Obituaries

Christopher E. Slade

9th April 1933 - 24th March 2013

Chris learnt to ring on the old eight at St Mary’s, Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex around 1950, when the three remaining call change ringers from a pre-war band decided to recruit some youngsters from the choir and youth fellowship of the time.

A dozen or more young people rose to the challenge, and quickly progressed beyond the ability of their teachers, learning about change ringing from the Ringers’ Handbook. with help from neighbouring Harrow Weald ringers, including Phyllis Mayne and son John, George and Elsie Hart, and other Middlesex ringers including Tom Lock. Chris and these keen youngsters progressed to quarter peals of Grandsire Doubles and Triples in the early 1950s.

In 1955, as part of Chris’s training as a Civil engineer, he was sent to work in the Site Engineer’s office on the building of Rogerstone Power Station, Newport, S. Wales. whilst there he spent all his evenings and weekends ringing, and met David and Jacqueline King, who were responsible for moving Chris into peal ringing.

His first three peals were rung in this period, on the tenor to Grandsire Triples at Caldicot, inside to Grandsire Triples at the same tower, and on the tenor to Grandsire Caters at St Woolos Cathedral.

On his return home in 1956 he rang inside to a peal of Cambridge Major at Harrow.

For the next two years Chris worked hard to move the Harrow band on, but it’s probably fair to say that, although there has been a thriving band at Harrow ever since those days, none of the other members of that early band ever quite matched Chris for enthusiasm, expertise and achievement!

There was a two-year break in his ringing career from 1958 to 1960, whilst he did his National service, after seven years’ deferment. When he returned from the Army and married Shirley Dorey, one of the Harrow band, in October 1960, the bells were at Taylors bellfoundry being recast, so any ringing for their marriage was done elsewhere.

Chris arranged and rang in the first peal on the recast bells in July 1961, still only his 5th peal after more than ten years of ringing.

However, at the end of 1961 Chris and Shirley moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire, and became members of the 10-bell band at St Peter’s. This was a great place to be at that time, with ringers such as George Debenham, Vic Frost and the Darvill family and other St Albans ringers such as Geoff Dodds and Gerald Penney all providing the opportunity for Chris to become a reliable 10-bell ringer. He rang ten peals for the Hertfordshire Association in the seven years he lived in St Albans; nine of which were either Caters or Royal at St Peters.

For a brief period of four months in the summer of 1967 Chris was sent on another work assignment, this time to Scotland, where Chris and Shirley joined the struggling band at Inverness Cathedral. They tried to help recruit some new members for the band there, but couldn’t do a lot in such a short time.

In 1968 the family moved down to newport, Gwent, and Chris re-established himself in the Llandaff & Monmouth Association and joined the band at St Woolos Cathedral. He was active in peal ringing around the area, and in the four years in Newport rang another 15 peals, four of which were at St Woolos, and a few at Abergavenny, always one of his favourite rings of bells.

So, at the end of 20 years of ringing his peal total had risen to 30.

The next move was to East Sussex in 1972, where Chris joined the band at St Mary’s Hailsham, an 8-bell tower with, at that time, a band which almost exclusively only rang Doubles! Chris helped to progress the ringers on to 8-bell ringing, and taught many new ringers in the 23 years he was at Hailsham. He was a very active member of the Sussex County Association, especially in their Centenery year. Whilst in Sussex Chris added 374 peals to his total, 327 of them for the SCACR. It was whilst here that Chris rang his first peal for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, although he had been a member since 1956. He rang 21 peals for the Society whilst in Sussex.

Also in this period he rang in a long length at Hailsham, a peal of 11,520 Yorkshire S Major. A peal in October 1976, of which he was particularly proud, enabled his elder son Graham to ring his first peal just before his 11th Birthday.

Finally, after retirement, Chris and Shirley moved to Worcestershire, where with his new found spare time he threw himself into ringing in yet another area of the country. He enjoyed the challenge of ringing as a member of the Pershore Abbey band. As many will know, Pershore has a unique ringing platform, high up in the tower, which many a seasoned ringer has failed to reach and/or actually ring from, but Chris took it in his stride, as he did any new or challenging tower and bells.

With the Abbey and Parish Centre bells in Pershore, there was plenty going on, but he found time to ring at Worcester Cathedral and many other towers in the area.

He and Shirley participated in many outings and ringing holidays over the years, as well as taking an active part in the social and fundraising activities of whichever Association they belonged at the time. In 2001 they particularly enjoyed a four-week tour of Australia with Alan and Christine Baldock’s party. Chris was thrilled to have rung at every ringable tower in Australia at that time.

He took part in several peal tours with various people, and rarely refused the opportunity to go for a peal if he was asked to be in a band, and his peal total seemed to go up in leaps and bounds when he joined Gerald Hemming’s “Pension Book” band in the Evesham area, going for a peal most Tuesday mornings! Chris suddenly realised that he could probably become a 1,000-pealer, in spite of his rather slow start in his early ringing days.

However, that dream was suddenly shattered in 2008, when Chris was diagnosed with a chondro sarcoma, which cost him his right leg. But with a huge amount of grit and determination, he did manage to get back to some ringing at Pershore Parish Centre after a break of a year or so. Here he could, with difficulty, get up the stairs to the ringing room, and from a sitting position managed to handle a bell again.

He rang several quarter peals like this, and there followed another 13 peals on these relatively easy to handle bells.

Ha also managed one peal in another tower – the ground floor ring at Hurst in Berkshire, where his son Graham is now Tower Captain. This was rung with Graham on the 35th anniversary of his first peal, mentioned earlier, in October 2011 but the bells were not so ideal for ringing whilst seated. There were some “hairy” moments caused by the long draught, but Chris was really pleased to have achieved it.

Although Chris taught all three of our children to ring, it is only Graham who now continues to carry on the tradition, but Chris was pleased to know that Graham has taught all three of his sons, and it is to be hoped that some of them will continue into the future.

It was a great disappointment to Chris that his illness prevented him from reaching his 1,000th peal.

He spent his final 18 years in Worcestershire, and added a further 585 peals to his total. 442 of these were for the Worcestershire & Districts association, 51 for the Vale of Evesham Society, 15 for the SRCY, and 77 for other Associations.

His final peal total was 989, just 11 short of his goal, and only recently he had talked of trying to get back to peal ringing, but it was not to be.

He finally succumbed to the chondro sarcoma, first diagnosed five years earlier, and died on 24th March 2013.

Alongside Chris’s ringing activities he was an active churchman, and also a keen singer. Throughout his life he was a member of church choirs, choral societies and chamber choirs. About 50 members from the four choirs he belonged to in Pershore and Worcester came together to sing at his funeral, which was held in Pershore Abbey in Easter week. Over 200 people, including many ringers from further afield, packed the church and celebrated Chris’s life in an uplifting service, with wonderful Easter hymns.

SHIRLEY SLADE

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers