Obituaries

Dr Tudor P. Edwards

10th July 1934 – 20th May 2013

Tudor’s ringing career spanned 61 years from learning to handle a bell at Pentre in 1952 to his last peal at one of his favourite towers, Llanfeugan, in January of this year. Little did those who rang know that this would be his last peal. Soon afterwards he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which he bore with great fortitude and dignity, dying peacefully on 20th May 2013.

The following obituary draws on the eulogies given at Tudor’s funeral by his eldest niece, Bethan Meredith, and Peter Bennett.

Tudor grew up in the Rhondda and was quite academic in school. According to his school reports, he excelled at algebra, geometry, chemistry and physics. Tudor dreamed of going to university and sat his A levels early. He was accepted by Bristol University, quite an achievement in the 1950s for a boy from the Rhondda. Tudor stayed at Bristol to complete his PhD in chemistry. His niece Bethan remembers how proud the family were of his achievements.

When Tudor left home to go to Bristol University in 1952, he had visited the tower in Pentre just a few times, and could barely handle a bell. He continued to learn to ring at St Thomas’s church in Bristol during 1953. By a happy chance he was spotted one night at a bus stop by Albert Tyler and Enid Roberts, who said (according to Tudor) “come with us young man – we are going to teach you to ring properly”. Thus began not only an illustrious ringing career, but a lifelong friendship with Albert. The instruction was fruitful, and on 17th May 1954 Tudor rang his first peal, Grandsire Doubles at St Michael’s, Bristol with the University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers. Later that year he rang his second peal, Grandsire Triples at Pentre, his first peal for his home Association, the Llandaff & Monmouth D.A. During the next few years, as his studies continued, he became very active in the Bristol ringing scene, developing his skills on higher numbers supported by Albert Tyler. Tudor had a lifelong respect for the City of

Bristol, its ringers, bells and especially his membership of the UBSCR, typified by his attendance at 61 Annual Society Dinners consecutively. His first peal of Surprise was rung on 15th September 1956 – Cambridge Major at Colerne, his 35th peal. Later that year came another first, Stedman Cinques, at St Woolos Cathedral, Newport, where he was to ring many more peals over the years. And two years later, his first as conductor, Stedman Caters at St Stephen’s Bristol.

Tudor made conducting Stedman his speciality, developing amazing skills in keeping the ringing right, not only on higher numbers but especially in Stedman Triples. Much has been said about the number of times Tudor called Frank Darby’s 5007 Tittums/Handstroke composition of Stedman Cinques.

However, for about half the peals of Stedman Cinques he called, he used a variety of other compositions, including those of his lifelong Bristol friend, Pat Bird. The Darby peal was rung many times with bands of the highest calibre and on many prestigious rings of twelve. These would necessarily be ‘away day’ peals when the quality of striking, rather than complexity of composition, was paramount, with great socialising with friends from afar afterwards. Tudor called the composition several times for ringers’ 1,000th peals and a number of those ringers were present at his funeral. Tudor was also a very reliable conductor of Surprise methods on all numbers. Indeed, his first peal of Major as conductor was Pitman’s 4-Spliced at Frodsham in 1962. Tudor called 714 peals and was a regular conductor on Wilfred Williams’ tours, ‘Around’ tours and on many other occasions around the UK.

After completing his PhD, Tudor went to work for ICI at its research facility near Reading and lived in Reading for a time. He became good friends with the Diserens family and others in the area. From Reading he had easy access to London for College Youth practices where he met and rang with many prominent and nationally known ringers of the time. It was during this period that he became a regular member of peal bands arranged by Wilfred Williams as well as ringing local peals with the Reading ringers.

Tudor had been proposed for membership of the Ancient Society of College Youths by Albert Tyler in 1957 and rang his first peal for the Society the next year. He went on to propose many ringers as members in the ensuing years. Tudor was an ardent member of the ASCY and a regular attender of the Society’s Annual Dinners. He rang 429 peals for the Society.

In 1961 Tudor was posted to Widnes to help set up a commercial operation for the manufacture of Paraquat weed killer and from there was transferred to Fleetwood near

Blackpool. Tudor made many friends during these times. In Liverpool, he met Peter Bennett who was to become a lifelong close friend. Peter recalls how Tudor was a great source of inspiration not only to him, but to many young ringers in the Liverpool University Society of Change Ringers and others over the next few years. So much so, that the University Society recognised his influence by making him an Honorary Life Member of the Society, an honour which he valued. Peter recalls “He encouraged us to improve and develop our ringing, sometimes unconventionally. He advised us that the UBSCR had rung its first peal of Stedman Cinques just 17 years after the formation of that Society, and that if LUSCR could achieve that target in a shorter period he would buy a round of drinks for the band. We did and he did!”

