1920 - 2011

The Chester Branch of the Chester Diocesan Guild has lost one of its most beloved members. Richard (known to us all as Dick) Nightingale died on 30th January. He had not rung for some time, as his sight was severely impaired by macular degeneration. However, he never displayed any bitterness. His love of life and cheerful spirit stayed with him to the end. During his final illness he even apologised to the nurses for letting them down by not pulling through. He was that sort of man, and kindliness and consideration for others endeared him to all who knew him.

He was born in Darwen, Lancashire; and came to Cheshire in the early 1960s. Bells did not feature in his early years, but various bicycles certainly did. There was a memorable cycle ride as a boy to Blackpool and back, following the slipstream of a bus; or – much later in his life – a crash into a park bench, which was to be kept a secret from his wife, Joan; but which provided him with a new 14-speed replacement. This he used to cycle round Pendle Hill in Lancashire with his two sons. And later still, people would see him on his bike round the village where he lived; but other road users did learn to give him a wide berth. He was even to be seen on a tandem, going to Knutsford at 89 with his son Phillip to watch the penny-farthing race, a ride of over 20 miles!

During the war Dick served in the RAF in India, and 68 years later he returned with his son and daughter-in-law on a holiday of a lifetime, where he was treated like a king. It was in 1946 that he married Joan Nevill in Lichfield. He had met Joan before the war on a blind date, and they remained happily married for over 50 years until her death in 1997. After the War he worked on a smallholding in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, and around 1950 he moved to Reaseheath College, near Nantwich. In 1960, on his appointment as farm manager of Hockenhull Hall Farm, he came to Tarvin. Here he was involved in selective turkey breeding, and at one time the farm held the world record for the heaviest turkey. Dick also had a ‘secret’ recipe for marinated turkey, now passed on to his sons!

Life would no doubt have continued with work, his growing family, and his garden. However, as often happens, it was by following in his children’s footsteps that he came to ringing. Dick’s two sons, Phillip and Robert, learned to ring in 1967 at Tarvin through the village youth club, and they eventually managed to drag their father up the tower. This coincided with the arrival in Tarvin of John and Jean Hallett. Much changed then in Tarvin ringing and John started driving the Nightingales, young and old, to branch meetings and events. Dick embraced his new activity with great enthusiasm, and soon became a key person in Tarvin ringing. Progress was rapidly made, methods were learnt and mastered; and before long quarter peals were being rung. Between 1972 and 1989 he also rang six peals. There might have been more competent ringers at Tarvin, but Dick knew what good ringing was, and he always strove to maintain the highest standards. It has often been said that he ‘led from behind’. At times he was the tower captain, and at others he ceded this role to more gifted ringers. Yet he remained an inspirational driving force. Such ringers as Dick Nightingale are truly the backbone of the Exercise: they demonstrate a fierce loyalty to their tower; they inspire their ringers; and they ever work towards the best ringing the band can achieve.

He was equally loyal to the Chester Branch, and for a brief period served as Branch Treasurer. He was always at meetings and Branch events. I had lost contact with Dick during the latter part of his life, but what has always remained with me was his smile and infectious enthusiasm for all he did. He had a smile in his voice, and I can still hear that, with a Red Rose county accent, in my head. His funeral service, on 18th February, was attended by over 100 family members and friends. The address was given by his old friend, Canon Donald Marr, and we all heard fulsome praise of a warm and much loved father, father-in-law, grandfather, friend, colleague and acquaintance. The caption below the photograph on the service sheet said it all: ‘a lovely man’. He was indeed that.

A good half-muffled quarter was rung before the service, and afterwards other ringers were also able to ring the bells that he had so dearly loved. A particularly poignant part of the service was at the end, as the coffin left the church. In 1977, to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Dick had pushed hard to secure funding for the purchase of a set of tune-ringing handbells. Soon a team was raised and another activity enriched his life and that of the wider community at the many events they supported. The group broke up a few years ago, but reassembled to play so movingly as Dick progressed from this world to the next. All our condolences are sent to Phillip and Robert and their families. They have the consolation of having experienced the love and affection of a truly lovely man over many years.

(with much help from

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers