Obituaries

Major Philip Tocock

1918 - 2009

It was with great sadness that the Dorchester Branch of the Salisbury Guild learnt of the death of one of its most influential ringers, Philip Tocock of Fordington.

Phil passed away at home at the age of 92. However, to those who knew him, his death came as a shock as he was, quite simply to us, invincible.

Phil learnt to ring at Cookham in 1933 and he rang his first peal at Burnham in September 1935. In 1936 Phil made his first visit to Dorset when, following his enlistment in the Royal Tank Regiment, he was stationed at Bovington and was made welcome at both Wool and Lulworth. It was whilst at Lulworth that in April 1938 Phil and his two brothers Tom and Maurice, together with Bill Shute and Cecil Smart rang a peal of Bob Minor. This was the only peal Phil ever rang with his two brothers and remained one of his proudest achievements. It was also during this period that Phil held the position of Branch Chairman and commenced the format of the twice monthly branch practices which continue to this day.

Phil’s ringing career was dictated by his military service and in 1948 he departed for Oldham where he was stationed until 1951, following which there was a posting to the Suez Canal. It was here that Phil, never one to be deterred when it came to ringing, even in a country with no bells, restored a peal of seventeen hand bells, recruited a number of volunteers from the Sergeants’ mess and with much patience and perseverance mastered some basic tunes and change ringing. Phil and his band even featured in a talent show for Forces Broadcasting ringing amongst others “Home Sweet Home” and “The Blue Bells of Scotland”. These renditions were followed by the ringing out of the old and ringing in of the New Year. Further postings resulted in Phil ringing in the Oxford/Arborfield area (1958-1961), Liverpool (1962-1963), Catterick (1967-1969) and Oxford (1969-1982) following which he retired and returned to Dorset.

After Phil’s retirement he soon reacquainted himself with his old friend Cecil Smart who by now was Tower Captain at Upwey. There being no resident band at Upwey, Phil began the task of recruiting and training one and through his efforts a strong team was formed. Although at his passing Phil was no longer Captain he maintained a strong connection with us, visiting us regularly and providing all the support and help we could ever have hoped for. His loss to Upwey is enormous and he will always be remembered.

Phil held the posts of Assistant Ringing Master and Vice Chairman of the Dorchester Branch and also the position of Vice President of the Salisbury Guild. He continued to teach and inspire learners in many towers in the Branch as well as continuing to ring peals of Major, Surprise and Royal. Phil moved to Dorchester in the 1990s and began to run Fordington. He was instrumental in the augmentation of the bells to an 8, the two new bells being in memory of his daughter Diane and his wife Ethel, both of them greatly missed.

Phil was much moved on the occasion of his 90th birthday when bells, not just across the county but across the country, pealed out in celebration. He even had a method, Tocock Surprise named after him with a peal rung at Milton St Blaisé. A peal of Cambridge Surprise Major was also rung on the newly augmented 8 at Fordington in his honour.

Although Phil’s ringing achievements such as the 875 towers visited, the 309 peals and more than 200 quarter peals may have made him seem like a “Tower Grabber” this could not be further from the mark. Phil was the first to agree that his greatest achievement and his abiding passion lay in the scores, probably hundreds of people that he taught to handle a bell. He had ceaseless dedication to bringing out the best in every ringer no matter what their level of ability. Those of us who have been taught by Phil and those of us who have rung with him will attest to this and every ringer who has stood in a tower with him has been privileged to do so, their ringing capability can only have been enhanced by meeting this amazing man.

Phil’s funeral held at St George’s, Fordington was attended by ringers from far and wide. Many quarter peals in his memory have also been rung across the county.

ANDREA JACOB

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers