My father Brian Blythe passed away on 2nd November 2010. Brian was a ringer at Llandudno until a serious stroke stopped his activities in 2007, and was formerly tower captain at Smarden, Kent.

As befits our curious art, my father came to ringing through an epic tale of international invasion, espionage, fast cars, good fortune, long-term companionship, dedication and love. Brian was born and brought up in South Wales. As the Second World War developed, intelligence indicated that South Wales was relatively secure, but South-East England would not be a safe place for schoolchildren, so they were to be sent away. Brian’s future wife Betty was amongst them, being evacuated from Dover to Newport, Wales, thus Brian and Betty met as schoolchildren. Not many couples can claim to have known each other for nearly 70 years. After keeping in touch through their college years, they married in 1954 in Dover.

Meanwhile Betty’s college friend Ailsa had married Godfrey Gray, a ringer in Dover. The Grays’ prolific handbell and tower activities set Brian and Betty thinking that they must try that some day. That day didn’t come until after they’d moved to Smarden, Kent in 1975 and immediately involved themselves in village life. Our house was close to a deceptive bend on a junction on the road into Smarden, and one dark wet Friday evening I was at home and heard a long skid and loud crash. I went to help; luckily no one was seriously hurt; two lads in a fast Capri had misjudged the approach and squarely hit an innocent local person waiting in his car at the junction – who turned out to be the tower captain at the time, and he was trying to recruit new ringers!

Brian’s active life included cycling, swimming, walking and, of course, bellringing. He loved to help others. In fact you would receive help without even realising it, such was his outwardly quiet manner; one example being his efforts to keep the Smarden bells (and church clock) active. By reliably ensuring the Tower was open for practice and Sunday Service ringing, he enabled many others to learn the art, sacrificing his own development as a ringer in the process. Brian spent many years trying to acquire the mystical skill we call “ropesight”. His mathematical brain had provided him with a significant career in calculations and the emerging computer usage in aeroplane design, nuclear research, manufacturing process and finance industries, but the ropesight tuition was not quite logical enough for him to overcome easily, but he persevered. Having considered the skill and competency of the change ringers in his local area, he once confided in me “There must be something they’re not telling me about this rope-sight!”. After one practice with Mark Marshall of Bethersden, Brian produced a pocket calculator, on which he’d easily programmed the red LED electronic display to flash up the changes of Plain Hunt 6. Doing it on the bells, however, was much more difficult.

On retiring from work, and having achieved some travel ambitions, visiting Iceland, North Cape and the Canaries, Brian and Betty moved to Eglwysbach near Llandudno for their continued retirement in 2002, and again involved themselves in the local community, writing the village magazine, joining in the walking groups, and of course with Brian ringing at Llandudno. It was indeed luck that Brian was not pursuing one of his many activities when the stroke came in January 2007, but was sitting quietly at home, enabling Betty to immediately call for help. We naively assumed that Brian would bounce back from this set-back, but as time went on it became apparent that the stroke was a very serious one, and that there would never be any significant improvement. He was to spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed, totally reliant on others. Betty visited him every day that she could, and the Llandudno ringers organised handbell trips to the nursing home, all of this helping to keep him occupied, but sadly not resulting in any recovery.

A funeral service at Eglwysbach Church on 12th November was attended by many local people, and also ringers from Llandudno and Kent, and relatives from South Wales, Yorkshire, Somerset, Scotland and Hampshire. Brian is survived by Betty and their three children, Sue, Peter and Dan, and four grandchildren, Sophie, Elinor, Samuel and Melody.

Peter Blythe
Maybells Campanile, Hampshire

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers