Tony Wragg1937 - 2011

Tony was born on 4th October 1937 in the aptly named Nottingham suburb of Cinderhill, famous, if at all, for its coal mine, which together with the Player’s tobacco factory – this latter provided employment for his entire family – provided most of the job opportunities in the locality. He worked hard to avoid a career in a factory or down the pit, and after earning an education at the local grammar school, he joined the East Midlands Electricity Board in 1954. Seeing his promise, they selected him as a pioneer candidate for their new degree course sponsorship scheme, and packed him off to the University of London for four years.

Tony graduated in electrical engineering, and spent his entire working life in the electricity supply industry, rising to dizzy heights. He married Margaret in 1959, they were blessed with four sons, David, Jeremy, Alistair and Simon, and settled down to family life in Marchington, Staffordshire. In 1974, by which time Tony had risen through the ranks to be District Manager for EMEB based at Burtonupon- Trent, a life-changing encounter occurred. An open day at David’s school provided Tony and Margaret with a chance meeting with Brian and Shirley Harris, who were manning a stall promoting the joys of bellringing. The outcome of the discussion was that Tony and Margaret were told to report to Marchington tower and learn to ring.

As their ringing progressed, they spread their wings to seek wider opportunities in Abbot’s Bromley (with Brian and Shirley), Tutbury and Derby, where they were much helped by the Friday night practices run by Gordon Halls and David Friend. Here they met Ruth Parker (now Ruth Smith) and Michael Foulds, and were invited to join the Whiting Society. This was the beginning of a lifelong involvement with the Society, and the formation of lifelong friendships with Bob Smith, Stuart Bamforth, Ron Andrew and many others, which did no harm at all to Tony’s ringing. Tony and Margaret rang their first peal together, Plain Bob Minor, at Chapel-en-le-Frith on 20th November 1976.

Promotion to a more senior job as Group Manager with the Yorkshire Electricity Board at Hull in 1983 brought a family move to Hutton Cranswick, where Tony and Margaret worked hard, with much help from David and Liz Johnson, Mike Henshaw and others from the Beverley and District Society, to form a new band of ringers in the hitherto silent tower. The band still thrives. Privatisation of the Electricity industry brough much extra responsibility for Tony, and a move to the Head Office in Leeds. In 1992, Tony suffered a heart attack during a peal attempt at Barton-upon- Humber, and joked that the conductor asked him to keep going whilst he called the bells round. Tony couldn’t manage that, but made a good recovery, although he was to require bypass surgery a few years later.

Following Tony’s retirement, he and Margaret moved to Cornwall for a few years, where they joined the band at Fowey and learned to ring proper call changes. In 2007, they returned to Staffordshire to be nearer their children and grandchildren, and re-joined the band at Marchington after a 24 year break. In 2010, problematic back pain was traced to a tumour on one of Tony’s kidneys. Surgery provided only temporary respite: the cancer returned and Tony passed away on 17th April 2011.

Tony was good company and good fun, sometimes, I suspect, without realising he was the object of the fun. But his outwardly genial and affable personality hid a firm determination to have his way, and even in a ringing context we had glimpses of why he had carved out such a successful career. Tony was quintessentially Whiting Society through to the core. We shall miss him. We shall miss the beads of perspiration on his head as his brain wrestled with the complexities of Stedman, the gradual descent of his trousers as the touch progressed, and the six inches of underpants showing above his belt. We shall miss the political and philosophical debates as he tucked into his giant mixed grill afterwards. May he rest in peace.


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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers