Obituaries

Howard W. Egglestone

22nd April 1936 to 17th February 2013

What follows is an a adaptation of the eulogy given by John Loveless at Howard’s funeral at Holy Cross, Crediton on 1st March 2013.

The Church of Holy Cross, Crediton was packed for Howard’s funeral on Friday, 1st March. People travelled from all over the country to pay tribute to Howard. That’s a measure of how widely known and highly respected he was in the field of church bell ringing.

For its sustained variety of achievement, for example the ability to participate at the highest level, to teach/sustain ringers and bands, to orchestrate fundraising for bell-related initiatives and provide effective leadership skills which made things happen, his was one of the great ringing careers of our time.

Howard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2009. His response was to listen very carefully to everything the medical people said. Apart from that, it was best to beat it, at worst accommodate it, and of course allowing it to interfere too much with normal life was not part of the agenda. So he battled with it in the ‘full-on’ way one might expect, for over three years.

A few months ago, when Howard retired as Ringing Master at Holy Cross, the people of Crediton were told by Geoff Sparling in their parish magazine that Crediton had a National Treasure in its midst. Very apt, because wherever he lived Howard set a great example – he was a true ambassador for our art.

Howard’s way

Howard’s philosophy of life put a high value on family, on friends, on church and on community. He was someone with a gritty determination, who worked hard at everything he undertook, yet for whom it never looked to be hard work. Someone who I always felt had a marvellous balance of the many components in his life, and who was a great relaxer, with THAT pipe always close to hand – and usually close to the rest of us – until they changed the law and thankfully it was banished to the outdoors!

For Howard, life was to be savoured and enjoyed, whether in connection with work, leisure or family – just the way it should be, and it was a life well lived in the truest sense of the phrase.

Outdoor and sporting interests

Howard was a great walker and loved the outdoors, completing a number of memorable walks, particularly in his later years, often with Spike (John F.) Thorne. A great sports fan throughout his life, something he shared with Margaret, he was an Ipswich Town season ticket holder in the glory days of the 1970s, he played golf and in recent years Margaret and Howard seemed to spend most of the summer watching Somerset County Cricket at Taunton. Skysports was designed for Howard!

An embracer of change

So often one hears the comment: "well, we don’t want to change, we’ve always done it like that" from those who are resistant to change and want the easy life to continue. That was anathema to Howard. Under a wonderfully affable exterior he was essentially a pragmatist, a kind of action man figure, usually impatient to get things done. But there was a definite visionary side to him too – this meant he instinctively knew what needed to happen, and when, and how, as well as who would be his key people. He embraced change, something that many of us find difficult.

Howard was one of the most positive people I have ever met – life’s positive people are often major influences on the rest of us. What set Howard apart was that he was a natural leader who was also blessed with great people skills. He was a team player (often as captain of the team to be fair!) who motivated others to get involved and individually or collectively achieve things they may not have thought possible. He did that again and again over 50 years and more.

A great ‘All-Rounder’

When preparing this tribute I tried very hard to come up with a succinct statement that would summarise Howard as a ringer. To use an expression from the noble game that he loved so much, Howard was ‘One of the truly great all-rounders of our time’, a campanological amalgam of three greats, Sir Garfield Sobers, Ian Botham and Brian Close.

From the perspective of pure ringing achievement, peals are often seen to be the yardstick. Howard rang just 1,400 peals, a list full of quality and the achievements of others, not just his own.

He was one of the outstanding ringers of his generation. He excelled on tower bells, where he was happy ringing light or heavy bells, and he was an excellent striker and method ringer who seldom made mistakes. As a result, he took part in peals at the highest level and on most of the premier rings in the country, for example the ‘Big Four’ heaviest rings; Liverpool, Exeter and St Paul’s Cathedrals and York Minster, and the jewel in the crown, Westminster Abbey, in the autumn of 2009. He felt particularly privileged to be invited in the Abbey peal. Others saw it as a thoroughly deserved acknowledgement of his contribution to ringing over fifty years and more.

Change ringing on handbells was an underdeveloped area of expertise for him, since he never lived close to one of the major centres. Howard was very competent on handbells and rang rhythmically and accurately. Much less physically demanding than tower bell ringing, handbell ringing may have helped arrest some of the angst he would have felt about no longer being able to ring tower bells.

Teacher and Fundraiser

More significantly – and he regarded this as much more important than peal ringing – it was his teaching and fundraising efforts that so often made a massive difference. He made this difference in Essex, Suffolk, Newbury, as well as at Crediton. Margaret supported him unstintingly in all these endeavours. She has the patience of a saint – achievers are never over keen on being managed, it can restrict the achieving!

I first met Howard when I was a keen 13-year-old back in 1968 – he was my first ringing hero and has remained so to this day. He encouraged and supported my ringing career in various ways, both conventionally and on one occasion by use of the less conventional, but trademark ‘hiss, holler and stamp’ technique. This was in a peal at Bures, my home tower, and something was seriously wrong with Howard or my performance level was clearly below what was required – I went with the latter. Later, in 1977, coincidentally we both moved to Newbury within a month of each other. A great memory of that time was spending Saturday afternoon, 6th May, 1978 at Howard and Margaret’s house watching Ipswich Town beating Arsenal 1-0 to win the 1978 FA Cup Final!

Early ringing career

Howard learnt to ring at Boreham, Essex, in 1950. His voice had just broken and as with many choirboys sixty years ago, the church based activity to replace singing in the choir would be bell ringing. He was taught bell handling and basic change ringing on tower and hand bells by Sam Everett, who was also secretary of the South Eastern District of the Essex Association. Sam encouraged Howard to ring elsewhere in the local area, a significant break for him at a time when opportunities to progress were limited.

His first peal was at Boreham in 1952, half-muffled in memory of King George VI. Howard soon met Joe Roast, another Essex ‘rising star’, from Danbury. Looking back at the progress of Essex ringing through the 1950s, the rest was history, as they say. Joe Roast has never been a liberal dispenser of praise, but in his book Change Ringing in Essex, even he noted the arrival of ‘the talented Howard W. Egglestone of Boreham’!

Record breaker

Interestingly, the following chapter of Joe’s book is entitled The Record Breakers – 1954 to 1966. During this period a new generation of Essex ringers, largely spearheaded by Howard and Joe, but involving some established local ringers whose involvement Howard much valued, set new standards of achievement, particularly in multi-method Minor method ringing where they broke county and sometimes national records, achieving peals in up to sixty and eighty methods. Howard was very aware of the part played by people like Pat Saltmarsh (who did much of the composing – manually, no computers in those days), Peter Eves and Dennis Symonds, who formed the experienced backbone of the band.

Of much more significance, I expect, than any of these achievements was the regular appearance in these peals of one Margaret Panton. Howard conducted Margaret’s first peal in April 1959. Far too sensible to ever want to learn eighty methods, Margaret was a regular treble ringer for the peal band. Of considerably less significance, at some stage fairly early on Howard acquired his first nickname, "Eggle". Obviously the creative types were away at the time!

Setting records in multi-method ringing was just a part of it. Longer peals – and they were often much, much longer than three hours – became popular, Howard was part of the band that on 9th April 1960 rang what was at the time the longest peal on church bells; 22,400 changes in 11 hours 45 minutes at Kirby-le-Soken.

50 years later, on 9th April 2010, Howard and Peter Eves, the two surviving members of the 1960 band, took part in an anniversary peal, this time of just 5000 changes. This was hard won and meant a lot to both of them. Howard had undergone very major surgery less than six months before.

Cumberlands, marriage and a career

In 1960 a new society, the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, entered Howard’s ringing records with a peal at Crayford, Kent. In that peal was Dennis Beresford (the energetic young Master of the Cumberlands), and his brother Peter and sister Joan. Further invitations, including one to ring a 12-bell peal at Reading, a rare opportunity in those days, followed. Audition successfully completed! More on this later, but this was the start of an association with the Cumberlands which lasted for the rest of his ringing career.

In 1962 Howard and Margaret were married and moved to Suffolk. Howard began work for Ready Mixed Concrete, where he spent the rest of his career.

In the fifteen years from 1962 to 1977 he and Margaret made a huge contribution to ringing in Suffolk, teaching a band from scratch at Henley, previously a silent tower with no ringers for many years, culminating in a peal at Henley where the footnote indicated that the other seven ringers had been taught to ring from scratch by Howard, some footnote! Evidence here of his ability to enthuse people, value them, get them involved, develop their confidence to achieve things they never thought possible, something that was replicated many times over the years.

The Suffolk Guild

Howard’s time as Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, from 1969 to 1974, followed on from the good work done by his friend George Pipe. The Guild had started to change from being essentially Victorian in structure. It now needed radical change to bring it into the 1970’s, an ideal job for Howard!

I remember this as a time of great opportunity for so many young people learning to ring in Suffolk. Howard would actively encourage and develop those who were serious about ringing. He could be found with Guides and Scouts ringing handbells at the Suffolk Show to teaching basic conducting theory at a Guild training course on a village green. Of course it helped if he considered you had what it takes (and also whether you could take it!) but his was an inclusive approach. The ringing was incredibly important but so was the social side.

There was still time for more peal ringing achievements in Suffolk, such as setting a new record for the greatest number of methods rung in a peal, 148, beating Joe Roast’s band’s 145 the previous year. One is meant to believe this was friendly rivalry but somehow I doubt it! Then there were firsts of Norman Smith’s 23-all-the-work Major (amongst the first dozen or so times this was ever rung) and Bristol Royal. All these were by resident Suffolk bands – and forty years on these were, and still are, quite remarkable achievements.

Central Council and The Ringing World

During this time Howard became a member of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, elected by the Suffolk Guild of Ringers as one of its representatives. He was a member for 43 years, including eleven years as a life member. There are just five life members. For Howard this was a very active membership as it led to a long association with The Ringing World, for 25 years from 1974 to 1999.

Howard was Convenor of The Ringing World Committee of the Central Council for three years. Having seen through the change to limited company status, he then served as Managing Director of what is now The Ringing World Limited for a further twelve years. The Ringing World Board has always been populated by strong characters and Howard, with his energy and willingness to back change and innovation, was an ideal addition to it. Howard played a big part in The Ringing World’s development over 25 years, helping steer a small, niche publication through a period of great change. The Exercise owes him a huge amount in this regard.

A move to West Berkshire

The move to Newbury in 1977 was soon followed by Howard becoming ringing master at Newbury Parish Church, to which the family developed a strong attachment, with his daughters Helen, Clare and Ruth all learning to ring and another re-hanging project, this time in 1980. I talked earlier of Howard’s ability to assess the talents available to him – at Newbury I was assigned the endless task of rubbing down the bell frame with a wire brush but strangely never got anywhere close to the painting of the frame – know your people!

Howard’s association with the Cumberlands, mainly via Derek Sibson, strengthened during this time. He rang regularly in the Tuesday night peals at Shoreditch and he was part of the band that rang peals in 100 or more methods on 8, 10 and 12 bells, plus long peals which meant Derek could pack in even more methods!

Inevitably, youngsters from my generation started to come through and soon pushed the bar even higher. Howard featured in some of these exploits in the late 70s / early 80s and he rang in the then record peals of Bristol Royal, Bristol Maximus and Spliced Maximus. Howard and I used to have method testing sessions during the week before the peal. I remember being ticked off when he adjudged my efforts to be below standard and lacking in thoroughness! And no beer during the business part of the evening either!

East Meets West

No account of Howard’s ringing career would be complete without mention of the East Meets West peal week. Howard firmly believed that his honest endeavours (or, as he sometimes put it: "bashing about with the locals") for 51 weeks of the year were worthy of some reward, or ‘cream’, for one week. As one might expect, his expectations of what the cream might be were very high. The requirement was for team players only (no prima donnas), the ringing needed to be of the highest standard and the social side was very important too. Those who came along needed to do all three.

