Obituaries

Arthur D. Cook

1926 - 2014

Arthur, known as Peter to his Birmingham friends, learnt to ring on the light 8 at Shirley during 1943. He was taught by Arthur Morris and learnt alongside his friend Dick Hadden. The wartime ringing ban had yet to be lifted and so Arthur was taught on ‘silent’ bells with tied clappers.

In short time the prolific Birmingham peal ringer George Fearn befriended Arthur and Dick, tremendously impressing the youngsters with his energy and enthusiasm. George invited the pair into regular and numerous ringing engagements and both youngsters rang their first peal, on handbells, with him on 29th April 1943. Arthur and Dick eventually presented George with a silver ringing badge, now kept on display in St Martin’s, in appreciation of all the encouragement they had received.

Arthur was a prolific peal ringer throughout the 1940s, George Fearn’s influence and enthusiasm clearly a factor. He rang in the first peal on the augmented bells at St Philip’s Cathedral: Stedman Cinques on 17th February 1949. This was followed by a number of other 12-bell peals in the tower including the first ever peals of Lindsey, Albanian and Prittlewell Surprise Maximus. He was a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths and rang at least one peal for the Society: Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Southwark Cathedral in March 1950.

By co-incidence Arthur had been a pupil at a primary school in Solihull where the well-known ringer Edgar Shepherd taught, but only later got to know him well as a ringer and friend. He told a story of Edgar’s sense of fun and quick-wittedness where, after a peal at Bishop Ryder’s [Birmingham], Edgar was as usual the first down the tower. On this one occasion he was confronted at the door by angry neighbours. Edgar said “I’ve just been up there to tell them to stop!”, and off he went having received their profuse thanks. George Fearn then emerged to the full force of their wrath.

There was much cycling in his early ringing days. Terry Hampton, Tony Cleaver and Arthur cycled to London one summer, peal-ringing on the way and joining with local ringers. At Appleton they rang with six members of the White family. They also went to Bicester and Woburn, all of which was much enjoyed.

Arthur also recalled a railway journey with George and Henry Fearn; all three men were all very interested in railways. They rang ‘air handbells’ with their thumbs once they were seated; and it was noticeable that in quite a busy train other passengers looking for seats turned away with puzzled expressions from their compartment.

Arthur’s recollections of the 1940s and 1950s Birmingham ringing scene are illuminating and valuable. It impressed him that occupation or background seemed to have no influence in the fraternity of ringers, noting that “at the Bull Ring, there would be perhaps the Bordesley Shunter (Jack Lindon) on the 10th, and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham (Paddon Smith) on the 11th”. He noted that, in his opinion, the best conductor at the time was Bill Critchley, able to correct everyone instantly in Maximus. Bill Froggatt was remembered as a fine tenor-behind man at St Martin’s: “a huge man and putting in immense effort: a frightening vision! But George Fearn never needed to bend his back; it would be fair to say George was one of the best bell-handlers of all time.”

Arthur married Molly, a ringer at Beoley, in January 1951. Sometime before, Molly had been on an outing to St Philip’s Cathedral when Arthur was in the tower. He visited Beoley one Sunday soon after and became engaged to Molly the following Wednesday! Arthur pursued a career in local banking and, during the early 1950s, travelled from Worcestershire to his Saltley bank branch by train six days a week. With three children at home he asked for a transfer to the Kidderminster branch and he began to have less contact in ringing terms with Birmingham. Arthur rang a total of some 200 peals, many of them on occasional tours and 40 or so locally in Worcestershire. His final peal was Stedman Cinques at Worcester Cathedral in 1969.

Arthur died on 12th December 2014 aged 88. His wife of 63 years, Molly, predeceased him two months earlier.

Postscript

We are fortunate that Richard Jones visited Arthur in March 2009 and took biographical notes following their conversation. The vast majority of this obituary is based on those notes for which I am most grateful.

MARK ECCLESTON

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers