Roger Bailey

25th June 1946 - 22nd January 2013

see also front-page article by Prudence Fay in issue #5316

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I first met Roger at Spalding Grammar School in 1962 when I joined the sixth form. He was an exceptional student, a year ahead of his age group in the upper sixth. His speciality was chemistry, and his sense of humour already fully formed. In the chemistry hobby class I was shown a compound that he had made for the board containing substances students had synthesised. It was a brown granular material labelled "Ferrous Cobalti Fluoride". The chemistry teacher was quite proud of this, and I did not disillusion him by calling it "Coffee". His love and expertise of ringing was already evident, and he spent a lot of time with pencil and paper. I had learnt at Caistor in 1958 and had not even rung a quarter peal. He soon got me into the Saturday 6-bell peal band with Martin Thorley and Alan Payne, and the Monday night Surprise Major band with Ron Noon, Brian Harris and George Massey, ringing mostly new methods. He rang his first peal in 1961. In two years we rang 79 peals together. The one thing he could not do was to get me handbell change-ringing. On Saturdays the band took it in turns to call peals, with peal weeks (10 in a week) occasionally, some silent and non-conducted. Roger composed a peal of Bob Major (5088 – see to call for my first as conductor on eight. He later padded this out to a composition of Plain and Little Bob Major which we rang at Sutterton. On his way home he thought about how much music there was in it – 42 combination courses and very false. When on form he was an excellent composer and conductor, but occasionally had his off days. We younger ringers in the area were typical of that generation, very keen of questioning those in authority. We often said that we would like to ring some new Minor methods and name them: Switch Off Delight and Surprise Surprise being two of them. Roger maintained this way of thinking throughout his life, and I was quite surprised when he became an (almost) establishment figure himself. He left the Spalding area in 1964 to read Chemistry at University College, London, but continued to ring peals back home. I often used to meet him ringing and at Council meetings, and found him little changed since I knew him in the 1960s. I am lucky to have known him in the early years, and realise what he has contributed to the Exercise through his enthusiasm and encouragement. Like many, I will miss him.


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I first met Roger in 1987 when I joined the band at St Mary’s, Willesden, Middlesex, where Roger was the Ringing Master. I was a relative beginner at the time but soon benefited from Roger’s expert tutelage. I was fortunate that at the time the Willesden band included some excellent – and famous – ringers including Alison Regan (then Alison Surry, who was at the time Roger’s partner), Brian D. Price and Ruth Foreman – so not withstanding Roger’s excellent teaching and fine example – I made rapid progress.

I will remember Roger as a very fine ringer and conductor, and an excellent communicator and teacher. He had impeccable standards of ringing and was intolerant of poor striking, and at times harsh with people who did not ring to what he knew was their full ability. I think it is true to say he didn’t suffer fools gladly – "sally ticklers" is a phrase he used once I believe. I distinctly remember one occasion when we were ringing something specifically for a learner and several members of the band went wrong due to inattention. After it fired out, in exasperation, he went round the experienced members of the band saying "expert, expert, expert …" – the message was clear and remains with me to this day. Having said that, he had the utmost patience with ringers who genuinely wanted to learn and make an effort to improve their ringing. His conducting also was very impressive. I remember him making some random calls in a touch of Grandsire Triples then proceeding to call it round on the fly (he was concerned afterwards that the touch may have been false).

Roger was always very sociable and generous – he was always the first one at the pub after ringing and at the café on Willesden High Road on Sunday morning where he introduced me to the delights of multiple cups of tea and toasted egg sandwiches. He was also very supportive of the Middlesex Association, attending almost all of the Saturday afternoon ringing sessions, and I remember him speaking eloquently and passionately at association meetings on more than one occasion. I was also fortunate to be invited back to the house he shared with Alison in Kensal Rise for handbell ringing after Sunday morning ringing a few times. Roger was also an untiring organizer of peals, quarter peals and striking competitions bands. I remember travelling to many remote locations with Roger for (sometimes successful!) peal attempts. Sometimes labeled an eccentric, my enduring image of Roger will always be of him arriving at St Mary’s on his bicycle, with his trademark disintegrating A-to-Z and bundle of papers, held together with rubber bands!

Roger’s attitude to and enthusiasm for ringing was a great example and inspiration to me and, I think most people he rang with. Today when I find myself running or planning the ringing at St John’s Cathedral and I am not sure how to handle a particular situation, I ask myself how Roger would have handled this. I am sure Roger will be fondly remembered by all who had the privilege of ringing with him.

St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane


See peal reports on p.257 and quarter peal reports on p.261.

Ed. – The eulogy given by Mike Trimm during the memorial celebration held at Conway Hall may be viewed at Change Ringing Resources. The talk – which is very amusing – does contain some ‘colourful’ language!

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