Obituaries

Canon Frederick Ross

Frederick was born in 1936, the eldest boy in a family of four girls and two boys. They lived in Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Frederick was taught to ring by Stan Dixon, the Tower Captain of St James, Benwell, a meaty 16cwt six, in the late 1950s. He worked at Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, locomotive builders, as a draughtsman before serving in the RAF on National Service. Soon afterwards he was accepted for training for the Ministry at Queen’s Theological College in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

He was ordained at York Minster in September 1964 and was appointed Curate at Hessle where he met his wife, Rosemary. During his time at Hessle his pupils included Rod Horton, Robert Hawtree and Richard Jordan.

For thirty years from 1968 he was a parish priest at three churches in Derbyshire, Marlpool, Clifton and lastly at Melbourne. He was Rural Dean for eighteen of those years. He made a major contribution to the exercise whilst in Derbyshire not least through being General Secretary of the Derby Association for twelve years from 1969 and then as President for 17 years. He retired in 1998 and moved to Berwick upon Tweed where he played a major role in the restoration of the bells at the Town Hall and in building a team of ringers.

Frederick had an ebullient personality with an infectious laugh and was a real enthusiast for ringing and for the fellowship of ringers. He rang 1186 peals with about 40 in hand.

I rang in 111 of his peals, mainly rung in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and called his first peal – Oxford Bob Triples – at Gateshead in November 1958. In my peal book notes on this peal I say, “Fred Ross rang very well and should turn out a first class ringer”. I was also privileged to be asked to call his 1,000th peal, Bristol Major at Melbourne in February 1994, and , sadly, the peal of Cambridge Major at Bamburgh, Northumberland, 8 days ago, which was rung immediately after his funeral service when the Address was given by the Bishop of Newcastle.

J. ALAN AINSWORTH
Amersham, Buckinghamshire


Fred (as he was known to us youngsters then) came to Hessle as a Deacon in 1964 after studying at theological college in Birmingham.

My first meeting with him was at a Friday night choir practice when he was introduced to us. Little did I know then the influence he was going to have on my life and those of several others. Amongst other things he could sing and enjoyed good music.

One Tuesday night at youth club a week or so later, a few of us were nabbed by him and told to come along at 7pm on Thursday to learn bellringing. This initial group included myself, Robert Hawtree, Keith Gatman and Vernon Beaumont. Already handling a bell were Elisabeth Moss and Ann Thompson. Robert Jordan joined us a week or two later. Michael Hawtree (Bob’s brother) soon joined us as did my sister Gail. We were like putty in his hands and would have done anything for him. For me the relationship was even more meaningful as my father was not on the scene and Fred (although he did not know it) filled some of that space.

David and Peter Town were learning to ring at the time and had relatives in Hessle. Fred was always welcoming and helpful to them whenever they were around.

Fred was always very patient, always had a funny story to tell and was passionate about ringing. I remember him instilling in us that loyalty to one’s local tower was very important. (A year or two later when I rang a peal on a Sunday afternoon he had words with me for missing ringing for Evensong.) Some Saturday mornings we would spend time at his house ringing handbells and sneaking a look at his peal records, which filled us with awe. I remember one Thursday night during the middle of the practice he asked if I had cycled, to which I replied that I had. He told me to go with him and we cycled across Hessle and listened to the bells. They were hardly audible and it transpired there had been a complaint. I’m not sure how the conversation went but there were never any more complaints!

We would all go on the bus to the monthly meetings of the Beverley and District Ringing Society. This was a new experience to several of us and Fred had to take on the role of shepherd as well as tutor. He held office in the B&D including the posts of Assistant Ringing Master and Society Chaplain.

At the Society’s AGM in 1966, Hessle were awarded the cup for the tower making the most progress and it was recognised this was a result of Fred’s guidance and enthusiasm.

Fred and Rosemary met and became engaged and Rosemary secretly learned to ring at Kirk Ella, a fine 6 (now an 8), a few miles away. They married at Hessle in December 1966 and we rang a peal after the wedding with a local band, except for the conductor Mike Maughan, who was at Hull University and had known Fred from Newcastle. Mike became very well known locally for a number of things including his talent as a conductor. Fred and Rosemary moved to Derbyshire in the second half of 1968 and whilst they were both sadly missed, Fred had set the lives of a number of us onto a
new course.

In later years our paths crossed again when Hessle were being augmented from 6 to 8. My sister and I were donating the second in memory of our mother and I suggested to the appeal organisers that they ought to contact Fred and Rosemary. They ended up donating the treble in memory of Rosemary’s parents who lived in Hessle. For me it was a very strange feeling (but a very heart-warming one) to be sitting once again in a service in All Saints, Hessle with Fred present.

In 2005 Rosemary organised a peal at Hessle to mark 40 years since Fred’s ordination and Robert Jordan and I had the privilege of ringing in it. Frederick left his mark everywhere he went. He was passionate, gentle, guiding, inspiring and a true role model. He will be greatly missed.

RODDY HORTON


Frederick and Rosemary Ross arrived in Derbyshire in 1968, when Fred became Vicar of Marlpool on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Sadly his church had but two bells which were hung for swing chiming, but nevertheless Fred joined the Derby Diocesan Association where his talents as a reliable ringer were quickly recognised and he rang 8 peals for it during his first year in Derbyshire.

By 1969, Frederick’s other talents were recognised too and he became the General Secretary of the Association, a post he held for 11 years, during which time the Central Council visited Derby in 1977. Fred relinquished the post of secretary when he was elected President of the Association in 1981. He filled both positions with flair and enthusiasm; he had a considerable presence which commanded both respect and admiration. But he was also a very kind and understanding person who was always ready to advise and help anyone.

In 1973 Frederick and Rosemary moved to Clifton, near Ashbourne. This meant he had seven bells in his care – but, alas, they were in three different churches! In 1981 a final career move to Melbourne meant that at last Fred had a ring of bells in his own parish. His duties were increased as he was made Rural Dean at the same time as he took charge of Melbourne.  Although he had not had been able to ring on Sundays because of his parochial duties, he played his full part in Association activities and in peal ringing – he had rung 267 peals for the Association by the time he arrived in Melbourne. In 1992 Fred was made an Honorary Canon of Derby Cathedral.

Once their daughter, Frances, had grown up Rosemary, too, started to ring peals enthusiastically. She is a competent ringer and her peal total grew rapidly. She and Frederick decided that she would aim to ring her 100th peal at the same time as he rang his 1000th, so on February 11th 1994 they rang together in a peal of Bristol Surprise Major at Melbourne, conducted by Alan Ainsworth who had called Fred’s first peal.

In the late 1970s a band from Derbyshire had competed in the new National Twelve Bell contest. Fred was a regular member of this band as he was an accomplished twelve bell ringer and enjoyed going to ring at various twelve bell towers to prepare for the contest. At that time there was no twelve bell tower in Derbyshire and after 1986 the Twelve Bell Contest Committee decided to restrict entry to the competition to those who practised their twelve bell ringing at a specific tower, thus excluding the team from the Derby Diocesan Association. The idea of augmenting a ring of bells in Derbyshire to 12 started to take shape and, with Bob and Ruth Smith living in Melbourne and Fred being both Vicar of Melbourne and President of the Association, it eventually became clear that the way forward was to augment the bells at Melbourne. So in 1994 the bells were augmented to 10 and re-hung in frame for 12 bells. With Fred’s help and approval the project was completed in 1996 and both Frederick and Rosemary rang in the first peal on the bells on October 20th. Since that time the bells at Melbourne have been regularly used not only by an enthusiastic Sunday service band, but by other ringers wishing to hone their 12 bell skills.

In 1998 Frederick retired and left Derbyshire to return to his native Northumberland, where he and Rosemary started  a new life in Berwick on Tweed. They were sadly missed in Derbyshire, but their move brought  a new lease of life to ringing in Berwick, where they rang regularly as well as ringing at Bamburgh. They had the opportunity to entertain their grandson, Joel, during school holidays, when Fred would enjoy taking Joel to places of interest. Their retirement gave the freedom to be able to travel and they made the most of the opportunities and spent some happy holidays exploring far-flung parts of the world. It was while on holiday in Russia in May that Fred started to experience acute pain which turned out to be mesothelioma, caused by asbestos. This caused him to suffer a rapid deterioration in health resulting in his death on September 28th.

His funeral service took place at Bamburgh church on October 5th – idyllic surroundings on a beautiful day for a very sad occasion. Many friends and former parishioners gathered to remember him and to say farewell. Following the service some of his many friends from various parts of his life rang a peal of Cambridge Surprise Major to his memory. We offer our deep sympathy to Rosemary, Frances and Joel. The world is a sadder place without his cheerful and encouraging smile and enthusiasm.

PAT HALLS


It was with great sadness that many people learned of the death of Canon Frederick Ross on September 28th 2009, only eleven years after his retirement as Vicar of Melbourne.

Canon Ross was born in Newcastle on Tyne where he qualified as an engineer in the railway industry. He came to the Church through his great interest in the art of bellringing, which became his hobby as a young man. It led him to attending church, becoming a Christian and eventually to his ordination as a priest. Whilst a curate in the East Riding of Yorkshire he taught a team of ringers at Hessle where he met and married Rosemary. He became Vicar of Marlpool in Derbyshire in 1968, and moved from there to become Rector of Clifton and Norbury with Snelston in 1973. He, his wife Rosemary and their daughter Frances, came to Melbourne in 1981. He was simultaneously appointed Rural Dean of Melbourne, and became an Honorary Canon of Derby Cathedral in 1992.

As soon as Frederick came to Derbyshire in 1968, he joined the Derby Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers. A year later he became its General Secretary until he was elected President in 1981, an office to which he was re-elected annually until his retirement. He and Rosemary faithfully supported the Association’s work to strengthen ringing in towers throughout Derby Diocese. During his time as Vicar, the eight bells at Melbourne were restored, rehung and augmented to become the first ring of twelve bells in Derbyshire. All twelve bells are still rung regularly Sunday by Sunday.

Bellringing was only one of many interests; others included a deep love of music, especially church music and opera, particularly those written by Handel. His extensive record collection reflected his wide knowledge of music and its role in his personal fulfilment. Also, he was an excellent singer, possessing a light tenor voice which he used with refinement and sincerity when conducting services in the Parish Church. Frederick valued highly the contribution of music to the quality of worship and encouraged the church choir, under the leadership of Laurence Rogers, not only to enliven congregational singing but also to enrich services with anthems, settings and new genres of music such as Taizé, responsorial psalms and Iona music. Frederick adapted worship according to the innovations of the Alternative Service Book and it was at this time that the music of the Melbourne Setting was composed for our congregation by
Lionel Bourne.

As a parish priest, Canon Ross strove to create dignity and beauty in worship and he would conduct services with a blend of reverence and humanity, touched at times with a discreet sense of humour. He moved with the times, famously speaking out in a sermon on one occasion declaring that he had changed his mind to favour the ordination of women priests. He had a lovely communication with children: typically at the end of the morning service he would perch himself on a lowly stool and chat with the children of the Sunday School gathered round him. Frequently he loved teasing them to guess the contents of a plastic shopping bag which would contain a visual aid to capture their imagination. At least two services featuring Melbourne were broadcast on national television: The broadcast of the Parish Communion in 1988 captured the essence of Frederick’s ministry in public worship; praise, thanksgiving and the integrity of the word. On another occasion, the Bellringers’ Songs of Praise from St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Frederick chose one of the hymns.

Major restoration work on the fine organ was undertaken during his time as Vicar along with that to the bells, the nave roof and other parts of the church fabric. Architecture was another passion; during their holidays Frederick and Rosemary succeeded in visiting all the cathedrals of the British Isles, and, after retirement, all the cathedrals of France and many in Germany. As well as visiting cities and churches, they indulged Frederick’s interest in rail travel, enjoying some of the world’s great train journeys.

Many parishioners benefitted from his counselling at times of crisis in life and expressed gratitude for his sound advice when faced with illness. Those of us who worked closely with Canon Frederick Ross in the life of the parish can recount many occasions of shared friendship and fellowship, often over a glass of good red wine. Such will be treasured memories of a much revered parish priest.

RUTH SMITH
Ringing Master

LAURENCE ROGERS
Organist Emeritus

Melbourne Parish Church, Derbyshire

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CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers