1928 - 2012

Mary Bliss died peacefully after a short illness on 9th May 2012 aged 84.

Mary was born and lived all her life in the same house at Beech Pike. Her father was the local baker. After her father died when she was a toddler, her mother continued to run the bakery, looking after Mary and her younger brother John.

Mary attended Winstone village school and Cirencester Grammar School where she was head girl. She went on to Bristol University and gained a degree in English, later entering the teaching profession. Mary’s interest in bells and bell-ringing grew when she joined the University of Bristol Society in 1948, becoming Secretary and working hard to build up the Society. The first peal by the resident band followed, annual dinners, regular outings and tours. Mary regularly attended the dinners and outings, also serving as President and taking on the challenge of writing the history of the Society.

Mary wrote many learned papers and books: of these her greatest legacy will be ‘The Church Bells of Gloucestershire’ (1986) which she completed after the death of Frederick Sharpe in 1976. It remains the definitive history of the bells in the county.

After she retired as deputy head of Churchdown School in 1981, Mary undertook numerous roles in the local and national community. Foremost among these were her 37 years as bells adviser on the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee and seven years as its Chairman. Her knowledge and enthusiasm was the catalyst for many bell restoration schemes in the Diocese, whether a twelve bell scheme or a single bell in a rural parish. Her work over the years has left the bells across the

county in an excellent condition for future generations. As Chairman of the Clocks & Bells Committee of the Council for the Care of Churches, she used her extensive knowledge to support and influence the conservation and repair of bells from a national perspective.

An active local ringer, Mary held the office of Chairman of the G&B from 1968-1974 and also Chairman of the Cirencester Branch, regularly attending meetings and practices. She taught new ringers at local towers including Winstone, where she was tower captain. A competent ringer, she rang many peals and enjoyed joining in with ringing, wherever she happened to be.

Mary was elected President of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for 2002- 3, her Presidential lecture being on the Rudhalls of Gloucester; she was President of the Launton Handbell Ringers; elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1987; A Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and granted Freedom of the City of London (1997) and for her services to church heritage in Gloucestershire, Mary was awarded an MBE in 2000.

As a Trustee of the Sharpe Trust, she was grants secretary for 25 years and was proud of the Trust’s work supporting bell restoration schemes across the country.

She served as a Magistrate, sitting on the Family Court Panel, a responsibility she found rewarding, bringing to the work her skills of careful listening, an uncanny memory for who said what and the ability to grasp all angles of a complex case.

Mary’s influence and reputation was acknowledged across and beyond the country, however she never forgot her roots and local connections. St Bartholomew’s church at Winstone, where she was a warden and treasurer, the WI, local history research and her many friends in the area: all these meant so much to Mary and her local knowledge became a local resource which will leave a huge gap.

Her strong Christian principles underpinned all her dealings. She was scrupulously fair with a strong sense of natural justice. Correct procedure was also important to her, and those who attended meetings being chaired by Mary were, when necessary, briskly reminded of protocol. As a former teacher and JP, attention to detail was fundamental and accurate reports were expected. She put a high value on common-sense and was quick to challenge petty bureaucracy and political correctness.

Behind a robust exterior, Mary was a very sensitive and caring person. Many have paid tribute to her as ‘a true and loyal friend’ and ‘always dependable and ready to help’,

She had a wonderful ability to communicate with people of every age and walk of life. She loved children, who in turn found it easy to chat with her and enjoyed her sense of fun. Mary always said how lucky she was having so many friends, and a wonderful family who took such good care of her. She faithfully served the Church and the wider community both at local and at national level and will be greatly missed.

Her funeral service was held on 23rd May 2012 at Cirencester Parish Church, followed by interment at St Bartholomew’s, Winstone. A number of quarter peals have been rung to celebrate her life.


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