At this time Tudor was also included in a group of ringers based around Manchester which developed into a ground breaking multi method peal band on the higher numbers, initially led by Derek Ogden, and including another lifelong friend, John Fielden. Ground breaking peals of ‘all the work’ Surprise Royal & Maximus were rung followed by a series of Spliced Surprise Maximus peals culminating in peals of 50 methods in 1969 and 110 methods in 1972.

The annual Wilfred Williams Peal Tour was always a ‘must’. He first toured in 1959, to Ireland, and continued touring up to 1979. Tudor greatly enjoyed these tours, especially the opportunity to ring with great ringers such as Peter Border and Ralph Edwards to name but two.

He was also involved in the first Around Tour in 1963, and went on nearly every one, right up to the 50th tour last year. He delighted in supporting the Around Tour as its membership included many whose ringing careers had coincided with his. Indeed the majority of his close ringing friends were Around Ringers. He also took part in tours arranged by Kingsley Mason and John Pladdys. These tours enabled him to cover nearly every corner of the British Isles. With Pat Bird he went overseas to Australia, New Zealand, North America and Africa and once mentioned that for just five days he had rung a peal on every twelve in the world!

Bethan recalls “It was in the mid 60’s that Tudor felt that the pull of his family back home was too great and decided to move back to the Rhondda. He went to work for Dunlop in Hirwaun for a time before starting a completelynewcareerteachingchemistryand maths at Porth Comprehensive School where he spent almost 30 years. There are still a number of people who stop me in the street and ask me how “doc” is these days. Tudor loved all sports not just watching but also playing. He especially loved rugby, cricket, football and snooker. On his return to the Rhondda, Tudor involved himself in the local football club where my grandfather was also a member. My uncle through his love of bell ringing spent the vast majority of his time travelling not just through Britain but across the world. It was unusual for there to be a weekend when you would catch Tudor at home! He loved travelling and had a strong appreciation for the culture and history of the places he visited. On his trip to South Africa, he had the opportunity to fulfil an ambition to go on safari – a truly memorable experience for him given his love of animals.”

Having settled back in the Rhondda, Tudor turned his attention to the development of peal ringing in the area, and worked at this for the rest of his life. Peter Bennett had come to South Wales in 1967 and was immediately involved in the bell ringing scene. Together with other experienced South Wales ringers, great strides were made in the quality and scope of ringing in the area. As a result of his infectious enthusiasm a number of projects were undertaken in the next decades, e.g., peals on every ring of eight and above in Wales – successful apart from the unavailability of one N Wales tower; first peals in numerous ‘Bristol Up’ methods, the Pitman 4-9 atw Spliced S Major cycle, new methods with Welsh County names (English & Welsh!) etc. etc. With the augmentation of Llandaff to twelve in 1992, Tudor’s experience as a 12-bell ringer and conductor was invaluable.


Tudor’s 1,000th L&M peal at St Woolos Cathedral, Newport (l-r): Jonathan Lewis, Andrew Phillips, Peter Bennett, Bob Hardy, Phil Hopkins, David Llewellyn, David Moore, Jim Clatworthy, Tudor Edwards (C), Matthew Turner, Helen Phillips and Alwyn Lewis

A few years ago Tudor revealed three ambitions, namely i) to ring 3,000 peals – achieved at Abergavenny on 9th September 2009, ii) to ring peals in 1,000 towers – achieved 3 or 4 years ago and iii) to ring 1,000 peals for the Llandaff & Monmouth Diocesan Association – this he achieved at Newport on 26th March 2011, calling Darby’s 5007 Stedman Cinques for the last time. He was presented with an illustrated certificate to that effect at the next L&M AGM with due ceremony, and he was very proud of that recognition. This final target was achieved at a time when he was finding it increasingly difficult to stand for over 3 hours. Showing typical determination he had concentrated more on 6-bell ringing and many 7-Surprise Minor peals were rung. He still managed two 12-bell peals in 2012, the last being Stedman Cinques at Llandaff which was his most prolific peal ringing tower (128 peals).

