New publication recounts how Salvation Army soldier William was arrested for marching in Torquay
A booklet has been published recounting the tale of a Torquay man jailed more than 130 years ago for marching through the town.
William Robins was arrested in 1886 as he marched with the Salvation Army band from the Citadel to an open air service at the harbour.
A plaque, commissioned by his family, was unveiled two years ago marking the spot at the inner harbour but now his great grandson Martin Robins has published the story of his ancestor’s determination.
The booklet retelling William’s arrest, jailing subsequent overturning of the ban is available at Torquay and Paignton libraries.
The title Bound To Win The War is taken from a Salvation Army song demonstrating their strength and that they would not be defeated.
Martin explained that in 1886 the Torquay and District Harbour Act included a clause banning marching on Sundays.
William, who in court after his arrest described himself as a drunkard and a waster, credited joining the Salvation Army for turning his life around.
Martin said William’s sentence at Exeter jail was from Tuesday to Tuesday but on the Saturday, the governor released him.
William is reported to have said in response: “You know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.”
As Martin said: “He was released to commit the very crime for which he had been jailed.”
Salvation Army founder William Booth and his daughter Eva had campaigned for the act to be over turned.
But it was the involvement of prominent Methodist, solicitor and cabinet member Henry Fowler who organised a petition of 200 of the most eminent men to agree the arrest was wrong.
Fowler steered through the Commons the Torquay Harbour and District (1886) Amendment Act, which overturned the ban on marching on a Sunday in Torquay.
Martin said: “This saw the highest powers in the land intervening.
“The story has been a bit lost in the mists of time but I think what my great grandfather and the other marchers did was remarkable.
“They put their personal freedom and welfare behind their faith.
“I feel very proud of him, he wasn’t making great statements but was determined to exercise his right to practice his faith