'Like A Buoy'
The author writes: I first thought of writing a play about the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould as long ago as 1998. Surely there would be no difficulty finding loads of drama in the life of a colourful Victorian character who married a Yorkshire mill girl, half his age, and was well known in his day as squarson, novelist, hymn writer, archaeologist, antiquarian, travel writer, restorer of country houses, collector of folk songs, hagiographer, biographer, folklorist, mediaevalist, ecclesiastical historian etc ?
Alas, it was not to be for, although Baring-Gould had written two volumes of Reminiscences and, in 1998, there were three published biographies, there remained essential aspects of his character that eluded me. I shelved the idea and it was not until early in 2003, when Alan Payne, chairman of Red Spider Company , challenged me to write a community play based on Baring-Gould's life that I returned to the knotty problem. Having once more read all I could lay my hands on, I remained just as frustrated until Keith Lister, author of a fourth biography, put me on the track of primary source material in the shape of ‘The Diary of Sabine Baring-Gould.' My intention was to skim through this diary looking for specific items that might have dramatic impact, but I was deflected from that intent when it dawned on me this was a priceless record of Sabine's life over a 20-year period that begged transcription for its own sake. Happily I was able to kill two birds with one stone because once I had completed a full transcription of the diary and then researched and cross-referenced the entries, a clear picture of what drove the man to achieve all that he did emerged; and so it was that over the first three months of 2004 I was at last able to write the first draft of the play.
What's more, an entry in the diary written in 1881 during the course of a distressing legal dispute provided a title; that, for me, epitomised a man who struggled to fulfil his purposes in life against incredible odds and not without sacrifice.
Since then several collections of previously little or unknown letters have also come my way, together with a charming notebook used by Sabine when a youth of 17 years; all these have helped to flesh out the actions of the principal character in the play.
Although based on facts drawn from many sources, the play is nevertheless a work of fiction using humour, surprise and dramatic impact to entertain and hold its audience.
Before putting pen to paper I discussed with Anthony Richards a number of potential problems such as “what do I do about a character who moves from childhood to extreme old age in one brief evening's entertainment?” His refreshing answer was “Ron, you write the play you want to write. It is up to the director to sort out problems like that.” So that's what I did! “Over to you Anthony!”