Sue Young Histories

Arthur Charles Gook 1883 - 1959

March 20, 2009

Arthur Charles Gook 1883 - 1959 is primarily known today for having translated Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson’s Passion Hymns into English, was also the first homeopath in Iceland, and he practiced in Iceland for fifty years.

Arthur Charles Gook (1883-1959) and his wife, Florence Ethel Gook, were the first formally trained homeopaths in Iceland, although there were quite a few “self-educated” people using the system.

From Evidence suggests that Arthur received his training while working at the London Homeopathic Hospital. It is definitely known that Florence was trained at the Missionary School of Homeopathy in London.

Frederic H. Jones, a Scot, had started an Iceland mission in 1897. When he was taken ill (he died in 1905) the Gooks went to Iceland to carry on his work. They arrived in Akureyri, (after stopping in Denmark) in autumn 1905.

While the Gook’s were first and foremost missionaries, they also began a joint homeopathic practice, living in Iceland for 50 years. He moved back to England in 1955 and died in 1959. There are homeopaths in Iceland today and their number is steadily increasing. There is quite an awakening in complementary medicine. In 2002 there is a formal bill in Parliament to look into the status of complementary medicine in Iceland.

From The third of five sons, Arthur Gook’s father was a teacher. Arthur distinguished himself as a student, and won a university scholarship. His father, having taken up a new profession as an estate agent, would not allow him to attend a university.

Instead, Arthur was made to work in the family business. Later, Arthur became personal secretary to a London publisher, and it was there he trained for the literary and publishing work he undertook later in life.

Arther Gook was converted in a Bible Class, and the Bible became his favourite book. He determined to reform his life and joined with the so-called Open Brethren, one branch of the Plymouth Brethren sect. His second wife survives him to the present (2007).

While working at the London Homeopathic Hospital, Arthur received formal training as a homeopath. His wife, Florence Ethel Gook, received her training at the Missionary School of Homeopathy in London.

Frederic H. Jones, a Scot, had started a mission in Iceland in 1897. Upon his death in 1905, Arthur and Florence Gook went to Iceland to carry on his work, They settled in Akureyri, which was to be the headquarters of his work for the next fifty years.

It appears the Gooks supported their missionary work by being the first professionally trained homeopaths in Iceland. He is still commemorated as the founder of Homeopathy in Iceland. Gook built a private radio station and started gospel broadcasts, a unique achievement in his time. Saemundur later became an influential radio voice in the religious program of the Icelandic national radio.

The start of the UK Gospel Recordings centre occurred when Arthur Gook heard of the work of Gospel Recordings. He was forward looking and probably the first Christian to get the vision for using radio to spread the Gospel. He built the first ever Christian radio station but was unable to continue its operation, due to the Government refusing it a licence to broadcast.

He immediately saw the way he could use the records in Iceland and contacted GR in the USA and work for the commencement of a British branch. Faced with the technical problems of making the Icelandic recordings he turned to Eric Hogg, an electronic engineer who, as a young man of 20, had built the radio station for him. Eric Hogg, who was involved in the Missionary Technical Fellowship (who provided technical support to serving missionaries) also caught the vision of GR.

He invited Joy Ridderhof to England in 1955 and arranged meetings and a press conference in London . It was during this time that the UK headquarters was established. Rev George Scott, then Home Director of China Inland Mission was the first Chairman. He, with Eric Hogg and Gilbert Vinden became the first members of the UK Council of Gospel Recordings - at one time the publishers of the largest amount of 45rpm records.

Arthur Gook wrote a number of books, both in English and in Icelandic. His book Can a Young Man Trust His Bible? was translated into many languages, and during a world tour in 1950-1951 he found that his work had preceded him. His other books include Can a young man find the path? London, Pickering & Inglis, 1958, Can a young man overcome? London, Pickering & Inglis, [n.d], Can a young man trust his God? London, Pickering & Inglis, [n.d.], Can a young man trust his Saviour? London, Pickering & Inglis, [n.d.], Fighting with beasts: a chat with young Christians London, Pickering & Inglis, [n.d.] and Which has won: Modernism or the Bible? London, Pickering & Inglis, [1937]. Among his literary achievements was the translation of Arthur T Pierson’s biography of George Müller (unabridged) into Icelandic.

Gook started the Christian periodical Nórdurljósid (The Northern Light). The Lowe Continental Brethren donated funds in its early days with the finance of this magazine. Gook was assisted by the Icelandic schoolteacher Saemundur Johannesson, who continued the periodical for more than 25 years. Saemundur wrote or translated from English most of its contents. Nórdurljósið was widely distirbuted but when Saemundur died it ceased circulation.

Arthur was a man of poetic taste and greatly admired the Hymns of the Passion by Rev. Hallgrímur Pétursson. Although an earlier English translation of the hymns had been made in 1913, Arthur was not satisfied with it. When he returned to England in 1955 due to poor health, he began a new translation of Pétursson’s Passion Hymns into English. As far as possible he kept to the metrical form of the original. His literary taste, his poetic mind, his musical ear, his knowledge of the Bible, and his spiritual affinity with the Rev. Pétursson wonderfully suited him for this task.

Mr. Arthur Gook died in 1959 with the translation still incomplete. A few alterations were made after his death. Arthur Gook’s translation of Rev. Pétursson’s Hymns of the Passion was published in 1966 by Hallgrimskirkja under the imprimatur of the Bishop of Iceland.

While Arthur Gook’s English translation of the hymns is the most widely available edition, his Plymouth Brethren theology replaced the Lutheran theology found in Pétursson’s original text, and so is not the authoritative and preferred translation.

The two Brethren assemblies in Iceland use a Hymnbook: Sálmar og Söngvar (Psalms and Songs) from 1952, compiled by Arthur Gook. Almost all hymns are translations from English except a few of excellent poetic as well of spiritual quality, written by Saemundur, 294 hymns. An extended collection of hymns was published by Saemundur in 1964 dedicated to the memory of Arthur Gook, his mentor: Andelig Lljóð - Sálmar og lofsöngvar”(Spiritual Poems - Psalms and songs of praise). 382 + 10 hymns.