“There is a happy time” is a take-off of the hymn “There is a happy land” by the Bands of Hope to educate children about temperance. Temperance, or abstaining from alcoholic drink, was an enormously important issue during the 19th century and children were considered vital in two ways: to teach temperance at the youngest ages, and, two, to carry weight with the adults in their own lives. In 1847 the first society was established to cater specifically to children: the Band of Hope as founded by the Leeds Temperance Society under the leadership of Rev. Jabez Tunnicliff and Mrs. Anne Jane Carlile. The idea spread and by the end of the century, the Band of Hope organizations could boast three million members. If the original hymn “There is a happy land” reads “far, far away/ Where saints in glory stand/ Bright, bright as day”—a song about heaven—the take-off revels in a time when “temp’rance truth shall shine/ bright, bright as day” and, rather than urging singers to “come to this happy land…from sin and sorrow free,” this song urges the “temp’rance band” to “come, come away… from the danger flee,” clearly marking the sin to be that of the “demon drink.” The same spritely tune about heaven inspires action from its youthful singers now.
More discussion on this song can be found in Chapter 5, British Hymn Books for Children.