Professor Wiggins, The Army's Minstrel
The August 1900 first week edition of the War Cry carried a full page account of the promotion to glory of George A.C. Wiggins with the heading " Synopsis of the Career and promotion to Glory of our Glorified Comrade the Late Professor Wiggins." "He is going to take me," were the last words which our dear departed brother, Professor Wiggins intelligently uttered before his now-glorified spirit had flitted from its' house of clay' to be forever with the Lord. Thus was the last testimony given by G.A.C Wiggins one of the outstanding contributors to the world of Salvation Army music in the early days of the Salvation Army, Canada and Bermuda Territory.
When it came to matters musical Wiggins was a master. Prior to his Salvation Army involvement not only was he a leading church organist but he was also a highly regarded music teacher. His music career began early in life, having played before Queen Victoria shortly after his sixth birthday. His early aptitude for music opened up an opportunity as an instructor of music in the British army. He traveled with the army and eventually ended up in Fredericton N.B. where he was discharged on medical grounds. He then went back to England and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he received his degree and remained as a teacher for one year. Coming back to Canada he took a position in the Collegiate Institute of Whitby where he was recognized as one of the professors of that institution. However, the professor had a serious weakness in his character. He was a slave to alcohol. For 25 years whiskey had been gradually gaining mastery over this talented musician. In time it had such control over him that he would turn up in a drunken state for service in the local church where he was choirmaster and organist.
The Salvation Army Comes To Whitby
When Professor Wiggins heard the Salvationists on the street corner in Whitby he began to think that the Judgment Day was drawing nigh, and that it was high time he had quit the one unfortunate habit of his life and that which was destroying him- the drink. He listened to the Army on the street two or three times and then followed them to the barracks and there sought and found salvation. A transformation took place immediately. He became a soldier, and a year or so later applied for officership. He was accepted and was appointed to Cobourg corps. The soldiers of Cobourg Corps were proud to have as their corps officer, not Captain Wiggins, but, as he was better known, Captain Professor Wiggins.
His next appointment to Brockville was the scene of his arrest and imprisonment in the Brockville jail for having refused to obey the Magistrate's orders not to hold any more open airs or march along the town's streets. As he was being led off to jail he could be heard singing at the top of his voice: "I'm satisfied with Jesus here. He's everything to me." It was immediately after his release from the Brockville jail that he wrote the words and music of that song which has gone around the world:
"Forward soldiers, marching on to war, Step out boldly, keep the foe in view; We shall conquer, for we know we are True Blood and Fire soldiers of the King of Kings."
Following a brief career as a corps officer the professor captain was appointed to territorial headquarters staff where he was involved in the music of the territory. He traveled throughout the territory making and singing Salvation Army music and songs and telling what Christ had done for him through the Army's instrumentality. He was a prolific writer of songs. In 1888 a booklet of his songs titled "New and Original Songs" composed by Professor George A. C. Wiggins, B.A. was published by Commissioner T. B. Coombs. Another booklet of songs was published in 1887. Songs such as "Come Away To Calvary"," There's A War To Wage", and " I'm Saved and Fully Trusting" were just a few of his compositions.
He represented the Canada and Bermuda Territory at the Crystal Palace in London, England during the Triennial Congress in l890. Writing to his wife from the Congress Hall, Clapton, London, England he said: "I cannot describe to you the grandeur of the processions and meetings at the Crystal Palace. I trembled and cried with delight. About one hundred and thirty thousand people present, 5200 officers among them, every country represented; 1,000 bandsmen -1 played on the piano at the palace, 800 out to the penitent form." A talented musician and soldier of Jesus Christ, upon being suddenly promoted to glory was given an impressive service in the Lippincott barracks, where he loved to come and "sing and pray and play for Jesus" as he used to say. He was given a soldier's funeral, his body being laid in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, on Tuesday June 19th 1900.