Obituaries

Philip John Rothera (Phil)

1943 - 2015

Phil Rothera was born on 16th April 1943 and lived for his early years with his parents in the Hall Green area of Birmingham where his father was a headmaster. He wanted to pursue a career in agriculture and after obtaining the necessary academic qualifications to go to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, he needed to spend a year gaining practical experience on a farm. He did this working on the Tallis family’s farm at Packwood in Warwickshire. As the Tallis family were all ringers, it was apparently mandatory that anyone staying with them had to learn to ring and he was duly taught by Roger Tallis at Packwood church. Phil was a quick learner and soon became a first class ringer. He rang his first peal of Bob Minor at Packwood on 29th May 1961 and went on to ring 1,161 peals with his last one being on 30th August 2014 for the Around Ringers. All those who knew Phil will confirm that everything that he did was done with his characteristic enthusiasm and so his enthusiasm for ringing soon spread to his sister Christine and his elder brother David.

After leaving Cirencester, Phil moved to Terling in Essex to become Assistant Cattle Manager for Lord Rayleigh’s Farms, one of the largest cattle herds in the country. Whilst at Packwood, Phil met Sue Funnell who was a leading lady peal ringer based at Kings Norton. They got married in 1965 and set up home in Terling where they brought up their children Brian, Peter and Lucy. Phil and Sue soon taught a band to ring at Terling church and got the bells augmented from six to eight. Phil was ringing master at Terling for over 20 years and did much to encourage other young ringers in the area such as Peter and Keith Brown, whom he transported with others around the countryside for peals and local practices in his A55 car, sometimes with Keith in the boot as there wasn’t room inside.

Phil was a pillar of the community in Terling, serving on the PCC and on the committee of the new swimming pool. He was a keen swimmer and with his infectious enthusiasm taught many adults and children to swim. He had a liking for diving from the highest board possible and especially for jumping off bridges. Once when on holiday with our two families on our narrow boat, Sue, Edna and I returned from a shopping trip in Llangollen to find a large crowd and a commotion around the bridge over the Dee. We were horrified to discover Phil and our respective sons jumping with great enthusiasm off the bridge into the river, a practice now banned for safety reasons. I should add that Phil had checked the depth and jumped first.

He was equally at home talking with Lord Rayleigh or with the local farm hands, although I suspect the language used may have been slightly different in tone. These communications skills held him in good stead and he was promoted to Cattle Manager. He eventually changed jobs and moved to North Wales. Shortly after he sadly split up with Sue, but the two remained firm friends until his death. Phil was employed by the Wynnstay Estate in North Wales and met Hilda who worked in the offices there. They were married at Ruabon church in 1986 and decided to embark on a new venture of running the Cross Keys pub at Selattyn in Shropshire. Phil, as many know, had a great liking for good beer and soon ensured that the Cross Keys was known throughout the area for its excellent beer. He had great support from the locals who, during Phil’s illness over the last few years, were keen to assist him with running the pub.

Phil’s enthusiasm for ringing continued throughout his life. He had been a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths since 1964 and, as he was not well enough to attend the 2014 Annual Dinner to receive his 50 year certificate, his great friend Rick Shallcross arranged for a large number of members to be present at the Cross Keys a few weeks later for Chris Kippin to present it to him. Phil had been a founder member of the Around Tours and continued to support these until his illness prevented him from ringing peals. Wherever he lived, Phil would travel the length and breadth of the country to ring peals, usually ringing one of the back bells. When in Essex, Phil used to travel with his close friend the late Ken Hesketh who arranged many peals on rings of ten and twelve bells. Phil was an excellent driver but, in his earlier years, seemed to think that his membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists made him invincible when driving at speed. Some of his driving escapades are legendary such as the time late at night when, with everyone singing hymns, he managed to take the direct route over the top of a roundabout. The occupants emerged unscathed but were quieter for the rest of the journey.

Phil was a very active Freemason from a relatively young age. He was present at the meeting which founded the bell-ringers’ Clavis Lodge No.8585 and was one of the lodge’s longest serving members. He had an amazing memory and in masonic ceremonies was able to prompt members without any reference to a book as well as deliver masonic ritual perfectly. He was also a model mentor for new masons and I will always thank him for all his encouragement and support. He was still an active officer in his local lodges at the time of his death and had only just retired from active office in Clavis a few months before he died.

The one thing that characterised Phil was his positive attitude to everything. He was diagnosed with colon cancer nearly four years ago and at this time had apparently been given 12 months to live. He didn’t tell his friends about this terminal diagnosis, including his son Brian who didn’t know about this until a few weeks before his death. He was always positive about the outcome of his treatment and continued to live life to the full, running the pub and playing golf whenever possible.

His Service of Thanksgiving was held at Selattyn church on 29th January 2015 following his cremation. It was attended by about 350 family and friends with the church full to capacity and about 150 having to attend the service in his pub over the road. As a friend said at the reception afterwards, Phil would certainly have been amused as he watched the proceedings from above whilst sharing a pint or two with his best friends Ken Hesketh and Tudor Edwards, with whom he rung most of his peals.

Phil was a person who was caring, generous and led his life to the full with an infectious enthusiasm and zest. He is much missed by his many friends and our condolences go out to Hilda, Brian, Peter and Lucy for their sad loss. May he rest in peace.

CHRIS K. COOPER

 


 

My brother Philip died on Tuesday, 13th January at the age of 71. At the monthly College Youths’ meeting that evening I had informed the members that his condition was now extremely serious, but he then passed away later that same evening. The funeral took place on Thursday, 29th January – a family cremation followed by a Thanksgiving Service in the local church at Sellatyn. Some 400 people were present, and as there was not room for everyone in the church the service was relayed to his pub next door – I’m sure he would have approved of that!

It was Phil, who was my younger brother, who first got me interested in ringing. We had no family history of ringing – our father played cricket and hockey. Phil was an agricultural student, and whilst attending a day release course at Stratford-on-Avon he met Roger Tallis, who rang at Packwood, a light eight near Knowle in Warwickshire. Roger taught Phil to ring, and he then continued with it while studying at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, often cycling some distance to attend various local practices. He then moved to Essex to become cattle manager at Lord Rayleigh’s farms at Terling, where he subsequently became Tower Captain. He was instrumental in the augmentation of the bells to eight in 1969. He taught many youngsters to ring, and three in particular stayed the course, as it were – (1) his son Brian, who has been tower captain at Oswestry and is also a College Youth (2) Stephen Goddard, who became an RAF Pilot and later Master of the RAF Guild, and (3) David Hengeli, who still lives and rings in Terling. Phil served as Master of the SE District of the Essex Association from 1969-72, and as a Central Council Rep. for Essex from 1971-76.

I was living and working in Hendon, NW London in the 1960, and it was during a car journey back to our home in Birmingham for the weekend that Phil told me in great detail about a peal of 8-spliced Surprise Major he had recently rung, bemoaning the fact that he had never rung 7th’s place London (I guess it was Norman Smith’s non-all the work composition). I thought this all sounded fascinating, and before long I presented myself at St. Mary’s, Hendon, where I was taught to handle a bell by Ruth Foreman, who was at one time Master of the Middlesex Association. In 1969 a change of job took me to Chelmsford, and from then on I rang a lot more with Phil – service ringing, practices and peals.

Phil was eventually made redundant from Lord Rayleigh’s farms, after first being moved to run a single farm near Wrexham, and with the aid of his redundancy money and a loan from Banks’s brewery he bought his pub, the Cross Keys in Sellatyn, which many ringers, as well as hikers on Offa’s Dyke, have visited, and where he remained for the rest of his life. He was as concerned about the quality of his beer as he was about the standard of his ringing, and on more than one occasion the Cross Keys was local CAMRA pub of the year.

Sellatyn has an unringable five, but Phil continued to ring at Oswestry, Shrewsbury and other neighbouring towers. He rang the tenor for most of the eight Rothera family peals which we rang, including 70th Birthday Delight Major in April 2013, and was a founder member of the so called ‘Around’ peal tour which has now passed 50 years. This tour acquired its name when we stayed on two tours at the Revd Roger Fry’s rectory in Somerset and named them ‘Peals around Portishead’, and thereafter alliterative or onomatopaeic names such as ‘Peals around Anglia’ or ‘Peals around the Weald’.

Phil joined the College Youths in 1964, and was always a keen member of the Ancient Society. Of his peal total of 1161, 276 were rung for the Essex Association, followed by 187 for the College Youths, and his three leading peal ringers, all fellow College Youths, were the late Ken Hesketh and Tudor Edwards, with 481 and 401 respectively, and myself with 343. His leading single method was Stedman Cinques with 124, followed by Cambridge Maximus with 90. He regularly attended the College Youths’ Annual Dinner until the last few years, and was hoping to attend last year’s dinner to receive his 50-year membership certificate, but unfortunately was not well enough to travel. However, a joyful occasion was arranged a couple of weeks later in Shropshire when a peal was rung at Oswestry and some 30-odd of his ringing friends from as far apart as Essex and Devon gathered in his pub to present him with a framed copy of his certificate, with which he was delighted.

We shall all mourn his passing and miss him greatly, but he enjoyed a full and varied life, and I personally shall always be grateful to him for introducing me to the delights of the ringing Exercise.

DAVID ROTHERA

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