Tudor was a very family oriented man and found it difficult to come to terms with the death of his sister in 2009. Typically, he came through this period with the loving encouragement of his nieces Bethan and Judith. Bethan commented: “Tudor rarely asked anybody for help but was a very generous man and he never wanted to be acknowledged for anything he did. When Tudor became sick 6 weeks ago, he had so many ringing friends by his side helping him and providing comfort and I know how much he appreciated everyone’s love and support. He was a very caring person to those close to him and I think everyone here has a good memory of him that they can share.”

The funeral was held at St Peter’s, Pentre “The Cathedral of the Valleys” before a large congregation, many of whom had travelled long distances to pay their last respects. At the end of the service, the cortege processed out of church to the sound of 12 handbells, followed by Rounds and Stedman Triples on the tower bells. As a final tribute, a band of long standing ringing friends rang a quarter peal of Bristol Surprise Major after the service.

A personal note: I travelled thousands of miles around the UK with Tudor to peal attempts (many arranged by Ken Hesketh), on tours and to dinners (notably the ASCY Annual Dinner) and greatly valued our time together, putting the world aright, discussing Welsh Rugby and inevitably reminiscing about ringing generally. Tudor was a very private person who in his heyday could be quite forthright with his criticism of bad ringing but all would be forgotten in the pub afterwards. In all the years I knew Tudor I cannot recall him ever gossiping about others. He was a man of strong faith and character who gained the respect and friendship of so many over his long ringing career.

This is truly the end of an era for ringers in South Wales and for Tudor’s many friends throughout the UK and farther afield who have personal memories of their times with him.

May he rest in peace.

DAVID LLEWELLYN

 


 

Tudor Edwards – a tribute

I got to know Tudor during Christmas 1962 when he was at home on holiday in Pentre, Rhondda, while he was working for ICI in Lancashire. He called a peal of Stedman Caters at Llandaff Cathedral, my home tower, and Yorkshire Major at Pentre on Boxing Day.

He was a great inspiration to me as an aspiring young ringer and conductor, full of enthusiasm and advice. He was a wonderful companion, a fund of amusing anecdotes. In all, I was to ring 262 peals with him of which he called 88, mainly for The Llandaff and Monmouth D A and the University of Bristol Society.

It is worth dwelling on that Pentre peal as it is particularly memorable. After the peal the band were greeted with great hospitality in the local pub by the Pentre ringers, including John Owen, now in the USA, handing round turkey sandwiches. We paced our drinking in the expectation of a 2pm closure; however it turned out to be 4.30pm, thus we eventually made our way home with an enhanced festive spirit. That I was under 18 years of age gave the occasion an certain frisson.

The pull “hiraeth” of the Rhondda brought Tudor back to teach at Porth County Grammar School then one of the top schools in Wales, however it became a comprehensive, leading to a plummeting of educational and disciplinary standards. Tudor became unhappy there and retired early.

In a lighter vein the snooker table of the Ton Pentre Conservative Club were also a great attraction. After a peal he would always leave the pub in time for a game.

If Tudor had a weakness it was his addiction to cigarettes. After a peal he would quickly go outside so that he could light up. He told me that one of his worst moments was when half way through a peal at Liverpool Cathedral a watcher in the vast ringing room started smoking, leading to an intolerable craving for a smoke.

He attended 61 consecutive UBSCR Dinners and enjoyed relatively good health.

Tudor was a committed Christian. Before a peal he would quietly kneel down to say a prayer. In an RW profile he was kind enough to say that one of his most memorable peals was the half-muffled Grandsire Caters that I called after my father’s funeral, using one of the compositions that he gave me.

With Tudor’s passing we have lost one of the greats of the Exercise and one of its most likeable characters.

NICK SIMON

 


 

Peal Record

Total peals: 3,123, conducted 714

Rung in 1,010 towers, with ca. 1,854 ringers

Stages:   Peals (cond.)
16-in   1
Septuples   1
Sextuples   2
Maximus   374 (63) [inc. 24 of spliced]
Cinques   458 (252)
Royal   409 (45) [inc. 19 of spliced]
Caters   220 (82)
Major   1,235 (228)
Triples   178 (37)
Minor   207 (3)
Doubles   38 (6)


Long Length: 16,559 Grandsire Caters – Appleton, 10 Feb 1968

Leading Associations: Peals (cond.)
Llandaff & Monmouth D.A. 1,038 (201)
‘Around’ Ringers 388 (75)
ASCY 429 (113)

Leading Methods: Peals (cond.)
Stedman Cinques 412 (245)
Bristol S. Major 228 (82)
Cambridge S. Maximus 189 (50)

Leading Towers:
Llandaff 128
Newport St Woolos 116
Pontypridd 91
Bristol St Stephen 86

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CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers