Obituaries

Anthony J. Davidson

1940 - 2012

Anthony with bellThe nave of Truro Cathedral was almost filled on 10th September as people from across Cornwall and much farther afield met to say goodbye to one of the Cathedral’s most devoted servants and a man who was a good friend to so many in so many different aspects of life.

Anthony was born in Truro in January 1940 and spent the whole of his life in the city. He was as proud of his status as a Cornishman born and bred as he was of his parents’ Tyneside heritage, they having moved to Cornwall in the 1930s. Anthony sang in the Cathedral choir as a boy, and this was just the beginning of an association with the Cathedral which lasted for the whole of his life and which saw him serve it as a sidesman, churchwarden, PCC treasurer, altar server and administrator, quite apart from his role as a member of the Cathedral Company of Ringers for over 50 years. He was employed by one of the major high street banks until he was offered early retirement in 1990, and thereafter he worked as a full-time volunteer in the Cathedral Office, assisting with various aspects of the Dean and Chapter’s financial affairs. His financial background meant that he was much in demand from various bodies who needed a treasurer, and he served in this capacity for a number of organisations which included the Cornwall Historic Churches Trust, the local National Trust Association, Macmillan Nursing and the Truro Diocesan Mothers’ Union in which he proudly boasted that he was the first man to hold office! His outstanding service both to the church and the wider community was recognised in 2001 when he was appointed a Lay Canon of the Cathedral.

And of course there was his lifelong devotion to ringing. He learned to ring in 1957, having been identified by the Cathedral’s then Ringing Master, Henry Southeard, as a “likely lad”. His first peal followed in 1960 when he rang the second to Grandsire Triples on the back 8 of the Cathedral’s 10 bells. He once told me that he had in fact attempted a peal earlier at Carbis Bay but was pleased to have lost it as it meant that he was able to ring his first peal in his own tower. He went on to ring 577 peals, with 541 of them being credited to the Truro Diocesan Guild. His conducting skills developed, and in all he conducted 181 of his peals. These included a peal of Plain Bob Maximus at Buckfast Abbey to his own arrangement in the method, which feat remains the only 12-bell peal yet conducted by a ringer born and resident in Cornwall. He also called the longest peal yet rung for the Guild by a resident band when 10752 Plain Bob Major was scored at St Denis in 1972 to mark the start of the Guild’s 75th anniversary year. Those who only knew Anthony towards the end of his life might be surprised to learn that in his younger days he was a very fine heavy bell ringer – he rang the Truro Cathedral tenor (34cwt) to peals on five occasions, with Alan Carveth he turned in the Exeter Cathedral tenor to a peal of Plain Bob Maximus and he was also on the tenor for the Buckfast Abbey peal aforesaid. And in 1977 he and Alan completed peals at every ringable tower in Cornwall, a target which Alan had originally set but which Anthony was only too happy to join him in accomplishing.

For a time he was the Truro Guild’s leading peal ringer, but health problems and the need to give increased care to his parents eventually led him to withdraw from peal ringing. His final peal was (like his first) at Truro Cathedral in January 2003, when he rang the treble to Yorkshire Royal. But throughout his ringing career he was a staunch supporter of Sunday service ringing. Those who ring in cathedrals will know that by their nature they host many services, often of great local or even national significance. When some of us might complain that we had to suspend our practice night, or ring at some unusual time or on some unaccustomed day, Anthony would always point out that adjustments like this went with the territory and that with the privilege of ringing on fine bells went the responsibility which came with being a part of a cathedral’s life.

Anthony was a man of meticulous routine and habit, and these traits no doubt made him the ideal candidate to take the post of General Secretary of the Truro Guild in 1965. Anthony held the position with great distinction until 1975, but after only a year on the back benches he became Guild Treasurer and remained in the post for the rest of his life. Although conservative in his approach to the Guild’s finances his stewardship of the Guild’s funds has stood us all in very good stead over the years, as demonstrated most notably in the success of our Bell Restoration Fund in its help to many Cornish towers over the past 35 years.

Other than in his younger days Anthony rang relatively little outside Cornwall, but he was respected elsewhere and in 1961 was elected as a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths. He valued his membership very highly, attending the Society’s Dinners on a number of occasions in the 1970s and 1980s. He took particular pleasure in being at last year’s Dinner where he was presented with his 50 years’ membership certificate.

We in Truro shall remember Anthony for many reasons, and one of the principal ones will be the augmentation last year of the Cathedral bells. This had been a dream of Anthony for very many years, and the approaching centenary in 2010 of the original ring of 10 was the spur which led us to go forward with the project. But there is no doubt that it would never have happened without Anthony’s drive, persistence and – not least – his own generous contribution to the fundraising. The two trebles and two semi-tones were named and blessed at a memorable service in January 2011 and dedicated by the Bishop of Truro last November. Before then, on 5th June 2011 the 12 bells were rung for Sunday service for the first time, with Anthony ringing the new treble which he and his brother Robin had donated in memory of his beloved parents. His dream had at last come true, and his happiness was plain for all to see.

Anthony’s health had by that time already begun to fail, with prostate cancer being diagnosed and then spreading elsewhere. After a number of changes in his condition he moved for the final three months of his life to a nursing home on the edge of Truro from where he could hear the Cathedral bells and occasionally comment on what he had heard on the previous Sunday! He passed peacefully away on 20th August. The breadth of the affection which so many felt for him was shown by the numbers present for his Funeral Eucharist. All present, both ringers and non-ringers, were able to spend time talking after the service over refreshments served in the Cathedral. As someone who first met him in 1967 I miss him enormously, and I know that this loss is shared by many others. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

ROBERT J. PERRY
Guild Secretary, Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers

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CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers