1942 - 2014

Steeple Keeper 1990 - 2014, St Kyneburgha’s, Castor

It came with great shock and disbelief that Steve Reed had died on the night of Tuesday, 7th January after only a week since his return from Christmas in Dubai with his son. Steve had been the constant figure in the tower of St Kyneburgha for some twenty four years. Although never a resident of Castor, he was the longest serving ringer of our bells. He had lived in Orton, Peterborough since 1987, though in retirement he so much wanted to move to Castor, nothing was available, so he moved to Wansford still within easy reach of St Kyneburgha. He was our Steeple Keeper for 22 years, maintaining the Henry Bagley 1700 peal of bells, and the project manager of the argumentation from six to eight bells for the Millennium. He helped Tony Evans, a past Tower Captain here to train over forty new ringers from many local churches for the millennium. He was the engineer who helped install the ringing simulator in the tower so that St Kyneburgha’s could become a Ringing Centre for training ringers, silently on Saturday mornings.

Steve rang for all Castor services amounting to some 1,250 times, and a great many with his wife Anna. They were pupils of Tony Evans and Robin Rogers. Apart from being a loyal and valued member of the St Kyneburgha band of ringers, he was a committed member of Castor village activities, always at the Patronal Festivals, and all the St Kyneburgha Trust events with Anna. As well as looking after our bells he also helped to maintain the mechanics of the bells in four other local towers, mostly at great heights. In the cold, dark and difficult situations, Steve was never one to complain, even if a knuckle or finger got caught by a 15th century nail, or his head by a clapper or girder.

During his long and uninterrupted tenure as Steeple Keeper Steve turned the bell maintenance around, introducing the design of stays, for which he selected the ash, had them machined to his specification and held a stock in the tower for each bell. Through this a stay could be changed in five minutes. Frame painting, and clapper re- bushing, re-roping, all with polypropylene tops, new ceiling, maintenance workshop, re-lighting and heating, re-wiring; the list is endless. In twenty-two years the bells were never silent for a service, he always managed to achieve repair or maintenance work so that the bells would ring for the next Sunday service.

On one occasion during a wedding the head stock on a bell fractured, only being held precariously from falling by the stump of the ash stay. The remaining five bells rang for the couple, but by the time the entourage had left Steve and his deputy had made the bell safe, removed the head stock and lowered it to the floor of the church. He had the head stock “stitched” and reinstalled.

Steve was born in Rotherham 6th June 1942, and attended Rotherham Grammar. He combined work experience in mechanical engineering with studying at the Royal College of Advanced Technology, Salford, later Salford University. He became a research assistant in the engineering Department of Durham University and gained a BSc degree. He and Anna married in 1967 and moved to County Durham.

In 1970 he got a job as Design Engineer at British Leyland, and moved to Bromsgrove, and started to create his first garden from a building plot. By 1971 they had two children, Nick and Jessica. A little later he started work as a design engineer for W. & T. Avery at Smethwick, Birmingham; his design team created the first microprocessor-based electronic scale. He spent the next five years, when not working renovating a large Victorian house and garden.

In 1980 Steve was recruited by Veeder Root in Dundee to update the design department and create their first electronic tachograph. They moved to Dundee and bought a modern bungalow in Broughty Ferry, overlooking the River Tay. Again he had to start from scratch and establish a productive vegetable garden.

Steve joined the local dinghy sailing club, and gained a Rescue Boat Cox’s Certificate, taking on various roles, starting as treasurer and eventually becoming Club Commodore. He started dinghy racing in their Wayfarer and spent the odd weekend sailing keel-boats over on the West Coast of Scotland, and taking navigation classes.

Another move for Steve’s family was to Swansea where he started work as Engineering Manager in 1986 for Lucas Instrumentation based in ystradgynlais. He was made redundant when the recession hit the motor industry. His love of sailing took him on a gruelling yacht delivery cruise from Hull, round the top of Scotland, to Oban in what he described as unpredictable and very challenging conditions. The yacht and all the crew survived the ordeal.

In 1987 Kango Power Tools appointed Steve to establish a new Design Centre in Peterborough, introducing advanced CADCAM systems. A year later he expanded the team of design engineers and started designing a new range of products, and moved into a newly built house in Orton, Peterborough. Again sailing took up some of his free time, and following a flotilla holiday he studied for a yacht Master’s Coastal Skipper Certificate. Kango introduced a new range of power tools and Steve took on a new role of Quality Manager to address products issues. When not sailing he was creating another garden from a bare building plot.

Another recession hit in 1990 and this time the building industry reduced the demand for tools so Steve was once again made redundant. In August 1990 Steve set up his own engineering consultancy Salient Technology. Steve worked

on designs for a lighting manufacturer and on a proposal for a data collection system for Hyundai Motors. He still had time to enjoy a keel-boat trip to the West coast with his Dundee mates. Apart from working on more design commissions in 1991 Steve started translating French technical abstracts into English, and helped a friend to setup CAD dealership, and joined the Peterborough Squash Club. In 1992 he now found time for a new interest and started bell ringing with Anna at Castor, and was appointed Steeple Keeper.

Steve began new employment in 1993 inspecting a wide range of a variety of goods for export, mainly machinery, but occasionally thousands of day-old chicks. This is when he rang his first quarter peal. The following year he rang a lot more, played squash and enjoyed a flotilla sail in Turkey. Steve did patent translation from French and learnt to ring some simple methods. In 1996 he helped Tony Evans to train Castor residents to ring, as up until then all the ringers lived outside the village. He still managed to go on another flotilla sailing holiday in Turkey.

In 1998 Steve was diagnosed with high blood pressure and began to take medication, and bought new squash shoes! As Steeple Keeper Steve oversaw preparations for the installation of two new bells at Castor in time for the Millennium celebrations. He installed a ringing simulator in the Castor Tower to allow more silent training sessions to take place and assisted Tony Evans train some forty new ringers at Castor for the Millennium for many local towers.

Steve stayed fit by gardening and games of “friendly” but tenacious squash, but found time for another new community involvement as a reader for Talking Newspapers for the Blind.

Steve was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and elected to be treated with radio therapy at Addenbrooks which he took in his relaxed style, and it proved successful with little side effects. Convalescence was helped by Steve’s late night viewing of American Football for which he had developed a passion. The early hour television broadcasts of the games frequently meant Steve was bleary eyed for Sunday service ringing.

In 2002 Steve decided on a new career move and applied for a place on a post-graduate teacher training course to teach mathswhichhecompleted.Hebeganteaching maths in a local secondary school and survived his probationary year as an NQT and enjoyed the classroom teaching experience. He retired from full time teaching in 2006 and started doing some supply teaching

Steve became tower Captain as well as Steeple Keeper in 2004 for a year after Tony Evans retired. After failing to find a suitable home in Castor, Steve and Anna moved to Wansford. This was a massive project for Steve, renovating the bungalow for their retirement. In 2009 Steve joined the committee of the Wansford Horticultural and Craft Society, and won prizes for vegetable exhibits in Wansford’s annual village show, the next year he became heavily involved in every annual show thereafter.

Steve continued to play squash every week and rang for seventy to eighty services a year at St Kyneburgha’s, plus Wansford and Thornhaugh for weddings. Just prior to Christmas 2011 he was hospitalised due to a ruptured stomach cyst; he had to have twelve pints of blood. Not surprisingly he felt this was not an unreasonable return for well over 100 pints of blood he had donated over the years! He spent the first three months of the year recovering from this major surgery, gradually resuming his usual range of activities starting with some gentle gardening, return to bell ringing and the weekly game of “friendly” squash.

In 2013 Steve oversaw Steeple Keeping project of the 1900 Taylors bell frame painting, installation of ringers’ path lighting with LED lights, and finally the complete restoration of the ringers’ path, leaving no item outstanding. He and Anna travelled to the US in the spring to see their daughter and her family, and enjoyed a trip south to indulge his passion for jazz. The early part of the summer was spent gardening and watching the cricket, and organising the advertising, exhibitors and logistics for the annual village horticultural show in late August, before returning to visit Jessica and family in the Sates. At Christmas Anna and Steve returned to Dubai to round off the year spending the festive season with their son and his family. They returned on New year’s day, Steve died suddenly at home on January 7th aged 71.

I have only gained from my close friendship with Steve, although it may have only been for the last eighteen years, bell ringing, squash, bell maintenance, gardening, the pub, camaraderie; my one regret is that we never sailed together. I am sure it would have been as everything else we did, very rewarding, challenging, and full of memorable experiences.

Steve will be long remembered for his good humour, the twinkle in his eye, and a kind smile; always welcoming, generous and kind, a selfless good friend, who is sorely missed. Thank you Steve for your loyal and generous commitment to Castor, we are the better for knowing you. Our thoughts and with Anna, your children Nick and Jessica, and your grandchildren.

Tower Captain
St Kyneburgha’s Church, Castor, Peterborough

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers