April 17th 1934 - March 15th 2011

David was born in Birmingham in 1934 and baptised Norman David which caused him a considerable amount of inconvenience for the rest of his life always having to explain that Norman was not the name by which he was ever known: in fact it should have been Newman but his father’s excited error at the time of registering his birth was forever to haunt him. David’s parents lived in Solihull; his father was a water engineer who spent the Second World War keeping the whole of Birmingham and much of the Midlands supplied while his mother spent a lot of her time playing games that involved figures and mental arithmetic. This gave David an incredible facility with figures and for the rest of his life he played with numbers. He could recall, in a trice, every household telephone number that he had ever had, and those of all his friends and contacts; the registration of every car that he had ever owned and every train that he had ever seen, he knew precisely the number of miles he had done in his car each month and how much petrol he had used, everything that involved a number was neatly recorded and never forgotten. Needless to say his peal records were immaculate.

Quite naturally this talent made him a prime target to become a bell ringer and he was quickly noticed by Edgar C. Sheppard who, in 1948, recruited the myopic, geeky fourteen-year-old into the band at St Alphege, Solihull. Very soon David was a regular Sunday service ringer and for the remainder of his life rejoiced in his good fortune to be taught by such an accomplished ringer on such musical bells; well struck Grandsire Caters was his favourite. He learnt to ring handbells simultaneously with tower bells and those who knew him best did not take long to understand that handbells came first in his life: yes, he loved his family, enjoyed tower bell ringing, would scamper after a steam train and stand on draughty stations to collect new numbers, acidulously follow Aston Villa – no matter if they lost, but handbell ringing would always tip the balance and everything could, and should, be rearranged.

His first peal was in hand for the St Martin’s Guild on Wednesday, November 30th 1949. He rang 5-6 to a peal of Plain Bob Doubles called by Edgar Sheppard. Three months later he rang the treble to Grandsire Triples at Handsworth, Birmingham.

On April 16th 1951 David was elected to the Ancient Society of College Youths, aged 17, and was looking forward to sixty years of membership, which he just missed achieving.

There were times, when building a career and bringing up a young family, that David’s passion for ringing had to be tempered by practicalities. Gradually, as the boys grew, David was able to enjoy his bells again. He was so very proud of the peals of Little Bob 20 (19/20) and Little Bob 22 (21/22) rung in 1978, and as a result he held, and possibly still holds, the record for ringing the heaviest and highest number handbells to peals. A recording of Little Bob 20 with David ringing the tenors was played at his funeral and as someone commented ‘There are not many people who get to ring at their own funeral’: he would have enjoyed that!

When David moved to Oxford in 1987 a whole new ringing experienced opened up for him. He was able to indulge and immerse himself in ringing with the Oxford Society and extend his handbell repertoire. He regularly made his way to Cornhill Vestry where he considered it to be an honour to invited to ring many peals of Stedman Cinques, 60 of which were successful. He often recalled with amusement how one evening someone in the church turned off the master switch to the lighting and the band were plunged into darkness, fortunately the ringers were all sufficiently skilled to keep ringing while they became accustomed to the city glow and the peal was achieved.

David was a long-established member of the Oxford Diocesan Guild; he was Secretary, Chairman and Representative for the City Branch and was tickled pink the year that St Aldate’s won both the 6 and 8-bell striking competition!

David rang his thousandth peal at Frensham in Surrey on June 18th 2005. Only one other person in the band knew that this was to be a special peal so in his typical, unassuming way he put no pressure on the rest of the ringers. It was Yorkshire Major, conducted by Nicholas W. H. Simon and concealed in a bag was a chilled bottle of champagne with which to celebrate. In total David rang 1,262 peals; 693 in hand, 569 on tower bells. He rang the Surprise alphabet in hand for Major and Royal. His last tower bell peal was for the Scottish Association at St Cuthbert’s in February 2010 followed by a final handbell peal for the ODG before his illness made further ringing impossible.

Much to David’s delight he was invited to take over from Stephen Ivin as Secretary to the Oxford Society. He was a role he thoroughly enjoyed. He had been forced into early retirement after a triple by-pass operation and so found himself with time to make all the contacts in the colleges that were required by the job. David’s ease with people fitted him well for the post: he made many friends; he was knowledgeable, calm and purposeful. He spent hours arranging and escorting visiting groups, he juggled ringers for weddings, he squeezed money out of disorganised grooms, he was courteous with eccentric clergy; he so very much enjoyed the position and no matter how frustrated he became he always described it as a privilege to be involved with such an historic and accomplished society.

David was an unremarkable, remarkable man. He gave confidence to the anxious learner, he could gain respect from the most accomplished ringers. He would be as happy to ring the treble to Grandsire Doubles on a Sunday morning as he would be to ring 1-2 to some complicated Royal method in hand.

He was liked by everyone and so much loved by his mixed-up family and six grand children; the astonishing large number of people who attended his funeral from so many aspects of his life bore testament to his gentle nature, his talents and honest goodness, and his delightful sense of humour – after all what more can be said about a man who quite regularly talked to his socks to make sure that they found their pair!

KATIE LANE

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers