I do not remember the exact year that Paul and his parents moved from Norfolk to Droitwich but it would have been around 1957. He was in his mid-teens, whilst I and my contemporaries in Worcester were in our mid-twenties. I think, at the time, we who were ringing spliced surprise rather looked down on this youngster who had a great enthusiasm for six-bell ringing (a fondness which he never lost) and did not realise at the time what potential for stimulating others he had.

To help paint in this background I resorted to looking back through Association annual reports, and the impact he made on ringing in and around Droitwich soon became obvious. Towers such as Droitwich, St Peter’s, Wychbold and Stoke Prior had, for years, been listed as having no or very few members. Within about a year of Paul’s arrival that soon changed and new members from the area were being elected at every branch meeting.

Paul’s ringing career in Worcestershire really falls into two phases, the first being from his arrival up to and including his time at London University, followed by his taking up a teaching post at Kings School, Worcester in 1964. During that first phase Paul and some of his Worcestershire contemporaries such as the late Fellows brothers, Martin and Michael, rang a number of landmark peals together, e.g. Grandsire Doubles at Wychbold in 1960 with the footnote “Believed to be the youngest band (average age 15 yrs 1 mth) to ring a peal for the Association on tower bells”. That one was jointly conducted by Paul and Michael Fellows. A number of other “youngest band” peals were to follow.

Paul’s peal ringing activities actually fell on his return to Worcestershire in 1964. No doubt all his other extra-curricular activities absorbed much of his time, but what he did do was to progressively “raise the bar” (as far as the W&D Association was concerned) in the field of multi-doubles methods peals. One of these peals was in 11-methods at Llanbedyr-Ystradwy in August 1968 (this was the church associated with the Kings School’s Outdoor Activities Centre - it was also where Paul and Barbara were later to be married) and was Chris Pickford’s first peal. In 1969 the level went up to 19 methods and in 1970 to 25 and then 36 methods, followed by 45 methods in 1972. All of these peals were conducted by Paul and were in “methods” only, i.e. did not include “variations” and all except the 25-methods peal were rung at a 5-bell tower.

In 1972 Paul set about getting the historic ring of six at St. Swithun’s, Worcester, rehung. Paul used to claim that in terms of average age (he was mathematician, remember) these were the oldest ring of six, still existing as a ring of six, in the country. Three of the bells are c.1420 from the Worcester medieval foundry; the other three are by John Martin of Worcester, 1654. (Would anyone challenge his claim, I wonder?)  Previously they had hung anti-clockwise in an ancient wooden frame that remains in the tower above the new cast iron frame installed by Taylor’s in 1973. Under Paul’s leadership St Swithun’s had become the home tower of both the King’s School and the Worcester Schools Societies, but he remained in Worcester for only another 18 months following the rehanging, having taken up another post in Norwich.

Paul’s ability to attract and retain young ringers are qualities that are sadly missed; but it was not only the young who fell under his spell for, as Master of the Western Branch of the Association, he motivated the rest of us, too. He succeeded me as General Secretary of the Association in 1973 when my spare time was fully occupied with the rehanging of All Saints’ bells and it was a sad but understandable loss to the Association when he had to resign that post on removing to Norfolk. His work at St Swithun’s in particular remains as a perpetual memorial to his time in Worcestershire and some of us from that period were privileged to a ring a quarter peal there in memory of him.

DAVID BEACHAM

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