1930 - 2013

George Donkin was born in Southsea on 11th August, 1930, the son of a barrister. Whilst he was a boy he was watching a game of cricket when the ball hit him on the head and, as a result, he became profoundly deaf. This changed the course of his life, making it impossible for him to go to his intended school and perhaps fulfil his destined profession. He married Ishbel Cameron in the late 1950s and they had two children, Imogen and Richard.

In the1960s George was a poultry farmer in Brimpton, Berks and in 1973 he attended a WEA course in bellringing at Newbury College. This sparked his interest in bells and the ringing of them, a subject which occupied much of his interest for the rest of his life – along with cars, trains, and steam engines!

He learnt to ring at St Mary’s, Thatcham, taught to handle a bell by Bill Butler. Although he was profoundly deaf and couldn’t hear the bell strike, George claimed he could feel the impact of the clapper hitting the bell being transmitted down the rope. However, the art of striking was not readily acquired and much practise was needed. George became well- known travelling around the Oxford Diocesan Guild to meetings and to practices, usually arriving towards the end of the session and trying to get into the last touch! He also enjoyed nominating officers for their posts at annual meetings, and would scan the minutes to check he hadn’t been forgotten!

Shortly after George learnt to ring the annual Easthampstead training course was inaugurated and he went on the 1975 course. He enjoyed this very much and applied to go to the 1976 course. He enjoyed this also and tried to get on the next one. At that time demand for places was very high and a rule had been established that applicants could not apply to go on the same elementary course for more than two successive years. This dampened George’s enthusiasm, although he went on the four courses between 1981-84 and the 1991 one.

In 1978 he determined to get a band of ringers at the four-bell tower of Brimpton. The Guild report shows that the following year five ringers were members of the tower and these were still present at the Guild Centenary in 1981. However, the bells did not go well and the band drained away and George eventually transferred his allegiance to Speen, where he remained until his marriage to Rosemary on 9th November, 1993.

After his retirement as a gear cutter from Opperman Gears he found ringing more difficult and harder work, and increasing age brought other restrictions so he had to give up completely. He kept in touch from time to time, entertaining some ringing friends at home up to the end of last year. He died on the morning of Thursday, 16th May, 2013.

A memorial service devised by George was held on Tuesday, 11th June, 2013 at St Mary’s, Thatcham, conducted by Revd Roger Williams assisted by the Rector, Revd Mark Bennet and curate, Revd Marion Fontaine. About fifty attended including family, friends and ringers. A quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters conducted by Bill Butler concluded the service. R.I.P.


Thatcham, Berks. 11 Jun, 1259 Grandsire Caters: Rosemary Evans 1, Rosamund Durham 2, Ian Judd 3, William Butler (C) 4, Anthony D Smith 5, Susan E Smith II 6, Mark D Robins 7, John J Durham 8, Robert H Newton 9, Roy Pratley (50th Q at Thatcham) 10. Rung after the Thanksgiving service for the Life of George M K Donkin, one-time ringer at this church.

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers