Obituaries

Ron Warford

Tribute given at Ron’s funeral on 10th May 2013

It is a nearly impossible task to try to sum up Ron’s life in less than ten minutes. everyone will have their own memories, and it is a measure of the regard and affection that Ron was held in, that so many people have contributed their own stories to add to this tribute.

Ron was born in 1942 in Selby. His father (Reginald) was a ringer at Selby Abbey and in due course Ron followed him up the tower and learned to ring, joining the Yorkshire Association in 1957. Ron learnt alongside Barbara Davies and Alan Grundy, and they rang their first peal, together, at Hemingbrough, of Plain Bob Minor, on 11th April 1959. Fifty years later to the day, the three of them rang a peal of Plain Bob Royal at Selby Abbey to celebrate this anniversary.

In 1967 Ron got married and went to live in Leeds where he rang at Chapel Allerton. Whilst here, as wherever he lived, he set about training lots of new recruits. He was also ringing master of the Leeds and District Amalgamated Society initially and later the Leeds branch of the Yorkshire Association when they merged. Conrad and Heather were both born whilst he lived in Leeds.

This was also his first prolific period of peal ringing when he joined forces with Ron Snack and myself, and started ringing peals initially across Yorkshire, and later, with John Robinson, Pete Gardner, Roger Riley and other stalwarts, anywhere in the country. Copious quantities of ale were consumed on these occasions, particularly on the weekends away, and the stories are legendary. On one occasion we were enjoying a celebratory drink after a peal in Preston. The toilets were outside around the back of the pub. Later in the evening, Ron returned from the toilet to say that there had been an enormous traffic accident outside, and we must all go out and help him search for survivors in the wreckage. It was only when we got outside that we discovered that the pub backed onto a scrapyard!

In 1977 he moved to Otley. As always, he set about training lots of new ringers and the local band went from strength to strength while he was there. Peal ringing though, took a bit of a back seat, as Ron spent more time walking. during this time he completed most if not all of the major Yorkshire walks including the Three Peaks and the ‘Lyke Wake Walk’.

Ron’s entire working life was spent with the Post Office, later BT, initially as a telephone engineer and then in training. Originally he was based in Leeds, but in 1985 he transferred to Newcastle, taking his family to live in Gosforth. Here, he joined the local band, and almost straight away, Gosforth was having a recruitment drive and Ron was teaching the learners. There was no limit to the time and energy that Ron would put into teaching the band, having an almost unlimited number of extra muffled practices and always striving for perfection. He was tower captain at Gosforth for 25 years and during this time, the band went from ringing Plain Bob Royal to Surprise Royal.

He was still ringing very few peals, spending much of his time running marathons and half marathons. Eventually though, he was persuaded by David Hird to join the weekly peal band in Newcastle and he regained his earlier enthusiasm for peal ringing.

As well as being tower captain at Gosforth, Ron was also President of the Durham and Newcastle Association, initially between 1998 and 2001 and then again from 2007 to 2010 – the only person to be re-elected for a second term of office. He was also elected a life member of the D&N at their AGM earlier this year.

He also served on Central Council from 1993 onwards and was on the Education Committee between 1993 and 2001, being its secretary for five of those years. He was also instrumental in inviting the Central Council to Newcastle for its 2008 meeting, and organising the weekend there.

Ron rang more than 1,000 peals for the D&N and organised many peals and quarters, being especially keen to encourage young and inexperienced ringers. He also organised many outings, no doubt following his own advice in the book he wrote for Central Council – ‘Organising an Outing’.

He was also heavily involved in many fund raising events for the D&N. On one occasion he did a sponsored 24hr run around Gateshead stadium to raise money for St Matthew’s Newcastle. Other people joined him for a couple of hours at a time, but Ron kept going for the whole 24 hours, stopping only for a drink, something to eat and endless leg massages (which he rather seemed to enjoy).

Another occasion was the ‘Two Cathedrals Hike’. Inspiration for this came when sitting in a pub with a group of ringers who decided they would walk from Edinburgh Cathedral to Newcastle Cathedral to raise money for the South Shields bell fund. After a couple more pints they all decided that 110 miles was not a big enough challenge and they would do it in 36 hours, which meant averaging 3 miles an hour. Only two people managed to complete this challenge with everyone else gradually dropping out along the way. Needless to say one of the two who finished the course was Ron.

Early retirement gave Ron the opportunity to do even more for ringing, and in 1998 he was persuaded by Alan Regin to leave his home for three months and to go out to Charleston, South Carolina, to teach a band at Grace Episcopal Church. Forty-four people had signed up to learn to ring and with Ron’s teaching thirty-three of them advanced to solo handling in the three months. Ron begrudgingly learned the American custom of tipping the bartender when ordering a beer, and he, in turn, taught the local bar owner to properly fill a pint glass! Perhaps Ron’s greatest challenge during his initial visit was conducting a peal of Plain Bob Triples with six local Charleston ringers in celebration of American Independence Day.

Ron endeared himself to his American students who called him ‘Mr Grumpy’. His friendship with them lasted until the present day and there were many repeat visits not only to Grace Church, but also to St Michael’s and the Cathedral of St Luke and St Paul, in Charleston, taking Yvonne with him to help.

Ron was elected to the Cumberlands in 1971 and was himself responsible for the election of many of the Cumberlands in the North East, including several people he had taught himself. He was particularly pleased, for his 60th birthday in 2002, to ring a Cumberlands peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus at Stockton on Tees to which he rang the treble and the rest of the band comprised ladies whom he had proposed or seconded for Cumberlands membership.

But what everyone will really remember about Ron will be his larger than life character, his charisma, his humour and his passion for everything that he did. He not only taught his learners to ring, he encouraged them and passed on his own enthusiasm for ringing. Sometimes, frustrated by the standard of ringing at Gosforth, he would bang his head against the wall – once causing him to have to buy a new clock for the ringing room – but he made everyone care about their ringing and try to do their best.

Ron was an excellent ringer himself – he could ring anywhere in the circle, he was a versatile method ringer who rarely made mistakes, an accomplished conductor and he had a keen ear for striking. Peals with him were never dull.

Ron was a true Yorkshire man. He called a spade a spade, but he would say it in such a way that no one would ever take offence. He was always ready to give advice and would tell you if he thought you were wrong, but he would always encourage. He was always good company, and there was nothing he liked more that a celebratory drink with ringing friends after a good peal. He was a true friend to many people and I am glad to have had the privilege of knowing him.

BARRIE DOVE

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