O they that go to the sea in ships (Tune: Imogen)

O they that go to sea in ships; These see the works of God. For on the waters dark and rude Across the waves they plod. Yet all He made are in His care, Although the winds do blast. O give us eyes of faith to see And heaven-ward set the mast,

Our life is but a stormy sea, And we are cast afloat; But not without a hull that's strong, The Ark of God's our boat. For all that comes our way in flood We shall surmount at last. O give us eyes of faith to see Our life-line heaven-ward cast.

There was a Man, God's Son, no less, Who lived as we do now. And Christ experienced all life's storms, But never did he bow. Now evil has been overcome, The last great storm is past; O give us eyes of faith to see That port, called heaven, made fast.

Peter Millam

Copyright: The Missions to Seamen 1995

O they that go to the sea in ships (Tune: Imogen)

This hymn has an interesting story in that the tune was written by a young Royal Navy man, John Foster, 6 months before he was killed at the age of 20 while serving in the destroyer HMS Imogen in July 1940. His brother, Anthony Foster, discovered the manuscript recently and a retired priest, the Reverend Peter Millam, wrote three verses to accompany the music.

He said, "I remember when I was quite a small boy this piece of music being written by my brother. It was in the early days of the war. He wrote the finale for a young people's concert, and this was the closing song."

Mr Foster discovered the pencil draft of the tune in 1994 and thought it would make a good basis for a hymn.

The collaboration with Mr Millam began when the two met at the crematorium where Mr Millam was taking a service and Mr Foster was the organist. "I was telling him about the hymn and he said he would like to hear the tune so I tape-recorded it. Within two to three days I had heard from him. Not only did he like it, he had written the words for it."

They generously offered the copyright to The Missions to Seamen. We accepted and the hymn had its first outing at our Annual Service on June 25th 1996. Since then, it has featured in Sunday Half Hour on Radio 2 from our centre in Southampton on Sea Sunday July 14th. It has also been played and sung in Chichester Cathedral at the request of the Director of Music, and in many parish churches.

The Reverend Peter Millam was born in 1936, took a degree at the University of Wales in Lampeter, before training for ordination at Ridley Hall. Ordained deacon in 1963 and priested the following year. He served his title in Cheltenham and then served in the Falkland Islands from 1966 to 1970. From 1970 until 1989 he served in St Albans Diocese before moving to be vicar of Chipping Campden. He retired due to ill health and now lives in Sussex.