Geoffrey Pearson (1932-2013) – A recollection

Twelve months after the ‘no-man’s land’ of time that spans between the death and funeral of a loved one, I find myself in my own no-man’s land of time waiting for the arrival of a grandchild that my father will never know and reflecting on the coincidences of timing.

Geoffrey (Geoff) Pearson was born in 1932 in Worsley, Manchester, the second son of a maths teacher, Alec and his wife Winifred. Educated at Bolton Grammar School, he learnt to ring at Worsley parish church as a young lad. Ringing introduced him to a different world; one of his oft-told memories being of receiving a clip around the ear from his mother for greeting a (much older) fellow ringer by his first name.

He studied Civil Engineering at Manchester University, eagerly anticipating the holidays when Chris Johnson would come down from Cambridge and they could concentrate on ringing some challenging peals.

On his graduation he moved to Kent to work for the Water Board, avoiding National Service due to a shadow on his lung which resulted in major pioneering surgery and a year away from ringing. Despite this, during his time in Kent he developed his passion for ringing Surprise Major and met his future wife, Jane-Anne.

Before their marriage, Geoff took a promotion with a new job in Cambridge for the Anglian Water Board. Marriage was soon followed by the births of three sons, Mark, Simon and Robert, but time was still found for plenty of Surprise Major ringing at Meldreth and Trumpington towers.

Unfortunately this was not to last, with Jane- Anne dying after being taken ill suddenly, leaving Geoff a widower with three young boys to look after. Through hard work and perseverance and with the support of family, friends and neighbours he kept the young family together and before long had re-married, Joan, and added a daughter, Alice, to the brood.

As the family grew older, opportunities for peals were more frequent, helped by the good fortune of being able to take early retirement in his early 50s. Many ‘firsts in the method’ were scored, with the younger members of the family becoming experts at taking down place notation from Derek Sibson over the phone late at night! Meldreth and Trumpington continued to be the main towers, although travels further afield were common too.

Geoff’s sadness that he had not since his youth been able to pursue his ringing and church-going commitments at the same church were assuaged to an extent when he and John Gipson re-hung the single bell at Great Abington church for full-circle ringing so that he could teach his daughter to ring.

Unfortunately Geoff and Joan were not to get to enjoy a long retirement together. Shortly after her own retirement, Joan was diagnosed with terminal cancer, destroying their plans. A world trip was arranged and enjoyed, and grandchildren had started to arrive before Geoff was left once more a widower in 2001.

Ringing, church and Rotary supported him through the times ahead, showing great patience for his ‘eccentricities’ of cleanliness and personal hygiene. Peal ringing continued for the nine months of each year that he was resident in the UK, with the remaining three months of each year spent living with his youngest son in Dunedin, New Zealand and providing support to the local ringers there.

About a year before his death, a major milestone was achieved, with his 1,000th peal on the bells at Meldreth, marred only slightly by the knowledge that declining physical and mental capacity would inevitably prevent him from achieving 1,000 peals on ‘his’ bell there (the 4th).

Decline was more rapid than anticipated, with a two-month stay in hospital during the autumn of 2012 taking him from a peal- ringing, car-driving independent 80 year-old to a house-bound, frail individual dependent upon daily visits from carers.

The spring of 2013 appeared to be a time of regeneration with the benefits of weekly physiotherapy sessions becoming clear and with involvement with a ringing outing that saw him on the end of a bell-rope one final time, ringing three leads of Bristol (arguably his favourite method).

The hope of better times to come for Geoff was dashed at the end of May when he died peacefully at home, enjoying the heat of an early summer’s day in his conservatory.

Geoff is much missed by his four children and by the eight grandchildren who knew him. I only hope that I am able to impart some understanding of his calm and considerate nature to this new grandchild of his that he knew was planned and hoped for but whom he was not to meet.


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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers