Obituaries

Violet I. E. Ring (née Relf)

1921 - 2013

Wilf & Vi Ring on their wedding day

Violet Ring has always held a very special place in my life, as it was she who, along with quite a number of my school friends, bravely took me on as a very young ringing pupil soon after Tenterden Bells were rehung in 1961.

Until a move last year to a nursing home in High Halden following a stroke, Vi had lived in Tenterden all her life and, for a considerable portion of that time in the same home, 3 The Bungalows, Shrubcote – an address that is inscribed on my memory.

Born in 1921, Vi was educated at the National School on Ashford Road. During the Second World War she served as a Land Girl, working in the gardens at Heronden Hall, one of the ancient manors of Tenterden. After the war she was appointed as cook at the recently opened Homewood Secondary School, where she remained for the rest of her working life, rising to the post of Canteen Supervisor. This involved not only catering for the some 500 students at Homewood, but also supplying school meals for all of the primary schools in the surrounding area. Here gypsy tart (a very sweet confection consisting mainly of condensed milk and other secret ingredients) was legendary and defied all the traditions of inedible school dinners!

I’m not sure exactly when Vi learnt to ring, but I do know that she and her brother Percy were taught by Robert Edwards, who was the mainstay of Tenterden ringing from the late nineteenth century onwards. I suspect she probably learnt just before the War as she is recorded as Secretary of the Tenterden band in the Kent County Association of Change Ringers Annual Report for 1947/48, which was the first edition to record such detail following the lifting of war-time paper rationing.

What is known is that Vi’s first peal was Grandsire Triples at Biddenden on 22nd January, 1949, rung for the Hawkhurst and District Guild. The rest of her 47 peals were rung for the KCACR, the last being at Bethersden in 1965. 31 of these were rung with the enigmatic Crawford T. Hillis, who was an enthusiastic organiser of peals in the Ashford District at that time and seven with her future husband, Wilfred Ring.

Throughout the 1960s, the place to be if you wanted some really decent ringing was the Friday night practice on the fine sounding, if lumpy going, old six at Bethersden. Courtesy of ‘chauffeur’ Violet, quite a number of us Tenterden kids were regulars at this practice and it was during this period that her romance with a well-known, to some infamous, Bethersden ringer and member of the ground- breaking 1950s Ashford peal band, Wilfred Ring began. The post-practice cup of tea (the pub wasn’t an option in those days) and music recital on a very top-of-the-range hi-fi system at Wilf’s flat in Chester Avenue always concluded with a kiss on the front doorstep, accompanied by an audible “Yuk!” from the disrespectful bunch of young Tenterden ringers crammed into Vi’s Morris Minor for the journey home. Despite this discouragement, Wilf and Vi were married at St Mildred’s Tenterden on 3rd August 1968 and lived at 3 The Bungalows for their entire married life.

During their first years of marriage, the couple gained a degree of notoriety around Kent when Wilf started, through a series of letters to The Ringing World, to criticise the standard of some peal ringing in the county. Styled as ‘The Lurker’, Wilf, and ably assisted by Vi, they would arrive at a tower where they had ascertained (we never quite knew how!) a peal was taking place, sit and listen to much of the ringing and leave a note under the windscreen wiper of one of the band’s car. If you were lucky, you might get a “Not bad”, which was high praise. Following one of my early peal attempts we emerged from the church to find the tell-tale note, which said, “Reasonable. Offen was on the third: slow at back-stroke as usual.” I was!

Although Wilf gave up ringing in later years, Vi still enjoyed the occasional ring until arthritis got the better of her and she found climbing stairs difficult and gripping the rope painful. However, they both continued to take The Ringing World and were always very interested to know the latest gossip whenever any of us visited them, or they were caught ‘lurking’ at some ringing event or other.

When I last visited Vi on a trip back from Australia in 2011, she was still on very fine form and, although in her 90s, as sharp as a tack. We spent a very happy afternoon looking through old photographs, reminiscing about bygone Kent ringing and the characters that made it so colourful. As in previous visits, there was no shortage of delicious home-made cakes, but, alas, no gypsy tart!

Vi was a quiet and unassuming Christian woman, who always had a kindly word and would go out of her way to help anyone in need. She had a wonderfully droll sense of humour, which often came to the fore when one was least expecting it. Over the years she taught countless youngsters to ring and gently imbued them with a strong sense of duty and a passion for ringing of a high standard.

It was a privilege to count you as a friend Vi.

May you rest in peace.

RICHARD OFFEN

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers