1947 - 2011

John was born on the family farm in Croston, Lancashire and some years later the family moved the few miles to Penwortham. Many of John’s relatives were bellringers at Croston and perhaps because of this he started to ring at St Mary, Penwortham when he was 14, beginning his 50 years association with St Mary’s and life-long interest in bellringing which took him to towers across England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Isles and Ireland.

In the mid 1960s John, having become frustrated by the limited opportunity being afforded to the then current crop of learners, mounted what can only be described as a coup against the ringing elders at Penwortham and was subsequently appointed tower captain at the age of 18. He ran a very successful tower, always welcoming to visitors and recruits, of whom he taught many. Encouraged by his enthusiasm, humour and gentle powers of persuasion many new ringers went on to develop their ringing skills and become very able ringers. By the mid 70s, with the Penwortham band one of the strongest in the county, John stepped down from the tower captaincy, but his interest in ringing and recruitment and his commitment to St Mary’s continued.

John was a well known and popular member of the Lancashire Association, which he joined in 1964. He was a keen supporter of both branch and association and was invariably seen at the various functions run by them. He was Preston Branch secretary from 1973 to 1978 and chairman in 2009-10 and was always a willing volunteer whenever branch or association functions required organising. Always ready with constructive criticism, John invariably had an alternative plan and also a means to achieve it. He was always the first to roll up his sleeves and get things done whether this was ringers’ teas or larger projects such as painting a bell frame or decorating a ringing room. It was this enthusiasm and commitment which earned him the affectionate sobriquet of ‘mi dad’ amongst the Penwortham ringers.

In the 1990s ringing at Penwortham was in decline and John stepped in once again to teach another generation of ringers at St Mary’s, holding the position of tower captain until his death. St Mary’s was an important part of John’s life. Ever full of ideas, he had the knack of conveying his enthusiasm and persuading others to help him. A contemporary still recalls the countless buckets of cement carried up the tower when the steps at Penwortham were in need of repair and more recently John was responsible for the refurbishment of the clock face and the re-roofing of the lych gate.

John wasn’t a prolific peal ringer with a total of 68 but he was always willing to help neighbouring towers with weddings, special quarters and other events and regularly rang at Broughton on Sunday evenings. He had a keen interest in maintenance and restoration and was heavily involved in many projects over the years.

John was a founder member and a lead organiser of what has become known as the ‘Easter Trip’, an annual holiday that has been running for over 30 years and he had many close friends within this group. He was very much looking forward to this year’s trip to Oxford and was still talking of going during the week before his death. However, such was the extent of the cancer that he died within a few days. It was a mercifully short illness but a great blow and a terribly sudden loss to all his many friends, both from within the ringing fraternity and from outside it.

John was a gregarious character with a real sense of humour. He was extremely generous both spiritually and materially, very considerate, punctual and above all reliable. A great organiser, he seemed to achieve results without ever appearing to dominate. He loved the social side of ringing and people in general and was a great natterer. Somewhat at odds with his commitment to ringing was his legendary ability somehow to do as little of it as possible. On trips he would often be amongst the first to arrive but invariably the first back down the steps having ‘done his bit’. At a wedding he would be the one to check where the bride was while the others continued to ring. But he would never let anyone down and would always be there when needed. He played a major role in so many things and it is still hard to believe that he has gone but the best tribute we could pay to John is just to get on with it and perhaps raise a glass to him from time to time. He will be greatly missed.

JEFF SIMCOX

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CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers