Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Hungry Mice Inspire Silent Night

One of the most popular of all the Christmas carols is "Silent Night".

What is not always realised is that it was written in most unusual circumstances.

In the little village of Unterweisburg high up in the Austrian Tyrol at Christmas in 1818, disappointment loomed for the parishioners. A family of hungry mice had eaten through the bellows of the church organ, rendering it incapable of being used.

So the priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and the schoolteacher, Franz Gruber, who was also the organist, put their heads together and came up with a song that the congregation could sing with just a guitar accompaniment.

The priest wrote the words and the teacher wrote the music, and they called it "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht". The congregation quickly learned to sing it, and we still know and love that song today as "Silent Night".

It was "Silent Night" that both sides sang to each other in the trenches at Christmas 1914, during the terrible Great War.

This is one of the many stories that I feature in my popular talk "Ding Dong Merrily on High". Clubs and societies might like me to give this talk to them in the run up to Christmas 2009.