John Bacchus Dykes
John Bacchus Dykes was born on the 10th March 1823 in Hull, England. He was a clergyman and was known for writing hymns.
A natural musician, by the young age of only 10 years old, he became the organist at his father’s church. Then as the age of 12, he became the assistant organist at St John’s Church at Myton in Hull. It was here that is paternal grandfather was the vicar. His uncle was the organist. As well as the organ, Dykes also learnt to play the piano and violin. Kingston College in Hull was his first place of study, then he moved on to the West Riding Propriety School in Wakefield. He then went on to enrol at Katherine Hall (Now St Catherine’s Hall) in Cambridge.
It was while he was at Cambridge that he studied music as an extra-curricular subject. He joined the Peterhouse Musical Society (renamed the Cambridge University Musical Society) here and rose to become its 4th President.
After he graduated in 1847, with a BA degree in Classics, he became a curate in Malton in North Yorkshire before, in January 1848, being ordained as a Deacon at York Minster. After a year, he moved on to Durham Cathedral, where he was appointed a canon. He held this position until he died. Shortly after this appointment, he was additionally appointed a precentor, which he continued to do until 1862. In addition to precentor, he was asked to be choir director. He was a firm believer in people attending consistently to rehearsals and he also initiated and organised many music festivals.
On the 25th July 1850, John Bacchus Dykes married Susannah and had 5 daughters and 3 sons. After studying for a MusD degree at the University of Durham, he graduated in 1861. From 1862, he served as a vicar in the parish of St Oswald’s in Durham. He didn’t receive much help from the bishops in running this large parish and this started to take a toll on Dykes’ health.
Dykes was a prolific writer of book reviews, sermons and theological articles, many of which were published in the ‘Ecclesiastic and Theologian’. In addition to this, he composed over 300 hymn tunes, including some that he composed especially for use in Durham Cathedral. Most of his tunes were published in the ‘Congregational Hymn and Tune Book’ published in 1857. Notable compositions are a musical setting for Psalm 23 and For Those In Peril On The Sea, which was arranged for brass band by Naomi Styles. 28 of his hymns were composed specifically for children.
John Bacchus Dykes died on the 22nd January 1876 at the age of 52 at Ticehurst in Sussex, on the south coast of England. He is buried on the churchyard at St. Oswald’s. Here he shares a grave with his youngest daughter who sadly died from scarlet fever at only 10 years of age in 1870. The graveyard was turned into a children’s playground and Dyke’s grave is now the only marked grave on that land.
A commemorative plaque was added to the antechapel in St Catherine’s College in Cambridge in 2017.