1921 - 2012

The bells of St Peter’s Cathedral Armidale, New South Wales, were installed and dedicated in 1996 as the result of a fund raising campaign and installation project led by John Goldsmith. John had been inspired to undertake the venture when he heard the bells of Lavenham, Suffolk, on a clear Saturday afternoon in 1979. He was truly ‘hooked’ when the Lavenham ringers gave him a demonstration of full circle ringing and explained, in response to John’s question about the tower swaying, that “it’s been doing that for 300 years”!

John Henry Stephen Goldsmith was born in Sydney, New South Wales, on 12th October 1921. He became a teacher and finished a distinguished career in secondary education, and especially technical education, as foundation principal of Duval High School in Armidale. He retired in 1981.

In 1991 he began a campaign for the installation of a ring of eight bells in Armidale. His infectious enthusiasm gathered together a team of people who helped him with the fundraising for the bells, plus the frame and necessary internal alterations to the existing tower, which had been constructed in 1938-39 in accordance with a design by John Horbury Hunt, the original architect of St Peter’s (built in 1875). John Goldsmith became chairman of the Horbury Hunt Heritage Bell Tower Trust which was established as a vehicle to facilitate tax effective fund raising for the bell project.

The installation of the bells in 1996 brought together many of John’s own interests and talents in engineering, design and construction, but he was canny enough to know that external expertise was required for the project and from the outset he engaged advice and assistance from Bob Smith, Roger Lubbock and Ron Shepherd, among others. The bells were cast at Whitechapel in early 1996, and were dedicated and first rung on 26th October 1996. A special event occurred in April 1997, when George Pipe, on behalf of the Lavenham ringers, presented a Lavenham Plate to the St Peter’s bellringers. It was as if the project had gone full circle. The plate is dispalyed in pride of place in the St Peter's ringing room. In 1998 the installation won a heritage award and later, recognition form the Horbury Hunt Club, much to John's delight.

John Goldsmith learnt to ring in his mid-70s. He mastered rounds, call changes and plain hunt; but was at his happiest covering a service touch of Doubles on the tenor (7cwt). He also delighted in ringing the 6th – the Goldsmith bell – which he dedicated to John and Merle's 50 years of marriage (1945-1995). Merle survives her devoted hussband of nearly 67 years. Her support of the Armindale bell project, and especially fundraising for the frame, was crucial to its success.

Although John ceased ringing about six years ago, he remained interested in bells, ringing and ringers in Australia and beyond. He was a patron of the St Peter's Cathedral Bellringers' Society.

John Goldsmith's great grandfather Henry was born in Sussex and migrated to Australia in 1840. After he began ringing John was fascinated to learn that the founding editor of The Ringing World was also a John Goldsmith. Although Henry had been born close to the area where John S. Goldsmith was born, John's and Merle's investigations of any connection were inconclusive. Nevertheless, John drew modest pleasure from the renown of his famous namesake – 'the other John Goldsmith'.

John Goldsmith died on 7th September 2012, and his memorial service the following Thursday was preceded and followed by ringing on the bells he loved and worked so hard for.


Armidale, NSW. 20 Sep, 1260 Grandsire Doubles: Kim Quinn 1, Lois Beaton 2, Simon McMillan 3, John Hadfield 4, Geoff Milne (C) 5, Nicholas Hadfield 6. Rung to celebrate the life of John Henry Stephen Goldsmith, 1921-2012, whose inspiration and dedication brought about the casting and installation of these bells in 1996.

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