RODMELL) for Rogation; and
‘God, whose farm is all creation’ (SHIPSTON) for Harvest.
Of the three, only one – ‘God, whose farm is all creation’ – has endured and remains a part of major hymnals such as the English Hymnal, Hymns and Psalms and Singing the Faith.
SHIPSTON – the tune used with Arlott’s hymn ‘God, whose farm is all creation’ (played here on the Snetzler organ of the New Room Chapel, Bristol.