Great Glen, Leicestershire

Wal or Wally as he was known was born in January 1928 and lived all his life in High St, Great Glen where he also worked in the family business – “The Village Smithy”. He passed away on Sunday, 28th November, just two weeks after his wife Eileen, whom he married in the village church in 1956. Both had lived very full lives in the village and their sudden and unexpected deaths so close together has left a big hole in our community.

Wally was a ringer at Great Glen from when the bells first rang out again after the Second World War. He was actually taught to handle a bell during the war with the bell tied. Together with his father Len and his brother Stan, he joined the Leicester Diocesan Guild when formed in 1946, following the break-up of the Midland Counties Association, to which his father belonged. He was a very reliable Sunday service ringer and would happily ring the tenor behind or the treble to quarter peals, but also enjoyed ringing inside to well struck touches of Grandsire Doubles. He and Eileen enjoyed coming on district outings, even though in latter years, he could not always climb some of the belfry stairs. Wally was always willing to ring for weddings, so long as it did not interfere with his cricket. He liked tradition and was insistent that the Pancake Bell was rung at 11am on Shrove Tuesday, even if he was unable to do it himself. I believe this is one of few churches in the country which still keeps this custom and I hope I can continue to see this is carried out for a few more years yet.

Wally was also a member of the Great Glen Handbell ringers, who performed mainly during the Christmas period. The bell ringers first purchased 8 handbells in 1926, to help learn method ringing, so that they could sit in the warm somewhere, like the local pub. Every time they met, they would put a penny in a pot until they had enough money to purchase further handbells and soon they had enough for tune ringing. When I first came to Great Glen 23 years ago, and was invited to join the handbell team, Wally was the only person with strong enough wrists, due to his trade, to ring the 4 heaviest bells at once. Over the years they have raised several thousand pounds for local charities, including Dr Barnados and Riding for the Disabled and they once had a Guide Dog For The Blind named after them. Eileen was also a member of the handbell team and helped to provide ringers’ teas on many occasions.

Wally was renowned as a farrier and used to demonstrate his skills at Leicester County Shows, where he also encouraged young apprentices in the trade, by instigating competitions for them. He was a keen sportsman. As a young man, he played table tennis at county level and in later life, played bowls and long alley skittles. He was also a keen supporter of Leicester Tigers. But his greatest love was cricket. He was opening batsman for Great Glen for many years and then earned quite a reputation as an umpire. He was a regular at Grace Road, the home of Leicestershire cricket and brought several well known cricketers to play in charity matches in the village. There was a tribute to Wally from David Gower which was read out at the funeral service.

The church was packed to capacity at his funeral. After burial in the churchyard along with Eileen’s ashes, the fanfare “Gone Away” was sounded by a representative of the local hunt. Then after everyone else had retired to the Royal Oak opposite the family home in High Street, a quarter peal was rung on the bells of St Cuthbert’s Church, the trebles of which were given in 1973 in memory of Wally’s father, Len.

Roland H. Cook

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers