The funeral took place on 4th March 2014 at Claverley, Shropshire of Honorary Hereford Guild member Joan Bennett who died on 16th February 2014 aged 97 years. The bells were rung half-muffled by a Claverley band the same evening in her memory. Joan’s husband Fred was the Hereford Guild and the Shropshire Association Treasurer for many years and both Fred and Joan were well known to the older ringing fraternity in the HDGB, Shropshire Association and in the Lichfield and Walsall Archdeaconries SCR.

Fred taught me to ring in 1970 and, in the following eight years until Fred’s untimely death, he and Joan were usually inseparable and ever-present at ringing dinners, outings and of course in the towers across the Hereford diocese and beyond. Although remaining in the choir until a few years ago, Joan had to give up ringing in the 1980s but remained a solid supporter of our ringing routines and exploits until the end of her long, church-focused life, still living in her warm little cottage on the edge of the village.

Joan is fourth from the right in the above 1954 photograph of the Claverley bell-ringers, standing in front of the vicar (Revd Rainbow) with Fred first left. Ernie Drew, fifth from the right, was the 1960-61 Hereford Guild Master. This band, led by Joe Marsh (seventh from right in the centre), was organised and run with a military discipline (note the formal dress) which gradually declined and withered through the 1970s and 1980s along with many other village and market town bands in this period.

As she grew older and less fit, I asked Joan many times when she turned up for the choir if she would make up the six or eight to form a band for a wedding or service. In spite of her condition, she always agreed but of course never came up! Rest in peace with Fred and all your old friends Joan, the last link with the band (and different world) of 1954.


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