Boat-burning Viking farewell at Sheringham festival in memory of re-enactor Chris
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk re-enactment group member who died suddenly a few weeks ago will get an authentic Anglo Saxon send-off at Sheringham's Scira Viking Festival this weekend, when a longboat bearing his name is set aflame on the beach.
Chris Wilkins, of Gorleston, was a founder member of Ordgar, a Dark Ages re-enactment group that gives living history demonstrations all over the country.
The Norwich-based group, which also stages combat displays featuring spear-wielding, chainmail-clad warriors, has been a festival regular at Sheringham since the annual event was first held three years ago.
As well as setting up a Viking village in the garden of the town's Lobster pub, Ordgar members join fellow re-enactors Wuffa in the torchlit parade through the town.
So, when father-of-three Mr Wilkins died in his early 70s of a heart attack in December, his fellow re-enactors decided they wanted to commemorate his life – and his dedication to living history - and contacted Scira festival founder Colin Seal to ask for help.
'Chris was, without doubt, the kindest most caring man I have met,' said Ordgar founder member Joolz Bailey. 'He absolutely loved the group, he came to every show and he was always the first up in the morning to get the fire going and put the kettle on.'
Keen to help, artist and signwriter Mr Seal came up with the idea of painting Mr Wilkins's Norse name – Edmund the Elder – on the side of the 24ft wooden boat that is burnt on the beach at the end of the festival each year.
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'Ordgar make a huge difference,' Mr Seal said. 'They tie the whole festival together, so I thought it would be perfect to dedicate the boat to Chris.'
Ms Bailey said this year's festival would have added poignancy for Ordgar, which has just been nominated for a Viking Society living history award.
'It will be the first time we have been to Sheringham without Chris, which will be a challenge,' she said. 'But it is wonderful that, thanks to Colin, we will be able to honour him in a true Viking way.'