Obituaries

Alan D. Flood

8th August 1949 – 2nd May 2014

Alan’s passing at 64, after a long illness borne with great courage, has been keenly felt by a very large number of friends throughout the ringing exercise, many of whom were present at his funeral service, conducted by one of his oldest friends, The Revd Brooke Lunn, at Guildford on 16th May.

Alan, affectionately known as “Floody,” was taught to ring by David Parsons at Egham, becoming a member of the strong local band there and very swiftly establishing himself as a ringer capable of ringing anything, anywhere in the circle. I first met him in the mid-sixties when he came to a Surrey meeting with Norman Summerhayes. Norman had just returned to ringing after a long absence having himself just been cruelly widowed and had struck up, with Alan, one of those great inter-generational friendships that you often find in ringing. Alan did not get on particularly well with his own father and, I think, found in Norman a sort of father figure with whom he could relate through ringing.

So in those early days I found myself out and about with them both, for tower grabs and several of Alan’s early peals. It was for his great peal-ringing prowess that Alan came to be known, in addition to his love of fast cars, sport and beer and his vast collection of tee shirts collected from all of the wonderful places that he and Swaz were lucky enough to visit during their 21 years together.

He rang his first peal, Grandsire Triples, at Chobham on 2nd October 1965 conducted by Roy Collins. My first with him, his first of Yorkshire Major, was in 1967. During the following year, I called his first peals of Double Norwich, Rutland, Pudsey Major and Superlative. I include the “Major” after the Pudsey because, the previous month he had rung Pudsey Royal and, the month before that, Cambridge Royal at the beginning of his long association with peal-ringing at Isleworth and his emergence as a solid, reliable and companionable ringer, attributes that would find him invited to join several top peal-ringing bands during the following 40 or so years.

In 1969 we rang the last peal at Clapham Park before the bells were moved to Spitalfields and then his first on 12 – Stedman Cinques at Croydon conducted by David. About this time, Alan also started regularly ringing peals with a Guildford Guild band led by Michael Church and Beryl Simpson. Beryl (now Norris) recalls his solid contribution to that and how he is now much missed by the Tuesday “pensioner” band that he joined later, following his own early retirement.

With Michael as conductor many peals of Surprise and spliced Surprise Major were rung. Around the same time, in 1970, Alan and Norman were supporting a Surrey Association effort to ring the Norman Smith series with Jeremy Pratt conducting.

It was not long before the College Youths beckoned and, Alan was elected to the Society that year. His work in the City was perfect for this. Phil Rogers recalls that Alan was a dealer at Morgan Grenfell, one of the City’s oldest merchant banks and that he was very knowledgeable on financial matters. They often met for a beer before CY practices, and financial matters, as well as Maggie Thatcher (with each on opposite sides of that great divide!), featured in their conversations. In 1971 I was also delighted to take part in Alan’s first peal with the Society, at St John’s Croydon, with a largely Surrey band conducted by Roy Davies.

Alan soon became a solid 12-bell ringer and began helping us out with ringing at Southwark where he rang the first of his 28 peals there for the Queen’s Silver Wedding in 1972. There followed peals for many important local and national occasions, including, in 1979, helping us to achieve the first rung for a very long time by a largely local band; in 1998, the “big ring,” a re-run on the 75th anniversary of the ill-fated 12,675 Stedman Cinques, for which the Provost, the late Colin Slee, had arranged nearly £10,000 in sponsorship to raise funds for the Cathedral’s Education Centre; and the Dickens 200th anniversary peal two years ago, completing Alan’s 40 years of peal ringing at Southwark. But, as somebody once said, the 8th at St Paul’s was made for Alan and Alan was made for the 8th at St Paul’s and St Paul’s became his first love. Paul Mounsey takes up the story:

“... of his long and devoted contribution as a ringer at St Paul’s where, after several years’ apprenticeship he became a supernumerary in 1977 and a full member of the Cathedral Guild in 1980. He was one of our longest serving members and I know that of his many ringing interests being part of St Paul’s was one of the most important. As well as the huge Sunday commitment required he was a regular at the many weekday special services and of course at social gatherings, whether with ringers on their own or with other groups from the wider Cathedral family.

He rang 33 peals at St Paul’s. The first was in 1973 for the enthronement of Gerald Ellison as Bishop of London, and his last in 2012 for the opening of the London Olympics. Two peals of which he was particularly proud were in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee when he rang the tenor behind (with Jim Phillips strapping) and the peal that Swaz called in 2011. One that he missed out on was the peal rung in memory of the Queen Mother. Her Late Majesty was patron of the Friends of St Paul’s and her birthday in August was one of our regular peal slots. Alan often voiced an expectation that we would get an extra attempt when she passed away. However in the event it didn’t happen like that as she died on Good Friday 2002 and it was decided that the already arranged Easter Monday peal would be her memorial, and poor Alan wasn’t in the band.

Alan also rang in St Paul’s Guild peals at other places and one of the most memorable of these was at Washington Cathedral on the eve of President Obama’s Inauguration. The city that day was overflowing with celebrating crowds and Alan and the rest of the band felt proud and privileged to have been there on such an historic occasion.

Alan rang in many 12-bell contests – 30 finals – making him 5th equal in the all-time list of final appearances. Most of these were for St Paul’s, including the four times they have won”.

Most of the peals at St Paul’s to which Paul has referred were rung with the ASCY, a society with which Alan rang over 600 peals. He was elected Master in 1991 and led the Society to victory in the National 12-bell contest during his year of office. Phil Rogers has another recollection about that year. Alan had “commissioned” a number of peals from Steve Coaker and on the day after the annual CY dinner (of all days!) the Society rang the first ever peal of cyclic Spliced Surprise Maximus at St Sepulchre, Holborn – a milestone in modern 12 bell ringing.

Through his love of good ringing – and that meant peal ringing – Alan made friends literally all over the world and found the time to visit and ring with them regularly. Good friends included the Camplings and the Andrews in the north, John Pladdys in the West, Clive Holloway and Charlotte Everett closer at hand and many, many more. George Campling remembers his association with Alan as “...one of my longest and most enduring friendships in ringing. Beginning in 1974, we rang 420 peals together over a period of almost 40 years, Alan always dependable with his accurate ringing and his determination to avoid making trips. And of course his conviviality before and after the ringing was legendary. Whenever we met, even after his illness was diagnosed, it was never more than a few minutes before we were enjoying an amusing anecdote of some kind or another. One of my last, and best, memories of Alan is from our final peal together, Tyne Delight Royal at Rothwell in October 2013. In spite of the considerable challenge of his advancing illness, his ability to perform to the highest standard was undiminished and his determination and good humour in the face of such adversity was an example to us all”. John Keeler recalls, “We were pleased when in retirement Alan became a regular in the Maidstone Tuesday band. His experience and ability was a great asset to the ringing and we enjoyed Alan’s company. As Tom Cullingworth would say: “He is a good ringer.” In many respects with Alan he would simply get on with it and in normal circumstances not trouble the conductor very often. A wicked grin if he saw you go wrong ... and a certain lack of eye contact when the situation was reversed. Rather like Mary Poppins nearly perfect, well not quite. His biggest hate was people being late for attempts or even worse not arriving due to travel problems or sometimes just not making the effort. With one or two of the band they would quickly enter a temporary state of peal rage when the news of such a problem was conveyed to them. Light the blue touch paper and stand back quickly would be good advice, the explosion lasted but minutes but was well worth avoiding. Thankfully Floody would soon return to his normal amiable self and a social evening in 'The Pilot' followed. Alan had a sense of occasion and would raise the game when it was important. We rang a College Youths peal of Stedman Caters for the 50th anniversary of Michael Moreton being Master at All Saints Maidstone (MJU cond.), Alan rang the 9th and I recall it was a very enjoyable peal. Sometime later another regular commented that he had never seen the 9th rung as well as Alan had done. Whilst in latter times he was very much on the front end it is easy to overlook what a good ringer he was on heavier bells”.

John added the following footnote to Floody’s 100th peal rung in 2012, Alan’s beloved “Pitman’s 4” at St John’s, Caterham: “100th peal in 2012: 2; a wonderful achievement in a year of much adversity. Well done Floody and Swaz!”

And those cars! Neil Buswell recalls “... his powerful Ford Sierra XR4. I remember the number plate of this car – the letter B, 3 digits, and the letters MAD, spelling ‘mad’. I remember once we arrived for a peal in this car, and Colin Wright came over and said to Floody, “Wow, that’s flash – a personalised number plate”.”

Sport also featured highly, particularly cricket. John Keeler recalls “... regularly meeting Alan on trips to the Oval for England games when we would meet at breaks in play at the real ale tent together with Phil Barnes and Swaz. On one recent occasion a mid- morning rain break and early lunch resulted in us being stood in the same place until tea time at which point the two Alex’s (Barnes and Keeler) arrived and were amazed to find we had not moved. On one occasion the 20/20 finals Val, Alex and I bumped into Alan, Swaz, John Cornock and Swaz’s dad outside the Vauxhall entrance (quite by chance) as we made our way to the ground. By strange coincidence we had the seats behind them and spent an enjoyable day in their company. It has to be said that Alan was well prepared with a never ending supply of tonic water, ice and lemon, in the days when you could take your own “soft” drinks into the ground”.

You knew exactly what you were getting with Alan, not least a top class performance on the end of a rope, generosity of spirit, except of course the odd caustic comment about some of those whose performance didn’t quite match his, the occasional touch of cynicism, but above all, wonderful friendship and companionship which was still present in great measure for those of us who went to Barbados to support Alan and Swaz as they got married in January. We had a marvellous few days that we will all remember for a very long time to come (See Dickon Love’s report, RW Feb 7th p132).

And a capacity to surprise. During those final weeks in the hospital I, along with many other visitors, saw a man of great courage calmly dealing with what he, himself described to me as the “rotten hand of cards” that he had been dealt. And, faced with all this, he continued to be, right to the very end, a loving, caring and devoted husband to Swaz, with whom he rang 1221 of his 3115 peals, and to whom, I am sure, we all extend our deepest sympathy.

I express my deep gratitude to those friends who have helped me put together this tribute to Floody and leave the final words to Paul Mounsey. “We remember Alan with sadness, but also with much joy in having shared so many good times with him”.

MICHAEL J. UPHILL

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers