The John Spencer Tapes From England

These tapes were recorded in the late 1960s by John Spencer. John was married to Lilly Smith Spencer, a 2nd cousin to Sidney and Sidney’s sister, Louise. John, Lilly and Louise were also good friends.

 John & Lilly Spencer’s address was 7 Ardington Road, Northampton, England. This address coincidentally is only a few blocks from the known addresses at which Sidney Cox lived with his family in his youth.  John is 67 at the time and Lilly is 72.

Sidney’s sister, Louise lived just north of Northampton in the village of Naseby, in a residence known as Rose Cottage. Louise married a man from Naseby early in her life (John Halford) resulting in her residing there as opposed to Northampton.

John & Lilly appear from these tapes to have been life-long Salvationists. They were long-time residents of Coventry, England and attended the Foleshill Salvation Army Corps there, the corps in which Lilly had been dedicated as a child. In 1955, 12 years before this recording, they moved to Northampton, reason unknown. They share many insights into their lives as Salvation Army soldiers/adherents.  Their being Salvationists is a bit of a coincidence, as the Cox family in Sidney’s youth was not known to be Salvationist, but rather parishioners in the Church of England.

The origin of the relationship between Sidney and John Spencer has an interesting background which Sidney later told in 1969 to a group of Salvation Army officers when describing his new found fascination with a “tape ministry”:

Let me tell you a story.  And you’ll hardly believe this.  It’ll only take a moment or two.  But the folks in Australia, two or three years ago, maybe longer than that now, they wrote to me and they said, we want you send us a little three inch tape, because that’s the kind you have to use when you’re sending overseas.  And you can’t use these cassette things because people overseas haven’t got the machines for them.  They will have after a while, but now they don’t.  But they said we want you to send us a three inch tape, and on one side put your testimony.  Tell us how the Lord saved you.  Tell us the story of your conversion.  And then on the other side put the story of two of your songs.  Well, I did that.  And I sent it to Australia.

And after some of those folks had heard it on that side, they [the tapes] started moving around the world.  And [the tapes] eventually landed up in Seattle, Washington.  And there, a friend of mine who is also interested in tapes, Major Lloyd, got hold of this, and I’d been at his corps two or three months before, so that he recognized the voice and all the rest of it.  And after he’d used it in his corps he sent it to a corps officer in England, with whom he was in touch.  And this corps officer in England used it in his meetings.  He said, “Now, we’re going to sing so-and-so, and naming the song.  But before we do, I want you to hear the voice of the man who wrote it.  Here’s the story back of the song, and it’s being told to us by the man who wrote the song.”  Well, you can imagine what that did with that song, can’t you?

And a strange thing about it was, that seated in that audience was a distant relative of ours – a man who I’ve only seen once, and then only for a moment or two.  But he was sitting, strange to say, in that audience.  And when he heard this, he went to the man who had the tape and said “I want you to let me have this tape because the man whose been talking to us is a distant relative of mine and he has a sister who is 91 years old, and nearly blind, living in a little English village, and I keep in touch with her.  And I want to take this tape so that this woman in the little English village can hear the sound of her brother’s testimony.  And that’s exactly what he did.  And he took that tape that was started around the world and it eventually landed up in a little home, in a little English village.  And my sister, 91, she’s 93 now, and nearly blind, heard the sound of my testimony.  And it went around the world like that.

The man to whom Sidney refers in the above story is undoubtedly John Spencer. From Sidney’s references to the age of his sister, we can date the origin of the above story to about 1967. Thus, these audios obviously grew out of the friendship that was spawned by this coincidental circumstance. Sidney also refers above to the fact that he had only seen this man once, and then only for a moment or two. That meeting would have most certainly occurred in the summer of 1960 when Sidney and Violet made their only trip to England and indeed visited Sidney’s home town of Northampton.

The development of this relationship also led to a Sidney Cox Music Night celebration held at the Northampton Central Salvation Army Corps in 1970. John Spencer recorded to program and that audio tape can be found under the “Music Library” section of this website.

In this and the other similar tapes from John Spencer one can gain an interesting insight into the life of the Cox family, the life of Salvationists at that time, their abiding faith in God, insights into Northampton and into the matters which were important to them. While Spencer is a bit of an eccentric, I found his commentary to be interesting and amusing.

Louise Cox died in late 1969. Lilly Spencer died in 1973. John Spencer died in 1979.

J. Douglas Cox, grandson of Sidney and Violet Cox. January 2009.

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