Grandma’s Bookcase contained a variety of books that I enjoyed reading when I was growing up. The Speaking Oak, published in 1902, intrigued me because I wanted to know more about a talking tree. The book included 300 stories about distinguished persons with titles like “A Flagman Crushed to Death Rescuing a Child,” “Lincoln and His Pet Pig,” and “The Bellman Who Died at His Post.”
The following story about Ira Sanky interested me because I had seen Mr. Sankey’s name in the Baptist Hymnal.
THE SONG “NINETY AND NINE”
At the East Northfield Conference of 1900, Mr. Sankey told this incident: Mr. Moody and I were riding in a railway carriage in Scotland, and I read aloud to him a little poem that had caught my eye in the corner of the paper, and I had cut out for my scrap-book. We went to the great assembly hall of Edinburgh. It was in May, 1874. Mr. Moody and a number of others spoke that morning on the subject “The Good Shepherd.” The last speaker was Dr. Horatius Bonnar. He spoke so softly and kindly that we could feel the presence of the Good Shepherd in our hearts. When he got through, Mr. Moody stepped down to where I was sitting and asked me if I had anything appropriate to sing. I could not think of anything but the twenty-third Psalm, and that had been sung three times before during the service. All at once the impression came to me to sing that little hymn I found on the train. But that was followed by the thought “How can I sing without a tune?” Yet the impression came back to sing the song. I opened my book to where I had placed the little hymn and drew my thoughts away from the crowd. I uttered a short prayer to God to help me to sing in such a way that the people could hear and understand me. I started in on A flat, and God gave me the ntoes as I went along. I got through the first verse all right, but the thought came again, “How am I going to get through the next?” I uttered a silent prayer to God again, and he answered me. I got through the second all right. And by the time I got to the fifth verse I knew the tune, and the “Ninety and Nine” was born. From that day to this not a note has been changed.
I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.
From an 1874 Scottish audience to a world-wide YouTube audience, here’s a claymation rendition of Sankey’s “Ninety and Nine.”