Aidan the Christlike

Pageant type

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Place: St Aidan's Church, Elswick (Newcastle upon Tyne) (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England)

Year: 1951

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 3


5–7 September 1951

Name of pageant master and other named staff

Producer and Narrator [Pageant Master]: Wright, Joyce


Names of executive committee or equivalent


Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

Dieriex, Walter

Names of composers

Mendelssohn, Felix

Numbers of performers


Of the 53 performers, 17 were female including the woman narrator. Of the 36 male players, at least 14 were boys.

Financial information


Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion

1300th anniversary of the death of St Aidan

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Not Known
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

This event was not ticketed, although it is stated in the programme that those attending, who wished to do so, could 'make an offering towards the expenses... as they leave the church'. The programme cost 1s. 6d.

Associated events

Both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches in the north of England celebrated the 13th centenary of Aidan's death.  For example, on Sunday 2 September, 40000 Roman Catholics gathered near Durham to attend special services in celebration of this anniversary. ('40,000 Roman Catholics at St Aidan Celebrations', Yorkshire Post, 3 September 1951, 6.)

Pageant outline


The anthem 'How Lovely Are the Messengers' was sung.


The Guide begins to tell a boy about Aidan.

Aidan the Good

Bede commends Aidan in his History

Aidan the Chosen

Oswald send to the monks of Iona asking them to chose a bishop to teach his people the Christian faith.

Aidan the Pioneer

Aidan arrives to evangelise Northumbria

Aidan the Teacher

He trains and sends out twelve English boys as missionaries.

Aidan the Preacher

The people of Northumbria hear Aidan's instruction and exhortation.

Aidan the Generous

Aidan's care for the poor and his forgiving spirit illustrated by the incident of King Oswin's horse.

Aidan the Protector

Princess Eanfreda and her escort are saved from shipwreck.

Aidan the Intercessor

The royal city of Bamburgh is saved from burning by Aidan's prayers.

Aidan the Blessed

The boy Cuthbert sees a vision of Aidan in glory

Final Assembly

During the singing of the hymn for St Aidan in which the congregation should join.


All kneeling (receive a blessing).

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Áedán [St Áedán, Aidan] (d. 651) missionary and bishop
  • Bede [St Bede, Bæda, known as the Venerable Bede] (673/4–735) monk, historian, and theologian Oswine [St Oswine, Oswin] (d. 651) king of Deira
  • Oswald [St Oswald] (603/4–642) king of Northumbria
  • Eanflæd [St Eanflæd] (b. 626, d. after 685) queen in Northumbria, consort of King Oswiu
  • Oswiu [Oswy] (611/12–670) king of Northumbria
  • Penda (d. 655) king of the Mercians
  • Cuthbert [St Cuthbert] (c.635–687) bishop of Lindisfarne

Musical production

  • There is no mention in the pageant programme of a choir, but it is almost certain that there was one as the pageant opens with a sung piece, and the programme includes the words of a 'Hymn for St Aidan'.  It is probable there was organ accompaniment and there may have been further hymns sung.
  • The opening anthem was the choral piece 'How Lovely Are the Messengers' [composer: Felix Mendelssohn].
  • The Hymn for St Aidan was sung during the final assembly—the audience were asked to join with this.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Sunderland Echo

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • In Celebration of the 1,300th anniversary of the death of St. Aidan, the pageant "Aidan the Christlike" by Walter Dieriex. Newcastle, 1951.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



St Aidan is widely regarded as the greatest evangelist of the north east of England and so is especially revered—indeed, he is often called the apostle of Northumbria. The 1300th anniversary of the saint's death happened to fall in 1951, and although there were likely many commemorative events for this—large and small—the fact that this was Festival of Britain year has perhaps tended to eclipse these in public memory. The pageant organised by the Church of England parish of St Aidan in Newcastle certainly attracted little attention beyond the confines of the parish.1 Church-based pageants were very common in the north of England and the anniversary stimulated this church, which had the saint as its namesake, to write and perform a pageant in order to tell the story of Aidan's life. Incorporated into this tale are many figures that appear in larger-scale pageants in the north east of England such as King Oswald and St Cuthbert.

The pageant had a small cast and it appears to have taken the form of a series of tableaux with voiceover narration linking these. In addition to the narrator (Lillian Botcherby), it involved 13 named characters, including that of the 'evangelist'—presumably St Aidan—who notably was also played by a woman (Sheila Taylor). Also featured were several seventh-century monarchs including Oswald, Oswy and Penda. Other roles included attendants, soldiers, monks, townsfolk, 'Princess Eanfread's Maidens' and the 'Twelve English Boys' who became Aidan's trainee missionaries. The narrative device used was that the Guide told the life story of Aidan to a boy and the main events of this were acted out in the series of tableaux presented. It is unclear if these scenes involved any dialogue. The narration was clearly modelled on that told by Bede, and indeed, Bede himself appears in the opening scene. Also in line with Bede's version, Aidan's story is rounded off with a depiction of St Cuthbert as a boy; in this, Cuthbert has one of his famous visions in which he sees Aidan ascended into 'glory'. Thus, linkage is made between the two great evangelists of the north of England.


1. ^ St Aidan's CE parish no longer exists; it seems to have been begun as a mission church in Elswick in the 19th century when this area started to develop industrially, and was a branch of the main city centre church of St John's in Newcastle. Eventually, an independent parish was established.  See archaeology record for St Aidan's, Elswick, accessed 10 October 2016 at:; see also a mention of this parish in the community heritage project report, 'Benwell's Churches Past and Present', accessed 10 October 2016 at:

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Aidan the Christlike’, The Redress of the Past,