1907 - 2009

John Banks, known to us as ‘Jack’ was a post war ringer, ringing his first peal, Plain Bob Major, at the Norman Tower, Plain Bob Major, on 13th September 1947. He rang 18 peals for the Suffolk Guild, 2 of these were at St Mary’s, Bury St Edmunds, including what turned out to be the last peal on those bells, Double Norwich CB Major on 10th October 1959. Jack was very much at home on the tenor box at the Norman Tower, which was fixed to the floor in those days, and he enjoyed ‘turning it in’ to Plain Bob Royal. When the bells at Eriswell were augmented to 5, the Cathedral Company rang the first peal on the bells, 25th April 1958, with Jack on the treble! Considering the vast contrast in weight from the Cathedral’s 30cwt tenor to Eriswell’s 3cwt it is perhaps no surprise that the stays were removed to ring this peal!

The Cathedral bells were removed for rehanging in 1973 and were absent 4 long years. The Cathedral band continued to hold a practice at Fornham St Martin, Jack’s local church. When the Cathedral bells returned Jack was 70 years old. Meanwhile the bells at St Mary’s had been returned to the church in 1975 but hung ‘dead’. Jack trained a band there to chime the bells for services and weddings also teaching hand bell tune ringing. He attended St Mary’s church every Sunday until 6 months before he died.

Jack was kept in touch with Suffolk Guild of Ringers activities through the Newsletter and in 2007 was elected a Life Honorary member, a rare honour, and was highly thought of by those that knew him.

Jack was the eldest son in a family of five born at Ingham, near Bury St Edmunds. Following school he was apprenticed into the building trade where he was followed by his brothers. During the early 1930’s he, and his brother, built bungalows at Barton Hill, Fornham St Martin-Jack moved into the first one which remained his home for 77 years. During the war Jack worked for the War department-involved in building works at military installations throughout East Anglia. He continued to work for the Government until retirement in 1973.

Jack was married to Dorothy who, with her sister Violet, enjoyed the annual ringers’ outing. Dorothy died in 1988 but Jack continued to live at Barton Hill, a very independent and contented man.

Jack celebrated his 100th birthday on 31st October 2007 with a party for family and friends.

For the last six months of his life Jack was well cared for at Cornwallis Court, a Masonic Nursing Home in Bury St Edmunds and he died there on 15th June 2009.

Jack’s funeral was held at St Mary’s Church, Bury St Edmunds where a bell was chimed 101 times before the service and then all bells chimed out following a service of thanksgiving for a long and wonderful life.


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