Obituaries

Roger Green

With the death of Roger Green of Ilkley on 11th May, ringers in Yorkshire and further afield have lost a great friend. Rog was not only a talented ringer and conductor, but someone whose energy, enthusiasm and exceptional organisational skills made things happen whilst the rest of us were still checking our diaries. Whether it was a plain hunt training day, a first quarter, a multi-spliced ‘impossible’ peal, or a trip to the other side of the world, once he detected the slightest interest in one of his ideas, he was a man on a mission.

Rog was born in Sheffield but grew up in Gloucester where he spent seven years as a chorister in the Cathedral choir. He was taught to ring by his father, but didn’t become a really keen bell ringer until his arrival at Leeds University in 1967 to study French. By chance, a large group of other enthusiastic and very able students arrived in the same year and with ringing on offer at local practices every night of the week, plus very regular peal opportunities, his progress was rapid.

Within a few months of ringing his first peal in April 1968, he’d also called his first peal. This was soon followed by several others, laying the foundations of a significant conducting career. He wasn’t a prolific peal ringer by present day standards, but of the 605 peals he rang, he conducted 350, almost all of them being rung for the Yorkshire Association (412) or Leeds University Society (148). This total also included many challenging compositions which he almost always conducted himself – three peals of 165-spliced Major and 24 of 23-spliced Major, including Chandler’s (four times) and Leary’s compositions, both of which had, at the time, only been rung by one or two other bands. Although he only rang eight peals of Stedman Triples, he conducted seven of them.

Whilst most of his peal ringing was on eight bells, he did spend a few years as a member of a regular 12 bell peal band and in 2001 rang the complete surprise maximus alphabet in one year. He also conducted 40 people’s first peals; an aspect of ringing that always gave him immense satisfaction.

He was undoubtedly a very fine conductor, but he was very modest about his other ringing abilities, recognising that there were far better ringers of heavy bells than himself, and people with skills in composition or on hand bells that he would never match. He knew his real gift was in encouraging, motivating and enabling others to achieve things far beyond what they would have otherwise considered possible. The only times he ever lost patience or interest was, just occasionally, in the face of entrenched negativity from others.

He just loved a ringing ‘project’ whether it was a plan to fast track a promising new leaner through their first quarter and peal (usually fixed up before the ringer had time to say “I’m not sure about that”), or one of the multi-spliced challenges mentioned above which were almost always rung with people who were neither prolific peal ringers or even very experienced at the vast amounts of learning that these achievements required. We tried, we failed (several times), we went back to the studying, and finally rang some very good peals that most of us, in our wildest dreams, would not have thought possible without ‘our leader’ at the helm persuading and encouraging. And as a result, all of us who trained at the Rog Academy have become far better ringers and far more able to pass on our knowledge to others.

The projects were by no means just about peal ringing. He organised courses, training days countless outings and trips both home and away for ringers of all abilities, culminating in two absolutely epic trips for Leeds University past members and their children to Australia in 2004 and to Canada in 2006.

His love of planning, record keeping and analysis made him the ideal candidate for Yorkshire Association peal secretary, a job that kept him very busy for 12 years. He didn’t claim to be any sort of computer expert, but saw that there was an urgent need to move the association peal records into a more modern format, and set about designing a data base that is still the basis of the current record keeping. Following his retirement from teaching in 2001, he spent very many happy hours entering the details of all YACR peals rung between 1875 and 1983 (11,000 peals!) to complete the computerised record.

He was also report editor from 1995 until 1999, readily agreeing to take on that role alongside the peal secretary’s job for a couple of years – a considerable commitment in an association the size of YACR.

More recently, he’d focused his attention on local ringing being Western Branch secretary and chairman. Inspired by a visit to the ringing centre at Worcester Cathedral, he had a vision of creating something similar in our area. To many people, this might have appeared overambitious, but if anyone could have made this happen, it was Rog. In the end, his ill health intervened, but he did help set up a new ringing centre in Bradford that he hoped would provide a central training facility for the whole branch.

Rog’s final legacy was the contribution he made to the development of a band of ringers for the new ring of six at North Rigton. A hugely enthusiastic group of new ringers from the village had already been recruited but need a teacher. This position was ready made for him, and despite his increasing health problems, he totally embraced the role, encouraging, inspiring and cajoling the band to take that next step on the ringing ladder. His favourite quotation: “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” – written by him on the tower notice board a few weeks before he died, is still there.

The gift he showed for motivating others in the world of ringing was one that he also displayed in his day job which, perhaps unsurprisingly, was in teaching. His passion for all things French, his life-long love of choral music and his prodigious talent for organisation meant he was always looking for new ways to introduce pupils to experiences that they often didn’t know existed, whether it was a cultural visit to Paris or Rome, or a performance of Brahms Requiem – sung in German, of course! Typically, many of the pupils he targeted for these experiences were those who were least familiar with any form of foreign travel, culture or music. Other colleagues would sometimes cast an eye down the list of pupils going on a week long foreign trip and declare that they wouldn’t take most of them out of Leeds, let alone to France. It was truly wonderful, therefore, at his memorial service to speak to several ex-pupils who said Rog’s trips had had a life changing effect on them.

Outside of school, his other interests were very much based around the same themes. He was an enthusiastic pianist, keen to tackle major keyboard challenges that he would be the first to admit frequently defeated him, but he sang loudly in the really hard bits until he got somewhere near hitting all of the right notes (if not necessarily in the right order). He spent most of his adult life trying to recreate the best of French and Italian cooking to the enjoyment of his friends and family – and usually with great success. And he took huge delight in seeing our daughter, Helen, grow up to enjoy the same passions for travel, cooking, music and ringing. He was proud of his own College Youths membership, but how much more proud he was of hers!

After the diagnosis of bowel cancer in 2010 he remained characteristically optimistic until the final stages of his illness. He was insistent that he wanted no sad funeral, but a celebration of his life by his mates. To this end, he made the decision to donate his body to Hull York medical school and we planned a memorial service and weekend of celebratory ringing as he had wished. Around 180 friends and family members attended the service at Ilkley on a beautiful sunny day on 31st May with some of our closest ringing friends staying on over the weekend to ring peals and quarters in his memory. Leeds University Society past members were over the moon to score a peal of his much favoured (N. J. Diserens) 8-spliced Major, whilst a band comprising some of his ‘most pealed’ friends rang an excellent peal of Bristol at Ilkley. And he would have been so very pleased to see the delight on the faces of the four North Rigton ringers who rang in two quarters of Plain Bob Doubles – especially for him.

Rog’s dedication and energy will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, especially as he still had so much to contribute to ringing, but Helen and I take comfort in the fact that he lived life to the full, achieved his greatest ambitions, and will be remembered with great affection.

SUE GREEN

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