1st July 1922 - 9th July 2008

Donald Bentley, a ringer for over 50 years – the last 34 years at Aldridge, West Midlands – was tragically killed in a road accident on the A41 near Market Drayton in Shropshire on 9th July. It was a wet and windy night.

Donald was born in Bolton, Lancs, on 1st July 1922, the son of a policeman. He was educated at Lancaster Grammar School and entered the Civil Service at 17, but was soon called up for military service, first with the Rifle Brigade and then, after, Sandhurst, where he served with the Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment, rising to Captain at the age of 22, whilst in Malaya and Burma. If pressed he would recall his hand-to-hand combat in the jungle with a Japanese soldier; the Japanese soldier died. During the War he married Edna and after his demob Diana was born. Unfortunately Edna died and Donald was left to bring up a 6-month old baby single-handed. A little later on he married Betty. This was a long and happy marriage during which Christine, Nigel and Peter were born.

Donald was living in Guildford in 1955 when the church he attended asked him to splice some bell ropes. This he did and he decided he had better learn to ring, so Alf Pulling taught him at Holy Trinity, Guildford. Some years later he moved to West Bridgford and then to Bristol, where he rang with Philip Gray at Stoke Bishop. In 1972 the family moved to Aldridge (then Staffordshire). He joined the keen young band led by Roger Riley. Many Quarter Peals followed, mainly for evening service. He was involved with the installation of the ringing floor in 1975 and two years later the augmentation to eight. All the work was done by the local band. He was a sound ringer in the standard methods, but first and foremost he was a Sunday service ringer right up to the week before his death. He very much enjoyed outings. ‘Bells on Sunday’ at 6am was listened to every week!

Betty, his second wife, was taken ill in 1981; Donald retired from his senior position in the Civil Service to care for her. She died in 1982. Finding himself at a bit of a loose end, he took up sail boarding and skiing, and was about to try sky diving when his family intervened. Away from ringing Donald was a keen club cricketer, a competent wicket keeper, a Scout leader and a fundraiser for the Cooper & Jordan School.

In recent years his health had started to decline but he was not an ideal patient, and was reluctant to follow fully the medical advice he was given. He simply refused to get old. Until he was well into his 80s he used to mow the lawns of his “elderly neighbours” who were in fact 10 years younger than him!

And then came Ivy. She and Donald were married at Aldridge in November 2002. His best man was his son Nigel, who sadly died two months later. Ivy soon had Donald under control, making sure he ate proper meals and followed all medical advice. Ivy had actually worked for Donald some 30 years earlier.

He will be missed by everyone at Aldridge.


QPs in Donald’s memory were rung at Aldridge on 12th July, Cannock on 13th July, Cradley on 14th July and Aldridge prior to his funeral on 21st July.

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers