1939 - 2012

With the passing of Clive Holloway at the end of August of this year, the Exercise lost a fine ringer and one of its great characters; the Oxford Society and Oxford ringing lost its most devoted servant; and many of us lost a great friend and one of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet.

Clive learned to ring at Marston in Oxford, taught by Alec Gammon, and with his great friends David Woodward and Mick Journeaux. Despite being born with a serious eye condition that left him blind in one eye and with poor sight in the other, Clive never let this, or anything else, hold him back. Ringing was no different, just another challenge. He progressed quickly, becoming a highly competent ringer and conductor. In 1958 he conducted the record peal of 12600 Doubles at Marston. He joined the Oxford Society and the Sunday Service band at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, a duty he performed steadfastly for over 50 years. Clive also joined the College Youths in 1971 and was a proud member of that Society.

Away from ringing, Clive had a remarkable and impressive business career. He and his brother took a small bakery delivery business and grew it over years into a very successful specialist catering provisions company. Through his business Clive was well known to restaurant owners and College catering managers – a relationship which was not without its advantages for someone who loved and appreciated great food.

Clive rang 1,727 peals, of which 971 were rung for the Oxford Society. He rang 663 of Stedman, but he wasn’t just an ‘old-school’ ringer, ringing many peals of London and Bristol Royal in particular as well as scores of non-standard methods and peals of Spliced. However it would be wrong to focus on the statistics of Clive’s peal-ringing as it was his committed service to all the Oxford Society’s ringing and social activity for which he will be most sorely missed. Even in his last months, as cancer tightened its grip, he continued to keep a close eye on matters and on my last visits to see him, he was more concerned with not leaving loose ends behind him than he was with his own troubles.

Christ Church was packed for Clive’s memorial service. The bells were rung before and after and four members of the Sunday service band rang handbells during the service. Moving and loving tributes were given by Clive’s sons, Paul and Adam, as well as by Swaz Apter. I reproduce my own tribute to Clive’s ringing life here. Our thoughts have been, and will continue to be, with Charlotte and with Clive’s sons and grandsons, whose loss is even greater than ours.


Ringing Tribute to Clive Holloway

Given by Robin Hall at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, 12th October 2012

There isn’t a single person here who needs to be told that Clive was one of the nicest people you could ever meet; but he was. This is billed as a ‘Ringing Tribute’. That’s not the same thing as a ringing endorsement, but I hope it will be that too. For anyone that might not know, ‘ringing’ here refers to the ringing of church and tower bells in the English change-ringing tradition, or ‘campanology’ if you must). This is a ringing tribute because ringing was a huge part of Clive’s life. Now this might not be a very Cathedral-like thing to do, but please raise an arm if you’re here because you knew Clive through ringing … that’s a lot of people. Ringing was indeed a big part of Clive’s life, but far more importantly, Clive was a big part of our ringing life. So why have so many of us come here today, from far and wide, even from across Europe?

We’re here because for over 50 years Clive was a stalwart and unstinting supporter of ringing in this wonderful city of bells, and particularly here at Christ Church.

We’re here because of what Clive gave to the Oxford Society of Change Ringers. Clive was our Treasurer for 12 years, our Ringing Master for 8 years, and our President for 26 years. He was the keystone at the centre of Oxford ringing for longer than almost anyone can remember.

We’re here because generations of ringers that have passed through Oxford (and those of us still here) found in Clive a welcoming face, a voice of encouragement, and a spirit of friendship. Michael told me last night just how vividly he remembers the warm welcome he received from Clive when he first arrived in Oxford. Clive had injured himself somehow (not an uncommon occurrence) and wasn’t able to climb the tower steps but he was still there, because not much would keep him away.

We’re here because Clive was a very fine ringer, and one with whom it was always a pleasure to ring. He was a particularly good ringer of heavy, awkward, or unpredictable bells. There are a fair few people here today who have been made to look a little silly by the 10th bell here at Christ Church (I won’t ask for another show of hands; you know who you are). Clive never was. It was his bell, and the easiest way to ring the 11th was always to make sure Clive was ringing the 10th. Clive enjoyed his ringing, and consequently did a lot of it. He rang over 1,700 peals and travelled the World in doing so. He rang peals across America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand and on many challenging rings of bells including some of the really tough places like Worcester, Southwark and Exeter Cathedrals.

We’re here because Clive made ringing happen. It’s a group activity and someone has to organise it. Clive was an exceptional and tireless organiser and did so without recourse to any new-fangled technology. The only time I can remember his organisation getting unravelled was when he’d been forced to photocopy his dog-eared planning matrix before it fell apart. For weeks afterwards we kept meeting with too many people for a peal until we realised that some pencil marks had failed to come out on his photocopy.

We’re here because of Clive’s generosity. Clive didn’t care whose round it was, or whether you were in his round, or if you were only stopping for one. Martin told me last week about when as a student at the start of one term he tried to go straight home after a peal at Mary Mag without going to the pub because his funding cheque hadn’t cleared and he had no money. Clive assured him that even though he couldn’t buy beer, nothing should stop him drinking beer and marched him to the pub. That was typical; of both of them. But Clive was even more generous with his time. Kate said recently of Clive that he had “time for everyone” and I thought that summed him up beautifully. He did indeed have time for everyone, and for someone who packed so much into life, that was remarkable.

We’re here because right till the end Clive never stopped looking after others and the ringing Society for which he cared so much. He never shied away from doing what he thought needed doing or saying, even if it was the difficult path to choose; never afraid to grasp an awkward nettle. He was a leader, but one with a lightness of touch and not a commander. He had the ability, possibly without even knowing it, to smooth the waters long before they became troubled seas. And he had balance – his enthusiasm for ringing was never obsessive, his respect for the traditions of ringing never led him to stifle progress or resist change.

We’re here because Clive was terrific company, but I’m sure Swaz will tell us more about that. He was one of the very best joke-tellers in the business, and I’ll never forget the sparkle and grin he had when he heard a good joke and the way he’d point to his head and say, “I must remember that one.”

But we’re here to celebrate a life not to mourn a death. There isn’t a bell tower or a ringing room in Oxford that doesn’t seem a little bit quieter and emptier now without Clive (the same is true of one or two pubs.) But the towers aren’t quiet and the ringing rooms aren’t empty – ringing in Oxford is in a strong and healthy state, thanks in no small measure to Clive’s peerless, tireless and selfless contribution over more than half a century. If that wasn’t a good enough legacy on its own, we have a fantastic store of great memories: of ringing with him, of drinking with him, of laughing with him.

Cheers Clive!

Clive Holloway – an appreciation

Like so many others I was greatly saddened by the death of Clive Holloway, who was one of the most unselfish, generous, loyal and totally trustworthy people I have ever met. These same qualities made him many friends, and not a single enemy that I can think of, and helped him build up a very successful business, aided by sheer hard work and determination. He also became the cornerstone of ringing in Oxford, first as Ringing Master, and later, as President of the Oxford Society.

On a number of occasions I drove him round various colleges that were supplied by his catering firm. I soon discovered that, not only had he a wide circle of friends and business acquaintances, but that he was respected and admired not just by his customers, some of whom were highly placed, but by his employees. I learned, for example, that he insisted on meeting them individually to pay them their wages so he could get to know them personally and help them with any problems they were having. This included domestic problems as well as those at work, and in some cases he would help financially. He was just as generous with ringing activities, contributing significant amounts to restorations and augmentations like those at St Thomas and Mary Mag. as well as giving ‘hands-on’ manual assistance. When the redundant bells of St Luke’s, Cowley were removed from the tower he had them stored in his factory warehouse for several years before they eventually went to Christ Church, Hampstead to form part of the magnificent Gillett ring there.

Clive had travelled widely and was well-informed on most subjects (I believe that, had he not joined the family bakery business he could easily have gone to University and become almost anything he wanted), and this, coupled with his easy-going nature, enabled him to strike up a rapport with anyone, lowly or high. He had a seemingly endless fund of jokes, and occasionally a wicked sense of humour, of which one particular incident sticks in my mind. I had told him I was moving down to Cornwall from Leicester. With some trepidation, and conscious of the enormous liberty I was taking, I asked him if I could use one of his firm’s vans to move my furniture. To my surprise, he didn't blink an eyelid, but said he would look into it and and see what he could do. Imagine my delight when, the next time I saw him he said he’d actually got one of his vans for me! I was almost falling over with expressions of joy and gratitude when he pulled out a small box containing a promotional toy model van painted in his firm’s livery! (I still treasure that van). Clive would never let anyone down. The last peal I rang with him was on my trip to the Isle of Man last year. He had been diagnosed with cancer only a couple of weeks before, but insisted on coming so as not to let me down. The last time I saw him he was obviously very ill, but as usual, was cracking jokes.

If I had to sum up Clive’s life in one sentence, I would say simply: “He was a true friend, and he made a lot of people happy”.

J. P.

See peal reports on p.1241 and quarter peal reports on p.1246.

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