Obituaries

Norman Sherratt

1928 - 2012

Norman was born on 29th April 1928 in Kidsgrove a village to the north of Stoke-on-Trent. He grew up in what was called the top end of Kidsgrove, a close knit community, going to the local school and attending St Thomas Church. He was introduced to ringing by his elder brother Walter, starting after the wartime ban was lifted and taught by the tower captain Joseph Cook. Kidsgrove was a 6-bell tower at that time and the band was capable of ringing a good variety of 6-bell methods. Unfortunately for Norman he had to give up ringing for three years after contracting tuberculosis, from which he nevertheless made a good recovery.

In about 1960 Norman was elected tower captain and remained so for the rest of his life. In 1962 Norman, brother Walter, Reg Challinor along with other members of the band were instrumental in having the bells made up into a ring of eight.

Norman was a very enthusiastic ringer, he was very insistent on Sunday service ringing and the Tuesday practice attracted ringers from a wide area and all capabilities were catered for. Norman was a regular attender at ringing meetings of both The North Staffs Association and the South Branch of The Chester Diocesan Guild; he also served for a short time as ringing master of the North Staffs and in the late 1900s was elected a life member for services to the Association.

Normans’ parents owned a private hire business and they had two black Daimler limousines, these were to be seen at many local meetings and further afield on outings and peal attempts; you could fit a peal band into one. He rang a total of 533 peals and introduced many of the young ringers of the time from surrounding towers (including myself) into peal ringing. Norman was a very steady conductor, he conducted a total of 222 peals and good striking was aimed for at all times. He conducted many ‘firsts’ for the North Staffs but he was particularly proud of the first peals of Glasgow Surprise Major and London Surprise Royal. Among his favourite methods were also London and Bristol Surprise Major and Stedman of which he conducted many peals.

In 1982 Norman married Christine also a ringer and moved just a few miles to Scholar Green. In 2000 Norman was introduced to the light ring at Woodlands (Keele) and rang a total of 52 peals on them many being 7 Surprise Minor. In recent years Norman suffered from Alzheimers’ Disease and he passed away peacefully on Saturday, 3rd November at a nursing home in Alsager. He will be greatly missed.

HAROLD DOWLER

 

Norman Sherratt – An appreciation

Although I can’t remember the exact date, I think I met Norman for the first time during late 1960 / early 1961. I was a member of the young band of ringers that Albert Cliffe had taught at Tunstall. George Biddulph and Les Walley came to the Tunstall practice and they encouraged us to visit other local towers. So it was that Paul Atkins, Ray Ballard, David Danby and me began to visit Kidsgrove on a Tuesday evening where we met Norman, his brother Walter, Reg Challinor, Harry Windsor, Phil and Dot Mason, Dennis Latham and other Kidsgrove ringers. Here it was also, that we met members of another young band – Harold Dowler, Dickie Wharton and Tony Fryer from Church Lawton, all of whom became good friends of us and of Norman.

Kidsgrove was then a six bell tower and Norman was, to a 13-year-old, the rather fearsome tower captain! Kidsgrove was an impressive tower where surprise minor was rung and bad striking wasn’t tolerated. Norman believed that ringing on church bells was a religious duty and that ringers had an obligation to ring the bells accurately. I still remember the dim view he took of us one practice night when he found us in the church vestry whilst Keith Swingewood was playing rock and roll tunes on the church piano!

Norman’s early peal ringing was mainly through the enduring friendships he formed with the Hanley ringers – Fred Wilshaw, Geoff Davies, Charles Webb and Peter Jones all rang in his early peals. His first peal as conductor was seven surprise minor at Horton in May 1960. Following the augmentation of Kidsgrove to a ring of eight, he called his first peal of surprise major (Yorkshire) at Bollington in 1963 and from then on, his reputations as a ringer and as a conductor were enhanced year on year. He was the driving force in the bands from north Staffordshire and south Cheshire that rang well-struck peals in challenging methods – London, Glasgow, Bristol, Stedman and Double Norwich feature prominently in his conducting repertoire. He proved himself to be equally adept at ringing and calling ten bell peals with London Royal becoming a method that he knew ‘inside out’. He conducted 222 peals, 150 of these being for the North Staffs Association. As a conductor, he was gifted. He called a number of challenging one-part peals of spliced Surprise Major. He learned compositions thoroughly, understood how methods were constructed and from his usual position on bell 2, he had an uncanny ability to correct mistakes and to alert individuals as to what they needed to do to improve their striking. You particularly didn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of his ‘sour lemon’ expressions!  He didn’t monopolise the conducting though and was always keen to encourage me and others to expand their repertoire.

Norman was never a prolific peal ringer – quality of striking not ‘scoring peals’ was his aim – and he didn’t keep peal records. Pealbase tells us that he rang in 533 peals between 1959 and 2005. In 1966, he rang 36 peals and this was the greatest number he rang in any calendar year. He rang what turned out to be his final peal in July 2005 when he rang in a peal of Yorkshire at Kidsgrove.

Norman’s ‘Weekends’ will live in the folk-lore. The format was usually linked to a bank holiday – i.e. a Saturday to Monday jaunt, with a peal attempt on the Saturday, Sunday service ringing at the best set of bells in the area, lunch and a bit of sight-seeing on the Sunday and then another peal on the Monday morning. These activities were loosely wrapped around the consuming of copious amounts of alcohol. Always on the agenda were great sets of bells – Ambleside (where the tenor fell out of its bearings during an attempt for Bristol), Skipton, Chewton Mendip, Ditcheat and many others spring to mind – and we rang some great peals, often of London Major. I was visiting Somerset last year and met David Purnell who still remembers Norman being unable to ring rounds at Midsomer Norton on the Sunday morning after a marathon drinking session at the hotel in Radstock the night before! I also remember us ringing a good peal of Glasgow at Caerleon where I’m sure half the band were ringing on autopilot amidst an atmosphere that smelt distinctly of whisky.

Norman was great company, with a keen mind and strongly held opinions. He had an infectious laugh and a good line in jokes and story-telling. The Kidsgrove practice night was always an attractive destination for Tuesday evening ringing, followed by the ‘debrief’ at ‘The Woodshutts’, ‘The Masonic’ or more latterly, ‘The Bluebell’.

For more than 50 years, Norman was at the forefront of high-quality ringing in north Staffordshire in general and at Kidsgrove in particular. Throughout the majority of this period, he maintained Sunday service ringing at Kidsgrove, despite the fact that he didn’t always see eye to eye with the incumbent. He had his own firmly held views as to how a church should serve its parishioners. He was, however, receptive to new ringing opportunities when they presented themselves as can be witnessed when, at 70 years of age, he adapted to the challenges offered in ringing small bells and he rang more than 50 peals at Keele, Woodlands. He was, for a number of years in the 1960s and 1970s, the North Staffordshire Association’s Ringing Master and his contribution to the Association and the Exercise was recognised by his being given Life Membership.

I for one am sad at his passing but am grateful for the contribution he made to my bell-ringing activities. I enjoyed his company, I respected his abilities and I admired his commitment. I’m sure that others will feel similarly.

MICHAEL WILSHAW

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