Obituaries

Ray Aldington

3rd September 1939 - 25th September 2012

outside St Cross

Ray was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire on 3rd September 1939 – the day war broke out. His family moved to Kings Norton, Birmingham very early in his life. His mother Mabel died in 1942 and later his father Albert married Phyllis and they made their home in Kings Norton. Ray lived in Kings Norton until he moved to St Cross at Winchester after a stay at Queen Mother Court in Bournville. He was educated in Kings Norton and attended its Grammar School.

Ray left school to work at The Beacon Assurance but this was not a career that appealed to him so he applied and was accepted for teacher training at St John’s College, York. He found his professional niche in life as a primary school teacher and taught for many years at Bournville Junior School – his classroom being situated directly under the carillon! Many of his pupils remember him as a strict but fair teacher and a good influence on their subsequent careers. He was a well respected teacher and was active in the musical life of the school, including accompanying School Assemblies.

Throughout his life Ray had a connection with St Nicolas’ church, both as a member of the Scout Troop and the choir. Ray was a confirmed and communicant member of the Church of England. he had a great love of the Book of Common Prayer and the Church’s choral and musical traditions he absorbed whilst he was a member of the choir. Ray had a natural musical ability and he learnt to play both the piano and organ. Later he combined these skills to become a proficient carilloneur. He held the position of assistant carilloneur to the Bournville Village Trust for many years, giving regular recitals there and on other carillons both in this country and in Europe.

Ray started change ringing in the early 1960s at St Nicolas and he also became acquainted with tune ringing on handbells. At that time he was involved with the local Scout Troop as a leader and introduced handbell ringing to the scouts, probably for “Proficiency Badges” and recruited some of these boys for the tower bell band teaching them in special sessions during the school holidays and other times outside the main practice nights. Ray led the Kings Norton Hand Bell Ringers, arranging both the music and logistics for Christmas concerts at various venues around Birmingham.

Ray served the Sunday Service change ringing band faithfully for some 50 years, 42 of which were as Ringing Master. He was responsible for teaching many of today’s ringers their art and he is remembered for his patience but insistence on good striking. Many of today’s ringers are grateful to him for encouraging them to learn good Bell Handling and Listening Skills. Under his leadership, the band thrived and was capable of producing some first class service ringing regularly. He was not one for Peal Ringing but rang some “You Have to Score on the Day” peals, each lasting about 3 hours, for notable events such as commemorating Her Majesty the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the 1st Peal of Kings Norton Surprise Royal, the 200th Anniversary of the 1st Peal at Kings Norton and the End of the 2nd World War in Europe. These are recorded on Peal Boards in the ringing chamber.

Ray also organised many social events for the Band, in particular, the Annual Coach Outing where up to half a dozen towers would be booked and the ringers were joined by members of the congregation for a great day out.

He was a member of the St Martin’s Guild of Change Ringers but, unfortunately Ray never knew that they had recently approved his election as a Life Member. Ray was also in The Worcestershire Association and a member of the College Youths.

Ray enjoyed good books, organ recitals (particularly Birmingham Town hall), CBSO concerts at both the Town Hall and Symphony Hall. He also had an interest in Railways (his grandfather being a steam locomotive driver) and Trams. He could talk knowledgably on a wide variety of subjects. Ray didn’t always enjoy the best of health. He always suffered from Hay Fever during the summer months and had a general respiratory weakness. He enjoyed visiting Switzerland not only for the scenery, but for some clean, fresh air. The Lake District was also a favourite haunt for walking holidays where he followed Wainwright’s various trails.

He moved to the Hospital of St Cross as a Brother in 2009. Ray joined the Cathedral ringers and appreciated the musical offerings of the City of Winchester. He found happiness and contentment there, near his birthplace, in his final years.

Ray was a very private person and very modest about his achievements. He was good company and enjoyed good food and real ale. Birmingham ringing has lost one of its great characters. Nobody had a bad word to say about Ray, he was well respected, liked and will be remembered with affection by all who knew him.

DAVID FLINT

Memories of Ray(mond) Aldington

I first met Ray in Loughborough, at an early meeting of the British Carillon Society in the late 1970s. It soon became clear that we were both keen change-ringers, as well as carilloneurs, both of which interests we continued in the following years. Ray became the Librarian of the BCS, a post he held until he left Birmingham for his final years in Winchester. In 1982, when the BCS was asked by the World Carillon Federation to provide a recitalist to play a representative concert at the forthcoming WCF Congress in Løgumkloster, Denmark, Ray was invited to carry out this important task. (Internationally, Britain – with its mainly English change-ringing tradition – was at that time regarded with considerable suspicion as a source of quality carillonneurs.) Ray was not keen on driving long distances, so he joined forces with me and I became his chauffeur for this journey.

Ray was a rather private person, who on first acquaintance could give the impression of being rather humourless. However, as I got to know him better, I soon discovered a sharp and dry sense of humour not far below the surface. Of course, he acquitted himself very well as a recitalist – thus very much enhancing the credibility of the BCS – but he could see the humour of I – a Brit – having first to make the French travelling carillon (on which he was to play) fully playable by securing two of the bells and refixing a pull-wire! (I later became the BCS Delegate to the WCF.)

Two years later, in 1984, I arranged a ringing tour throughout Ireland, this being the first such tour to include Northern ireland since the restart of the Troubles in 1969 (many thought this could be very dangerous, but we were welcomed everywhere and the tour was a great success). Ray was keen to join us, especially as I agreed that he and I would arrive in Ireland a few days early and investigate the 3-octave carillon in Armagh, about which nobody seemed to have any recent information. We found a largely derelict instrument, which it seems had not been played for about 25 years – and then only once (by Staf Gebruers, Father of Adrian Gebruers, from Cobh) since just after WWII. Nevertheless, Ray was as keen as I was to see what could be salvaged. After a hard day’s work we had made the lower two octaves just about playable, and Ray played an impromptu short recital. This aroused great interest in the city (so much so that during 1985 and 1986 I was contracted to carry out a major restoration of the instrument). A few days later, our Wartburg estate car “load” was completed when Janet (my wife) and our children (Helen, 7 and (the late) Paul, then 4) were collected from the rail/ferry terminal at Dun Laoghaire. For the next couple of weeks we travelled together, but what might seem remarkable is that Ray – a bachelor – always included the children and they responded to him. Helen still has happy memories of Ray from that tour. On reaching Cork (C.I.) Cathedral, Ray called a good quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples for morning service on the (then) ring of eight, followed by the playing of the Sunday afternoon recital on the carillon of St Colman’s (R.C.) Cathedral in Cobh.

On a certain afternoon at the end of work in 1986, I collected Ray from Bournville Schools and we drove to Scotland to participate in recording carillon music for Saydisc. Friday night was spent in Moffat, in a guest house named “Erimus.” Ray could not resist calling: “Go, Bob Erimus!” Later the next morning we collected Adrian Gebruers from Glasgow Airport and then went on to join Ronald Leith, the carillonneur of Aberdeen. On the Sunday, further recordings were duly made by Ray and Adrian playing the carillons of Perth and Kilmarnock. After a “very hasty” drive from Kilmarnock to Glasgow Airport to enable Adrian to catch – just! – his flight back to Ireland, Ray and I headed South to the English midlands for work the next morning! Moving on a few more years, I remember driving Ray to Belgium for an AGM of the Flemish Guild of Carillonneurs in Hasselt – again, there and back in a weekend!

Apart from his prowess as a change-ringer and as a carillonneur, Ray was a skilled musical arranger for carillon and a keen (mainly tune-ringing) handbell ringer. He spent a considerable period as a loyal carer of his step-mother until she died.

Farewell to a good friend and true gentleman – and someone who did not know what malice was. May he Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.

GEOFF ARMITAGE

 

Winchester, Hants. (Cathedral) 14 Oct, 1253 Grandsire Cinques: John Colliss 1, Elizabeth Johnson 2, Maureen Hanney 3, Bruce Purvis 4, Peter Niblett 5, Anthony Smith (C) 6, Colin Cook 7, Alan Hutchinson 8, Margaret Smith 9, Lucy Hopkins Till 10, John Smith 11, Michael Hopkins Till 12. Rung in memory of Ray Aldington, late member of the Cathedral band.

Winchester, Hants. (Cathedral) 21 Oct, 1259 Grandsire Caters: Mary Edelsten 1, Caroline Fairley 2, Roderic Bickerton 3, Nick Bucknall 4, Philip Carter 5, Michael Hopkins Till (C) 6, Jack Walters 7, George Medd 8, Lucy Hopkins Till 9, John Downham 10. Rung in memory of Ray Aldington, late member of the Cathedral band. Also for the Winchester District Ringing Festival. 1st Caters: 1.

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