1935 - 2011

A service to celebrate the life of Bob was held on 18th January 2011 at St Mary’s Church, Rushden, Northamptonshire. There was open ringing before and afterwards and a variety of Bob’s favourite methods were rung finishing with, at his request, diminishing rounds. The large church was absolutely packed, a tribute to the affection in which Bob was held and a reflection of the many lives which he had touched, as Headteacher, as school governor, as church organist, as contributor to the Parish Magazine (using the pseudonym Tintinnabulum), as member of the PCC for fifty one years, as bellringer and as friend.

Bob had been a bell ringer at Rushden since the bells were augmented from six to eight in 1953, having been previously taught to handle a bell by Albert Wilson, assisted by Dennis Deighton, at Higham Ferrers, which was where he also took his first steps in change ringing. As one would expect of a man whose career was in education, he went on to teach many ringers to handle a bell and to learn change ringing, and three of his fellow ringers entrusted him to teach their sons. Although latterly he had given up instructing in bell handling he nevertheless played a active part in other aspects of teaching the skills of change ringing, usually by quiet encouragement.

Bob considered, as many of us do, that the most important aspect of bell ringing is ringing for Sunday Service and he taught this by example, being a very faithful service ringer even if, in the early years of his Captaincy, it meant him, Glyn Muncey and Brenda Dixon ringing ‘Three Blind Mice’ for Sunday evening service. He also very much enjoyed early morning ringing on Easter and Christmas morning (‘Let’s wake up the town!’) followed by Holy Communion.

In addition to being Tower Captain at Rushden for forty years Bob was also involved with the wider fellowship of bell ringers. He was a member of the Wellingborough Branch of the Peterborough Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers and represented the Branch on the Guild Committee as well as having been Vice Chairman then Chairman from 1980 to 1994. He continued to help the Branch as a member of the Eight Bell Striking Competition team and as a member of the teams in both the branch and Guild Six Bell Striking Competitions. Besides being a member of the local Guild Bob was a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths, and he was justifiably proud of this. He also rang peals at some notable London churches, including St Clement Danes, St Lawrence Jewry (for the Lord Mayor of London), St Andrew Holborn and St Olave, Hart Street.

Bob very much enjoyed all the social aspects of ringing, in particular anything which included food! He thoroughly enjoyed the annual tower barbecue as well as the ringing tradition of supping real ale in a local pub after practice night. He also enjoyed outings and the chance to ring other bells, and, of course, compare them to those at Rushden.

His list of ringing achievements is impressive. He rang a total of sixty six peals of which two were for the College Youths and thirty seven of which were rung at Rushden, several by an entirely local band. He also rang a number of ‘first in method’ including XXXXX Surprise Major in 1997 to celebrate the Golden Wedding of the Queen and Prince Philip, and three Surprise Major methods with a local connection, Rushden, Newton Bromswold and Denfield Park (the name of the school of which he had been Head). He particularly enjoyed ringing quarter peals and rang at least 1,280 of them. Of these 1,185 were at Rushden and were mostly rung for Sunday Evening Service. He conducted 9 of these quarters; most people start conducting quarter peals with simple methods like Plain Bob but not him. His first as a conductor was Yorkshire in 2004 and his last Lincolnshire in 2009. He rang in the Christmas quarter peal on 24th December 2010. When it was finished he turned to Brenda and said, ‘That’s my last quarter peal’. We did not realise how prophetic that remark would be.

Up in the belfry we will be continually reminded of him by his name on many peal boards and also by the 6th bell which is often referred to as ‘Bob’s bell’ since he enjoyed ringing it the most and rang many of his quarters on it.

When a group of ringers was asked if they had a particular memory of Bob a fellow Headteacher said that Bob had phoned him up on his first day in post just to say ‘I’m here if you need me’. This caring concern for others was typical of Bob; he was someone we all felt we could turn to. We will all miss him so very much.

BRENDA DIXON
JIM HEDGCOCK
BARBARA WOPLIN

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers