Richard Graham Crosland

2nd May 1929 – 11th December 2012

photographed in the 70sRichard was educated at Lancing College, Sussex.

He had a fascination for mathematical and pattern based problems and so it was to be expected that he would have a successful career in computing, being one of the first professional programmers. From being a computer programmer it was a logical step to a position as Systems Analyst.

He started ringing during National Service and, with a few breaks due to work and/or back problems, rang most of his life although far more infrequently in his retirement.

With his fascination with mathematical problems and puzzles and his deep love of music it is not surprising that he would find great enjoyment in composing peals. He also knitted, played the piano (composing some music), produced some computer games, made numerous handmade jigsaws and took photographs of them. He was prolific in many of his more dexterous pastimes, partially because the concentration and actions helped him combat his narcolepsy, which plagued him his entire adult life.

Richard’s sons Michael, Philip and Benjamin prepared a eulogy for the funeral, from which the following are extracts:

‘We take great comfort in knowing that Dad found true happiness and contentment with his wife Rachel during their 34 years together, and with her sons, Paul, Andrew and Simon, and their children, with whom we know Dad shared so much love and mutual respect.

It’s fair to say that Dad was not known for wearing his heart on his sleeve; he was a private man, and yet his deep love and pride for his family was nonetheless plain for all to see. His older sister, Jenner, spoke of her fond memories of their time together before the War, walking in the countryside near Walton Heath, of the precious time spent with their mother, and how the air was always filled with music. Despite being separated by evacuation and boarding school for many years after that, they remained very close and deeply fond of each other throughout their lives.

His younger sister, Wendy, remembered a very happy month they spent together in Australia. It was during this time that she really got to know her brother; she also realised how competitive they could be with each other: during a day spent panning for gold, Dad, in typical fashion, didn’t just set about randomly sifting the sediment; instead, he applied his expertise, garnered from years of trout-fishing in rivers, to work out where the currents would deposit the heaviest particles of gold dust, and then took great delight in thrashing Wendy in the ensuing “weigh-off” at the end of the day. She also remembers an entire month of Scrabble in which she didn’t manage to win a single game: Dad calling upon his many years spent solving the toughest crosswords, to pull off a triple word score with a word nobody had ever heard before.

To us, his intelligence and thoughtfulness were more than just being clever – he always took time to explain why he did things in certain ways; how to tackle a problem with an open mind and careful consideration – an approach which has served us well through the years. He had strong views on many subjects, as do many; but, unlike many, he encouraged us to make our own opinions and beliefs and never sought to impose his own upon us – though he would argue vigorously with our positions, it was always with reason and respect.

Of course, our lives were always filled with music. Each of us remembers being lulled to sleep at night by his piano playing, whether it be a Chopin ballade or scherzo, or one of the dozens of jazz standards he remembered from his younger days. He always encouraged us in our own musical pursuits, and to explore our own gifts, so that we too could find the joy that he himself found, not only in his playing, but in his many hobbies, too numerous to mention. His passion for problem-solving was perhaps most manifest in his career choice of systems analyst.

He also taught us courage in adversity: suffering with narcolepsy for most of his adult life, not to mention the problems he faced in his final years, he always showed a stoicism and practicality in how he dealt with it.

And, it was his fearless approach of turning one’s hand to anything, of having the self- confidence to teach oneself how to play an instrument, or (as he once did) teach yourself advanced Mathematics, that gave us the confidence to do the same in life. A fine thing to inherit’.

At the funeral we heard examples of Richard’s wide musical taste: the service opened with ‘Butterfly’ by Grieg; then a quartet for strings, composed by Richard; this was followed by ‘Death and the Maiden’ by Schubert and finally, in complete contrast, ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk’ by Dave Brubeck!

Richard’s peals

According to Pealbase, which notes peals from 1951 onwards, Richard rang 63 peals, of which the majority were rung for the Kent County Association. The first one recorded was on 24th May 1962, with the footnote “first of Minor on tower bells”.which suggests that a handbell peal was rung earlier. However, researching through old KCA reports reveals 3 other peals:

  • 3rd August 1948: Handbells, Forest Hill, Bob Major
  • 27th December 1948: Beckenham, Kent TB Royal
  • 24th September 1949: Bexley, Yorkshire S Major

There is no footnote to the Bob Major in 1948 to indicate that this was Richard’s first peal, so his total was at least 67.

The bulk of the peals were rung in the period from May 1962 to May 1967, of which 29 were at West Wickham, Kent and two at nearby Addington, Surrey, both with six bells. These ranged from ‘the steady-seven Minor’, through the seven hills Treble Bob and seven castles Delight, into many Spliced Surprise, reaching 34 methods in June 1963.

Early in this stage of activity Richard had started to take an interest in composition, particularly of Spliced Surprise Major, exploring the possibilities of introducing methods different to those in other compositions at that time. So it was that he rang Brighton on 7th September 1963 – his first of Major since 1949 – and then three weeks later a ‘peal’ of 6-spliced Surprise including Brighton; sadly, this was later found to be false. Undeterred, Adelaide was added to the standard fare for a peal in 8 methods on 4th January 1964; then Chesterfield and Lindum to produce the first 10 all-the-work, which was rung on 2nd January 1965 at Bromley Common, Kent. Work on an 11th method, Eccleston, resulted in a peal at Dartford on 6th March later the same year; Richard succeeded in producing a composition in eleven methods, which was rung in Sept 1973, but by then he had left Kent.

After 1967 I heard nothing of Richard until he turned up one day in 1972 at East Grinstead, Sussex, having moved to nearby Forest Row. Four more peals were rung, all for the Sussex County Association, until his last on 27th March 1973.




An appreciation from the conductor’s point of view

If compositions in a single method or multi-part spliced are compared with “All the work” one-part compositions of spliced, the latter are often more interesting to ring and much more difficult to learn and call. They are also much more of a challenge for the composer. Richard Crosland produced his first spliced composition in six methods in 1963. Up to this time, the only one-part compositions that were regularly rung were the Albert Pitman series in four to nine methods and Harold Cashmore’s 4, and it was six years before the first all the work one-part composition was produced in the Standard Eight. The innovative feature of Richard’s composition, which included the ‘Pitman 4’ (London, Bristol, Cambridge and Superlative) and Rutland, was the inclusion of a new method, Brighton, a second eighths place method that had not previously been rung in spliced, also rung with fourths place calls. This allowed the construction of some very different courses, and some leads of Bristol being rung without bobs. This meant that no two courses were the same, contrasting with the Pitman compositions which have similar courses. Richard himself rang the 4th for the first performance of the composition at Frittenden on September 28th 1963, and the composition was published in The Ringing World on p.792. It was rung a total of eight times before Richard sent a letter to The Ringing World in 1972 (p.218) announcing that it was false. That composition was subsequently “repaired” and has been rung many times since then. During the intervening period Richard had produced compositions in 8 (adding Adelaide and Pudsey) followed by ten methods (adding Chesterfield and Lindum). One more unusual production was a composition of the standard ‘Pitman 4’ methods, being the first time an all the work composition in these four methods had been produced as a regular three-part and it is a challenging peal to ring. He went on to fill in the gaps in the series and increase the number of methods up to twelve (with Eccleston and Uppingham), some with parted tenors and some with singles. From analysing this series and subsequent compositions it would appear that one of his aims was to limit the number of consecutive leads in any method to two, albeit not always successfully. Again, the new methods introduced to this series were different from those in contemporary all the work spliced compositions which were mostly from the Standard Eight. He also produced two other versions of the original six methods, and a second composition in the eight methods.

By 1978 Richard had embarked on another project producing two series of alphabet spliced, the 26 methods being chosen to each start with one letter of the alphabet, which were published in the supplement of The Ringing World of February 6th 1987. The first and last of each series is the same composition but the intervening ones are either in three peals of five methods or one in seven and one in eight methods, the methods being the same for both series. These compositions are complicated both to ring and call and it took us several years intermittently to ring them all at Meldreth, but they are well worth the effort to do so.

With the completion of these two sets of compositions, he had produced 19 different all the work peals of Major. Although he had made a small venture into Maximus with two peals of 4 methods, still all the work, he had also departed briefly from all the work with two peals of half-lead spliced in five methods, the second one having no calls other than changes of method. Both were three parts and the choice of methods for the second one was unconventional, presumably to avoid the need for any bobs or singles. These have only been rung a very few times but again are well worth the effort.

Quite what stimulated him to produce three further series, two of Major and one of Royal is not known. The Major ones became available in 1995 and both had unique features. The first one in 4-12 methods has two methods from each of the lead-end groups a-f but the second in 6-12 methods has one method from each of the groups a-m, and uses both 4ths and 6ths place bobs which adds more difficulty. This series has only been rung once so far conducted by Stan Jenner but the 4-12 has been rung in full at least twice and dabbled in on other occasions! The Royal series is an alphabet one with two peals in six methods and two in seven. Only two of these compositions have so far been rung. There is also a single peal of Major in six methods which has been rung just once. This was a possible starter for the series of seconds and eighths place method peals but apparently it proved to be too difficult to find other methods which would fit in to make the series so a fresh start was made.

Both his compositions of Maximus have been rung silent and non-conducted but only one of the various Major peals, namely the original eight methods. This may be an indication of the difficulty of the 8 bell compositions.

Richard Crosland was a very clever composer who put together 45 peals of spliced of which all but two were all the work and altogether his compositions have been rung 497 times to the end of 2012. 72 conductors have called his peals varying from 32 with just one, most often either the original four (16) or the Maximus (10). There have been many discussions over the years as to how he chose the methods that were included, and no-one knows for sure, but it is supposed that the methods chosen helped in the construction of the compositions. The resulting series of compositions have interesting and innovative groups of methods which are not only a challenge to call, but also a challenge to ring and I hope many other conductors will use them.

I am very grateful to Andrew Craddock and Pealbase for help with the statistics. Details of most of the compositions can be found at


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