12th October 1948 – 12th July 2013

I was deeply touched to be asked to prepare this tribute to Jim. Coming as it does so shortly after that for our mutual lifetime friend Arthur (Bill) Berry, it is written with immense sadness.

I am indebted to Phil Sagar of Eckington, some of whose tribute at Jim’s funeral service I have included. I had first met Bill, as described in my recent RW tribute to him (March 29th), during a ringing week in Worcestershire in August 1964. I was persuaded to arrange a ringing trip to London for some of those who I met during that week and we fixed it for the new year. Jim had been working and unable to be part of that original group but he joined in for the London trip. So I first met him on the doorstep of my family home in Putney when they arrived on that cold Friday evening on January 8th 1965. He was 16. I had been 17 for a month. And we were friends for the next 48 years.

Jim grew up in Bredon’s Norton, Worcestershire, where his mother was the postmistress and his father, also Jim, was a farmer as had been his grandfather Oliver James Attwood. The latter rang at Tewkesbury Abbey at the beginning of the last century before becoming tower captain at Bredon’s Norton, a post that all three Jims held over a period of a hundred years. Jim junior was the youngest of three brothers.

On leaving school at 15 he went to work on the farm but after a short time he left to do an apprenticeship in tool making at Dowty Sales. In 1970 he joined the Merchant Navy as a fitter machinist, a job that took him to Australia on three occasions. After leaving that post, he joined Dowty mining in 1979 as a commercial estimator and moved from Cheltenham to Bredon with the family, Jim having married Ann in 1972. They had two children Martin and Joanne and five grandchildren. In 1986 an opportunity arose for them to build a house next door to Jim senior and Polly, Jim’s mother, so the family moved, back in Jim’s case, to Bredons Norton.

In 1993, after having been made redundant by Dowty’s, the call of the great outdoors became irresistible so Jim took a diploma in landscape gardening at Pershore Horticultural College to enable him to set up his own business. This he ran happily and successfully until a diagnosis of cancer of the oesophagus led to him spending his final three years undergoing a series of operations, radio and chemo-therapy during which he remained ever optimistic, cheerful and courageous, and trusting in the medical staff committed to his care. As Phil said at the funeral, “He was always asked if he wanted the treatment to continue and his answer was always, unquestionably, “yes”. That was a reaction to his love for life and how he wasn’t going to give in. He often told his family how truly grateful he was to the doctors, surgeons, specialists, nurses and true friends that gave him such loving care”. One of these was Madeline Reeder, the Southern Branch secretary, who regularly visited and encouraged him when Ann had to be at work.

Jim started ringing in 1962 and rang his first peal the following year, Grandsire Doubles at Bredon’s Norton, a peal in which his father also took part. In all he rang 243 peals including 20 of Cinques and 17 of Maximus and several of Surprise Major and Royal, quite an achievement given that all but seven of his peals were rung in and around his immediate local area. Of those seven, five were rung on visits to London that I had arranged, some of them with the Ancient Society of College Youths to which I had proposed Jim for membership in 1977. The following year a group of us from London travelled to Evesham to enable Jim, Bill and Geoff and Gerald Hemming to take part together in a CY peal of Cambridge Maximus there. My first peal with Jim had also been at Evesham, a couple of months after that first 1965 meeting referred to earlier, when he rang the 35 cwt tenor, aged 16, with great accuracy. He was a good handler of a bell and an accurate striker, though, like many of us, he was not exempt from making the odd method mistake.

He also taught a large number of ringers including those that formed the new band at Bredon when the bells were restored after having been silent for a very long period. A couple of years later nobody was prouder than Jim when this band combined with Bredon’s Norton to win the Southern Branch Striking Competition trophy which had been held for five consecutive years by Eckington. Others who joined his circle of ringing friends were his “Class of 1974” including Ros Long, Caroline Draper (later Evans), Mary Bickmore and Ron Daniels.

A couple of years ago he asked me to call a peal at Bredon’s Norton to mark the centenary of the first peal on the bells, telling me that it might be his last. This we rang in December 2011. Arthur Berry was in that peal and at the time I had no idea how ill he was, too. Jim had arranged for Stuart Piper to stand by as a reserve in case either of them was not well enough to ring on the day. A very happy evening in the pub afterwards, with members of the band and others, celebrated the successful ringing of the peal. This was the last time that the three of us were together. While I was staying with Jim and Ann afterwards, Jim told me how ill ”Billy” was but swore me to secrecy as Arthur wanted his own illness to remain private.

A double board recording both peals was unveiled at Bredon’s Norton just a few weeks ago, followed by a touch of Grandsire Doubles called by Jim and this was one of the last times that he rang, if not the last, the event being recorded on the back page of the RW for May 31st 2013 with probably one of the last photographs of Jim.

Jim and Ann’s final move had been to Eckington, in 2000, where they lived very happily for the last 13 years, Jim settling into village life and known to many for his gardening, ringing, visits to The Bell and generally around the village. So it was fitting that his farewell service should be held at Holy Trinity Church there. The back cover of the service sheet carried the photograph of the 2011 peal band that had appeared with Madeline Reeder’s RW article of February 17th 2012, p.164.

Jim lived his entire life within the Southern Branch of the Worcestershire and Districts Association, serving it as secretary for several years. He leaves a widow Ann – they celebrated their ruby wedding last year – a son and daughter, Martin and Joanna and five grandchildren. With them we mourn the passing of a fine, courageous man and fellow ringer.


BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers