A MASTER of meaningful lyrics and catchy melodies, Charles Dibdin was a prolific songwriter, playwright and performer.

A plaque on the front of Holyrood Church commemorates him with the words, “Poet, dramatist and composer, author of Tom Bowling, Poor Jack and other sea songs”.

This only touches on his huge contribution to the popular music of his day.

Charles was baptised there in March 1745, the youngest of 18 children.

His father was Thomas Dibdin, the Church’s Parish Clerk, and a High Street silversmith ¬¬- a man of considerable credit.

Charles was sent to Winchester School in 1756; anthems were composed for his remarkable voice by the organists of Winchester Cathedral, where he was a chorister untill 1759.

In 1760, he went to London at his brother Thomas's invitation, and was employed tuning harpsichords.

He became a singing actor at the Theatre Royal, and in 1761 wrote his first work, The Shepherd's Artifice.

His first important appearance was in the part of Ralph, in the 1765 premiere of Samuel Arnold's opera, The Maid of the Mill. It was a huge success.

In 1767, the famous actor David Garrick brought Dibdin to his Drury Lane Theatre; his play The Padlock was produced there in 1768.

In 1769, Dibdin composed works for Garrick's Shakespeare Jubilee at Stratford, and a number of works for Ranelagh Gardens. His extraordinary output enabled him to successfully serve three theatres - Sadlers Wells, the Haymarket and Covent Garden, and in 1773 he worked on Garrick's winter piece, The Christmas Tale.

His repertoire was incredibly varied, inventive and was always popular.

In 1779, as Musical Director at Covent Garden, he produced his pantomime The Touchstone.

In 1780, Dibdin ridiculed prominent contemporary figures in The Comic Mirror, a puppet show - a forerunner of Spitting Image!

In 1782, he constructed the Royal Circus, a combination of a stage and an equestrian ring.

In 1785, a theatre he was building at St. Pancras was blown down during a storm, and the project had to be abandoned.

In 1788, he started a new kind of one-man-show, in which he appeared as himself, rather than in character, and played and sang his own songs - at the time, this was a completely new concept.

During this period, he wrote his most famous song, Tom Bowling, inspired probably by the death of his sailor eldest brother, Thomas.

His entertainments continued after 1795 at the Sans Souci Theatre, which he built in Leicester Place.

In 1803, he was given a pension of £200 a year, to compose and sing war songs, to keep up the popular feeling against France. It was claimed that these improved the morale of sailors, and contributed to the Royal Navy’s famous sea victories.

In 1805, he sold the Sans Souci Theatre, and opened a music shop in the Strand, but the venture was a failure, and he was declared bankrupt.

He retired from public life, and took up residence in Camden Town; after a paralytic stroke in 1813, he died on July 24, 1814.

He had written upwards of 1400 songs, and about thirty dramatic pieces, plus an autobiography, travel tales with his own etchings, and novels; there were many other collaborations.

He was buried in St Martin's Churchyard where his widow placed a stone over his grave, inscribed with a quatrain from the song Tom Bowling.

His form was of the manliest beauty,

His heart was kind and soft,

Faithful, below, he did his duty;

But now he's gone aloft.

In 1889 after his original tomb collapsed, a Celtic cross memorial was erected by public subscription in St Martin's Gardens, Camden Town.

His two sons, Charles Mungo Dibdin - sometimes confused with him - and Thomas John Dibdin, were to follow him into the theatre world.

His daughter, Harriet Pitt, became an actress at Sadlers Wells.