1925 - 2011

Geoffrey Dodds was a well-known and respected church bell-ringer in St Albans. He had been a member of the St Albans Abbey Ringers since 1953 where he continued to climb the 160 steps each Sunday and practice night until the bells stopped ringing for the new bells to be hung, late in 2010.

Geoff also regularly rang at St Peter’s, St Michael’s, St Stephen’s (all in St Albans), Sandridge and Lemsford.

Some might say Geoff was quite eccentric with his tweed jacket with the top pocket full of pens and of course the small metal ruler with which he would stir his tea, using the end with the hole in it. In the summer the tweed jacket would be accompanied by shorts, socks and sandals.

Geoff was born on the 31st October 1925 in Isleworth where he lived as a child. His father Eric Dodds worked as a scientist in the Petrochemical Industry and his mother Mabel Dodds was a Montessori trained Governess. He had an elder brother Eric (known as Tommy).

He met his wife, Joyce Lewis, through the Universities Association of Bell ringers and they married in 1952. They have two daughters, Frances (born 1952) and Helen (born 1956) and also two granddaughters, Sue and Tina.

Geoff initially went to private preparatory school then moved to a council primary school and later went to Isleworth County Grammar School. Whilst at school he had a job fire watching during the London Blitz in WW2. The V2 rockets were to be a pointer to his later career.

He then joined the RAF who sponsored him to go to Emmanuel College, Cambridge studying Natural Sciences and working in the famous Cavendish Laboratory undertaking nuclear experiments. Whilst in the RAF he trained to be a wireless operator and navigator, although did not see active service. Whilst doing his national service with the RAF at the end of the war, the RAF education unit paid him a shilling an hour to run a course on bell-ringing for ‘bored erks’.

From his days as a student at Cambridge University he worked on composing new methods and touches. These were complex mathematical calculations. As home computers became available, he pioneered their use in this field. He continued this throughout his life.

Geoff’s physics and mathematical educational background were bought to the fore during his professional career. During his apprenticeship at Napier’s in Acton he worked on developing heat resistant tiles for Deltic locomotives. He later transferred into the Rocket Development Department at Luton airfield to undertake research on the Thunderbird guided weapon. He then moved to De Havilland to work upon engine testing, including the Blue Streak ballistic missile, where he focused on the design of the fuel valve system and also worked upon computerised missile guidance systems. It was during his early stage in his rocket development career that he was encouraged to practise using computers which of course led to his computerised method compositions. In later years he spent hours in the front room at home which would be covered in acres of paper with his workings out, and the occasional chocolate wrapper in amongst the drawings and numbers! When working on his computer projects he was on a different plane; his head was in the clouds, totally absorbed by what he was doing.

Later in his professional career he transferred to British Aerospace, Stevenage as a technical analyst, working on Rapier anti-aircraft weapons and writing Fortran computer programmes.

Geoff was a gentle individual with his thoughts often on a higher plane than most of us. He could be a very practical person with woodwork and metalwork projects, with every piece precisely in position; obviously his engineering apprenticeship was coming into the fore.

He was always very supportive of family choices and would offer help whenever he could.

Geoff had rung a total of 438 peals, 319 on tower bells and 119 on handbells. He had conducted 60½. His last peal was of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Codicote in November 2010.

He relentlessly worked training new ringers and bands and also worked on projects to get bells ringable at Brentford, South Mimms, Studham, Caddington, Lemsford and very recently Sandridge.

In his retirement he wrote a new edition of The Church bells of Hertfordshire which involved travelling around the county looking at all the church bells in its bounds and meticulously recording their details.

He was a member of the Hertford County Association of Church Bellringers and a representative on the Central Council of Church Bellringers for many years. He also belonged to many other bell-ringing associations including the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths.

Aside from his lifelong passion for bellringing, Geoff’s other interests included steam locomotives and canal boats. He was also a member of the Local History Society, Beds & Herts Historic Churches Trust and the Hertfordshire branch of the Locomotive Club of Great Britain, where he frequently chaired their meetings.

Geoff died in hospital on 31st January, 2011 after a short illness. He will be greatly missed by his family, by his friends and by ringers everywhere.




Geoffrey Dodds, St Albans

I first met Geoff back in the early sixties when his children were young and there was a great deal of confusion between our two names and which was which.

I would always answer people by saying “I’m the one without the s” or “He is the refined one.”

He made the decision to ring a peal together and for him to call the first three and a half extents and I would call the rest of it to the end.

And so it was, two of us and four of them, his brother Eric, wife Joyce and two ringing daughters and at its successful conclusion at Cranford, Middlesex. The heading was ‘Dodd and Dodds Combine’.

This was on December 10th 1966 and for a while all was well. We met several times after this. He brought me back from the Central Council meeting at Exeter in 1977 and was there on the occasion I was known to say “We are only chiming Vicar” and the answer came back “Well your chiming is different to ours.”

One of God’s Gentlemen in every respect. I send my condolences to his family.


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