Huge parade and theatre tour to celebrate Wakefield town’s superstar vicar who wrote Onward Christian Soldiers hymn

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Whit weekend in Horbury will host a parade of more than 1,000 marchers and the world premiere of a stage show to celebrate the centenary of the town’s Victorian superstar vicar.

Organiser John Palmer said vicar Sabine Baring-Gould, best known for writing the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers, was “a giant of his time”.

Mr Palmer said: "He inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, Sherlock Holmes to create Hound of the Baskervilles and Bernard Shaw to tell the story of Doctor Doolittle in Pygmalion.

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"In Victorian times, he was a top five best-selling novelist, the writer of what is still the go-to book on werewolves, author of a nerve-tingling book of ghost stories, storyteller of the Norse myths of Iceland and a

Jim Causley, John Palmer and Miranda SykesJim Causley, John Palmer and Miranda Sykes
Jim Causley, John Palmer and Miranda Sykes

pioneer collector of folk songs."

He wrote Onward Christian Soldiers for Horbury’s 1865 Whitsun Sunday School parade and more than 1,000 local people will recreate that march on Sunday, May 19.

Throughout the weekend there will be celebratory exhibitions, events and activities.

The festivities start on Friday, May 17 at Horbury Working Members Club, where six-time BBC Folk Awards nominee Jim Causley and Miranda Sykes of Show of Hands and Yorkshire-based Daphne’s Flight will perform the world premiere of Ghosts, Werewolves and Countryfolk, which will then goes on a 25-date national tour.

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Sabine Baring-GouldSabine Baring-Gould
Sabine Baring-Gould

In the show Miranda, Jim and narrator Mr Palmer - director of the Vaughan Williams anniversary From Pub to Pulpit Cathedral tour – interweave songs he collected with anecdotes from Baring-Gould’s own life and stories from his books.

Father Christopher Johnson, vicar of St Peter’s Horbury, said: “The whole town has come together to honour this remarkable man and there are activities involving schoolchildren and families alongside the set piece events. It will be a very exciting weekend”.

Ahead of the event, on the Church of England Diocese of Leeds website, Fr Johnson said: “Anyone coming into Horbury immediately notices the signs on the road – ‘Horbury: home of Onward Christian Soldiers’.

“This was Baring-Gould’s legacy to us which spread throughout the world, and we are pleased to be able to celebrate the life of this Victorian superstar, who was so much part of our own history and heritage, in an event which draws the whole community together.”

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