Conceived by Howard and D. John Hunt, East Meets West started in 1969 and continues to thrive today. In the course of those forty years people have come and gone, some were unsuitable and received no further invites (not always Howard’s decision, just usually!) but a core of people from the early years still come regularly. It was through some of the younger and less reverent East Meets West members that Howard acquired a fresh nickname in the mid 1970s, "The Fuhrer" – and of course The Fuhrer approved!

On to Crediton

The move to Crediton in 1992 was the start of twenty very happy years there. At that time Crediton was a traditional Devon call change tower, with no method ringing, so initially Howard rang mainly at Exeter Cathedral, where he was secretary of the Cathedral Society for eleven years. His arrival strengthened the band which was just starting to enter the National 12-Bell Contest. As Mike Mears put it: "we had a lot of enthusiasm but we needed guidance – Howard, as a ‘grizzled old pro’ who could point us in the right direction, was invaluable to us."

Howard’s involvement at Crediton really came via the Shobrooke re-hanging project in 1995. There were no ringers at Shobrooke so six people, all in their 50s, volunteered to learn and were taught by Howard.

By the late 1990s work needed to be done to Crediton tower and bells. Howard saw this as a perfect opportunity to try to do something about the old eight bells, which were very difficult to ring.

To quote Howard: "I was encouraged by the rector, Anthony Geering, and a small group of Governors, led by Bill Parr, to submit my proposals and, rightly or wrongly, went for the nuclear option. i.e. nothing to lose, go for the total job or nothing. Doing part of the job would have been totally unsatisfactory so the decision was made to do, in Devon speak, a ‘proper job". In May 1999 the appeal was launched for £150,000 for the new ring of 10 bells. The bells were eventually installed, in a 12 bell frame, in 2004. In 2007 two new bells were given to make 12.

Howard with the two treblesThis project would not have happened without Howard – only he had the knowledge, the contacts and the drive to see it through, and he also had the ability to lead it from the front.

Crediton bells are a wonderful result, worthy of the church and town, and of course they are very well regarded across the ringing community too, such that ‘sister’ rings of similar weight have been installed at St Magnus the Martyr (where Howard was particularly pleased to ring a peal) and at High Wycombe. Crediton also has a local band of ringers who have developed an enviable record of providing 12-bell ringing for Sunday services over the last few years. Howard worked tirelessly to establish this and was delighted to have someone of Geoff Sparling’s calibre to take over as Ringing Master. No doubt the future of ringing at Crediton is in very safe hands.

Many will remember that memorable day when the 2010 National 12 Bell Contest final took place at Crediton! I remember Howard telling me of the serious selling job he had to engage in to bring the Contest to a little Devon town many had never heard of. Bringing the 12 Bell to Crediton was entirely his doing, he proudly mobilised his resources and the Crediton ringers put on a great show, surely one of Crediton’s greatest days – and as usual Birmingham won it!

A wonderful legacy

What a fine legacy Howard has left us, culminating in the beautiful ring of 12 at Crediton, which will be here for hundreds of years to come! We thank you Howard for your work and commitment in so many directions throughout your life: to your family, to your many friends, to the communities in which you lived, and to the Church.

From a ringing perspective, not only were you a high quality exponent of the art we love so much, but you were selfless about it. Ringing fosters true friendship and fellowship in a way that few other activities can ever do. You placed great emphasis on this friendship and fellowship and your enthusiasm, expertise and leadership benefited so many other people over a very long and rewarding ringing career. We will never see your like again. Thanks for everything you did. May You Rest in Peace.

JOHN LOVELESS

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George Pipe writes:

Howard was an outstanding ringer of his generation; someone Izaac Walton might well have said was "The Compleat Ringere." And so he was.

It will be fifty years this Easter since we first met. Our seven years in Australia in the fifties and early sixties meant our returning to England to quite a number of ringers we had known by name only, watching their progress from afar. Howard was one of them by virtue of his having moved to Suffolk for his company.

He wasn’t just a peal ringer, though his record there is a fine one, but a leader of men, teacher, administrator; someone who ‘made things happen’. And not just in Suffolk but later on in Berkshire and Devon, for The Ringing World and on the Central Council. Anything that Howard attempted he did well, with enthusiasm, discipline and giving it 110 per cent.

We had a happy partnership here; his mastership of the Suffolk Guild following mine meant more than twelve years working together with some good ringing along the way. He epitomised that gift of being able to ring any bell of any weight, on any number anywhere in the circle and his striking and commitment to excellence were first class. He good-naturedly accepted my leg-pulling about his handling with the riposte: "It’s where you put the bell that matters." No argument!

I shall miss my old friend very much – some of my best times and ringing were in his company. The Exercise is enriched by his all-round achievements.

And we say thank you, too, to Margaret for sharing Howard with us, for all her support in the things he wanted to do and her care of him when his illness manifested itself.

May he ‘Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory’ as he surely will.

GEORGE PIPE

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Joe Roast writes:

Howard was one of the best young ringers to emerge into Essex during the middle of the last century. He learnt to ring at Boreham under the late Sam Everet and during our early years we did much ringing together as our towers were only a few miles apart. He made swift progress and could soon ring anything asked of him, despite a rather un-textbook style of bell handling. This may have had some connection with the Boreham bells once described rather disparagingly by a famous Essex lady ringer as "seven buckets and a bath". Many will recount his ringing days in Suffolk, Berkshire and Devon, so I will confine these few thoughts mainly to his early days in Essex.

On leaving school, Howard’s early ambition was to become a journalist but his career started humbly enough at Chelmsford railway station in the left luggage department. One day he wandered down New Street and obtained a job with the Marconi Company where he stayed for several years. After his marriage to Margaret Panton in 1962 the couple moved to Sufolk where he was employed by Ready-Mix Concrete with whom he remained until his retirement.

Howard’s ringing blossomed during the 1950s and he rang in many peals including 18,000 Minor in 25 methods at Stisted in 1957, arranged and conducted by Frank Lufkin. I think Terry Earle and myself are the only survivors of that band. some of us had small amounts of food to hand during the peal but Howard, with his inimitable style, managed to knock his to the floor and remained foodless for the rest of the peal. He was also in Frank Lufkin’s abortive attempts at the extent of Major at Loughborough but was a member of his band that rang 22,400 Bob Major at Kirby-le-Soken in 1960. This was, at the time, the greatest number of changes on church bells by one set of ringers.

During the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths’ revival under Dennis Beresford and Derek Sibson a series of simultaneous peals of Pitman’s 9-spliced, all the work, were arranged. Dennis asked me to call one and offered to supply the band. I decided to invite my own but requested that he ask Howard to come down from Suffolk and ring the tenor. This was done and the peal duly achieved.

Howard joined us on several ringing tours and was always excellent company as well as being a completely reliable ringer. He seldom made a mistake and his bell was always on the spot. Strangely, he didn’t call that many peals in Essex although he was a very competent conductor. Always keen on multi-method Minor ringing, he followed our Essex record of 145 methods at Rayne in 1966 with a peal in 148 methods at Ashbocking a few months later. He also became more actively involved with administrative matters after his move to Suffolk.

On a 1960 ringing tour in Derbyshire we rang a peal of Minor in 56 methods at Clay Cross. Howard, ringing the tenor as usual, gave us a masterful display of his unique style which almost reduced John Mayne, ringing the stayless 3rd to hysterics. However, despite this, a good peal was rung. Howard was also an excellent handbell ringer and, in the opinion of someone far less proficient, never really achieved his potential in this sphere. He did, however, call my first handbell peal in 1960.

I last saw Howard after a peal at Campton in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of Andrew Hudson’s first peal. We had quite a chat in the pub garden after lunch and he seemed in pretty good fettle. He also returned to Essex the same year for a peal at Kirby-le-Soken to mark the 50th anniversary of the long peal of Bob Major.

Howard was a very down to earth sort of character with a dry sense of humour who always called a spade a spade. Whatever he did he did well and with that sometimes stubborn determination he was a true personality of the Exercise. We shall not see his like again.

J. E. G. ROAST

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