Priest’s words in Sullivan tune

Ossett-born Rev Rawson Taylor. Picture stored in Princeton Library.
Ossett-born Rev Rawson Taylor. Picture stored in Princeton Library.

One half of famous composing duo Gilbert and Sullivan turned the words of an Ossett-born priest into a popular hymn sung all over the world.

That is the finding of a Facebook history group, whose research is now being shared in the USA.

Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA) was founded in 2015 for the sharing of photos, memories and historical facts relating to the town.

And now the group has received recognition abroad after discovering Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan composed the tune for hymn I’m But A Stranger Here (Heaven Is My Home), written by Ossett-born Revd Thomas Rawson Taylor.

Historical researcher Alan Howe, who regularly contributes to the Facebook page, said: “This really shows the value of OTTA to local history. It has provided an important historical fact that, to my knowledge, no one knew about.”

The discovery began with a post on the page, late last year.

Contributor Andrea Hartley shared a portrait she had found of a Revd Thomas Taylor dating back to 1807. It was stored in the digital collection of the New York Public Library (NYPL).

Earlier this year, she then discovered a portrait of a Revd Thomas Rawson Taylor and a volume about his life in the Princeton Theological Seminary Library in New Jersey.

OTTA members helped to research the pair. And the group learned that Revd Rawson Taylor was born in Ossett in 1807, the son of Revd Taylor, who was the minister at Ossett Green Independent Congregational Church from 1795 until 1808.

Revd Rawson Taylor, who died aged 27 of tuberculosis, followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a pastor at a Sheffield church. In his short life, he penned many sermons, poems and hymns, including I’m But A Stranger Here.

His words were later set to music by Sir Sullivan, who also composed the tune to Onward Christian Soldiers, written by Horbury Bridge curate Sabine Baring Gould.

Mr Howe said: “This work shows the power and the potential of Ossett Through The Ages.

“How much more might be found of Ossett’s history in the farthest corners and the most distant and unexpected archives?”

The OTTA research will be available to read at ossett.net and a copy has been requested by the NYPL.