Rosemary Lee, long time ringer and tower secretary at Curdridge, died on 13th September and we have been giving thanks for her life with ringing – as she herself asked. A few years ago Rosemary gave instructions: “On my death, please have a Cheerful Thanksgiving Service, and a good party for those interested. I would like my ringing friends to have a good ring, at their convenience, long and loud please!” Well, her instructions were carried out! Her Thanksgiving Service at Curdridge on Wednesday, 22nd September was certainly cheerful, with plenty of hymns, readings by her daughters Angie and Rosie and an excellent tribute by her son Christopher (Kip). The service was preceded by 30 minutes of half-muffled ringing, and followed by a party in the Reading Room where lots of photographs of her life were on display.

She was born Rosemary Vanner Early on 16th May 1915, and Kip showed us the pewter mug that her father used to toast her birth while he was on the Western Front in the First World War. He was a strictly teetotal Methodist, so used cocoa: Chris said that Mum kept the faith but did not follow the teetotal line, and invited me to use the same mug to toast her life in Black Sheep beer, of which he kindly supplied a dozen bottles for the ringers. Her father may not have approved, but Rose certainly would have! Her family owned a blanket making firm in Witney (she would have said the Top firm) and after leaving boarding school, where she was apparently a challenge, she returned home after a year’s cooking and housekeeping school to help with family and household. On 2nd September 1939, the day before World War II broke out, she married an RAF pilot, Donald Lee, seeing him rejoin his squadron at 7am next day. They were together for 29 years until his unfortunate early death aged only 53.

She had a wide range of interests, including dogs, hunting, New Forest ponies, chickens, strawberries, birds, bees, bell-ringing, brewing, bread-making, bats, singing in the church choir, canal trips, Meals on Wheels and the Gardening Club, and of course her children and grandchildren. She visited them regularly, although some had moved to Australia. Her last five years were spent in the White House nursing home at Curdridge, where she was very well looked after.

Kip said that in a way she never grew up and remained a busy, insatiably curious girl who never aged in her spirit or attitudes, and of whom her housemistress said ‘she ought to do something fine’; she did indeed and many people were richer for being touched by her life.

A quarter peal of 1372 Plain Bob Triples was rung for her on Sunday, 26th September, in 47 minutes. It was the second attempt, after the first fired out after about 20 minutes – well, she got her long ringing! The ringers included Terry Hargreaves, former tower captain, who taught Rose to ring.

Robin Milford

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers