Obituaries

Harold Frank Wood

25th November 1921 - 11th April 2014

Harold was born on 25th November 1921, the third son of Raymond and Sarah Jane Wood. His father worked locally as a gardener and Harold was one of four brothers and three sisters who together shared the quiet Billingshurst village life of those days.

The family were held in high regard both inside and outside their working life. They were all involved in music with Raymond (Harold’s father) along with his uncles, Peter and Harry, being members of the Billingshurst Silver Band, where most members played more than one instrument. So it is not surprising that most of the family were able to play a musical instrument, with Harold’s being the piano.

It was during this early period of Harold’s life, the 1930s, that we believe he was introduced to ringing at St Mary’s Church, Billingshurst by his father. So it was here along with his older brothers, Peter and Cecil, that his journey into ringing began, alongside the whole family who were very much involved in the activities of the church from ringing to singing in the choir.

Harold’s formal education was at the local Billingshurst primary school which at that time was based in East Street. It was while still there that he became involved with the 1st Billingshurst Scout movement, which his eldest brother Raymond (known as Peter) was scout master and their HQ was the groom’s cottage on the Cleveland Estate.

At this time there were a number of Scouts involved in ringing and so it came about that Peter brought together a number of Scouts to ring a ‘Scout Peal’ of Plain Bob Major on the 23rd April 1938 for St George’s Day. The ringers involved were: Peter Bell, Harold Redman, Frederick Allfrey, Ernest Howell, Harold Wood, Ernest Treagus, Cecil Wood, Raymond Wood.

This would have been Harold’s third peal, his first being on 12th February 1938 at St Margaret’s Warnham of Grandsire Triples. The second on 13th February 1938 at St Mary’s Billingshurst of Kent Treble Bob Major, and still only at sixteen years of age Harold went on to complete three more peals before the year was up, followed by a further two more in the latter half of 1939.

Those left of Harold’s family are unsure of when he joined the services at the beginning of World War II, but enter he did. He joined the Royal Air Force and during his time was sent to Aden (now Yemen) where he was assigned to Squadron 114 and served for around four years. His role as an engineer was to maintain combat aircraft in full readiness for military action.

Harold’s experiences of war were not kind to him, like many others who returned to England the family saw quite a change in him. On his return home, Harold had a period of time for recuperation. After a while he was able to work with his younger brother, John, who had a construction business; Smith & Wood. He would also on occasion chauffer for Doctor Puttock and so it was at this time he would settle back into a way of life with ringing being his favourite hobby.

Harold continued his ringing pursuits at St Mary’s, Billingshurst and was often involved in ringing at neighbouring towers with some of the most accomplished ringers of the day. On 26th December 1966 a peal of Grandsire Triples was rung after the bell restoration at St Mary’s church which included: Bryan Burough, Ian Robinson, Harold Wood, David Smith, Geoffrey Rix, George Francis, Leslie Weller and Bernard Matthews.

In total over the years Harold rang 118 peals from Triples to Surprise Major for the Association. Records show that he started ringing in 1935, so making his membership with the Association over 75 years.

His ringing skills were second to none and not just with church bells; along with his brothers and father, they were all accomplished handbell ringers. It has to be said that quite often on a Sunday evening at Nyewood (his home) that at regular intervals they would ring quarter peals. Unfortunately these were never recorded to the Association, as Harold said, ‘It was just something we did and enjoyed’.

Harold’s window to the world was through his radio, listening to the World Service and international news; for his cricket and local news he tuned into Radio Sussex. He often made trips to Arundel to watch the Duke of Norfolk XI play at the beginning of the cricket season. He also had a passion for the music from the mid fifties and early sixties.

On 5th October 2008 a celebration quarter peal was arranged in his honour (which he took part in), those that rang on this occasion had known Harold for many years past.

Along with ringing Harold took great interest in the maintenance of the bells at St Mary’s, Billingshurst and on many occasions would assist the steeple keeper of the day, furnishing them with the history of the work that had been carried out in the past.

Harold represented a time when polished shoes, braces and good manners were the norm. He was from an era many of us know but has now long past. Harold was a very private person who was at peace with both himself and his surroundings; he was always polite, courteous and above all he was a true gentleman. His last two and a half years were spent at Hillside Lodge Nursing Home in Pulborough and from here he could hear the bells of St Mary’s church Pulborough ringing for both Sunday worship and Monday evening practice, which seemed very fitting for a man who had spent and enjoyed taking part for so many years.

Harold died peacefully on 11th April 2014 and in doing so ended the Wood family’s rich association with campanology. A funeral service was held on 10th May 2014 at St Mary’s, Billingshurst, where the bells were rung both before and after the service by the members of the Association who had known Harold for many years.

With the sad passing of Harold we believe the Association has lost a gentleman who truly loved his ringing and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

BRIAN NULTY
Using information supplied by Jane Moore
and Peter Daw (Harold’s sister and nephew)

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers