1940 - 2013

John Barry Pickup was born in Accrington on 7th December 1940. He was taught to ring at Accrington by Roger Leigh and rang his first peal at Oswaldtwistle aged 16. By the time he went to university at St Andrews he had rung over 50 peals, but he rang hardly at all in Scotland, and his choice of Leicester for his PGCE was influenced by the opportunity to improve his ringing on 10 and 12.

In 1964 he arrived in north Suffolk to teach Physics and Chemistry at Lowestoft Grammar School. He was immediately active in the norwich Diocesan Association (being Eastern Branch Ringing Master for a number of years) as well as in the neighbouring Suffolk Guild. In 1968, back home in Lancashire, with two peals of 10,000+ already under his belt, he rang in the 12,096 Glasgow Surprise Major at Accrington which was until 2012 the record length in the method. The arrival of Martin Thorley in Suffolk saw Barry’s peal ringing receive a lift. These two rang 150 peals together between 1969 and 1972, and a further 100 during Martin’s second foray into Suffolk a few years later. Barry was also a participant on a number of “Around” peal tours.

By 1969 Barry had taught David Ely, another teacher at the school, to ring, and there were a number of ringing pupils. Barry got them all together to ring for a school carol service at St Margaret’s Church, Lowestoft, which was Barry’s home tower. That led to regular lunchtime practices at St Margaret’s, culminating in a peal at nearby Somerleyton by the Denes High School Society, the school having become comprehensive and changed its name. More peals followed and then the handbells started. Apart from Barry, none of us had rung handbells before but two lunchtimes a week for two years in the physics lab saw us build up from nothing until three pupils plus Barry as conductor scored a peal of Bob Major.

Although a conscientious teacher, ringing came first for Barry. Double Physics on a Friday afternoon was not universally popular, but one cold February day Barry sidled up to me before the lesson started and thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “Are you free tomorrow afternoon – can you learn this for a peal at Aldeburgh?” So I spent the next hour and a half studying not physics but the line to Thorverton Surprise Major and that’s how I came to ring an unusual method as my first of Surprise (and not do very well at Physics A level!).

One of Barry’s star pupils was Christine Gorrod. After she returned to East Anglia following university, Chrissie and Barry were married at St Margaret’s in 1980 and set up home in Beccles. Catherine and Sarah arrived in 1982 and 1985 respectively and family life competed with ringing. 1987 saw his peal total fall to single figures for the first time for 25 years, but that included his 1,000th peal; Plain Bob Royal at Beccles, with Chrissie ringing her 100th at the same time. The whole of the second half of Barry’s life was spent living in Beccles, where Barry was Ringing Master for 30 years, and this was where he developed his friendship with his partner in crime, the other half of the “Beccles Mafia”, Trevor Bailey. During that time the band regularly won the Suffolk Guild NE District Striking Competition, and a Sunday Service Band rang a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ufford in 1988.

Barry took early retirement from teaching in 1984 and, with Chrissie working full time, took primary responsibility for looking after the girls and the house. Peal ringing continued steadily with the monthly peals at Aldeburgh (his leading tower) and regular outings with the norwich ringers.

He was renowned for removing his jumper halfway through a peal, with varying degrees of style: sometimes he managed the feat without missing a blow, although once it caused terminal disarray when he managed to let go of his rope.

Apart from peals Barry also enjoyed tower- grabbing and with Chrissie went on regular ringing outings. Barry was an accomplished pub raconteur, although the spluttering that accompanied his story telling usually caused all his friends to place their beer mats over their pint glasses as soon as Barry started on one of his jokes. And his favourite jokes were so well- known and well-loved that you only had to mention the punch line for his friends to dissolve into laughter.

For all his apparent confidence in the ringing chamber Barry was essentially a very private person: during his final illness he appeared to all except his closest family to be in reasonable health, and only admitted to being seriously ill in the last three weeks of his life. Chrissie and the girls nursed him at home during that time and were all with him when he died on 5th March.

His funeral at Beccles was well-attended, and the many ringers present were able to enjoy the recently-restored 25cwt ten. Ray and Liz

Helliwell and Ann Saunders, all taught to ring handbells by Barry, rang a course of Plain Bob Minor during the service which was followed by a private burial at Beccles Cemetery.

Barry’s skill as a ringing teacher, and his enthusiasm for developing young ringers, meant that a whole generation of young ringers in north Suffolk will say that Barry was one of the most, if not the most, influential person in developing their ringing careers. Known by so many for his ability as both a ringer and conductor he will be sadly missed.


See peal reports on p.536 and quarter peal reports on p.543.

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