Obituaries

Enid Softley

20th October 1928 - 30th April 2011

Enid, the second of four sisters, was born in South Shields, Co. Durham, where she lived all her life, except for evacuation to Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmoreland, during the Second World War.

Not long after the end of the war Enid and her sisters were recruited from the St Hilda’s church youth group to learn bellringing, and she became a member of the Durham and Newcastle Association (D&N) in 1948, and went on to ring 35 D&N peals, most of them in the 1950s.

In the early 1970s she succeeded the late Charlie Lea as tower captain at St Hilda’s, a post she would hold for approximately 30 years during which time she taught many people to ring. Enid was also involved in other aspects of church life, serving on the PCC and in the choir, of which she was a member for many years. Singing was Enid’s other main interest, and she was also a member of other choral groups in South Shields as well as the local Gilbert & Sullivan Operatic Society, together with her elder sister Brenda.

Most of Enid’s working life was spent with the National Coal Board (NCB) at Washington, then latterly at Seaham, another former mining town in Co. Durham. As the activities of the NCB declined in the 1970s and 80s her work in the Admin Department included sending out letters to the mineworkers on the subject of voluntary redundancy. A tongue-in-cheek remark to her boss one day of “How come there’s never one of these letters addressed to me?” is probably what brought about the arrival of one a few days later, enabling Enid to embark on what was to be a thirty year retirement.

Only after leaving work did she learn to drive, buying her first car with some of her redundancy money and becoming an enthusiastic driver. With her newly gained freedom and mobility, Enid was able to pursue her interests much more easily, and was now able to include ringing with Ken Arthur’s recently formed ‘Midweek Guild’ at their monthly Thursday afternoon meetings, and enjoying holidays around the UK with her friends from Manchester, her favourite spot being the Yorkshire Dales.

South Shields bells had long been difficult to ring, and in 1989 they were officially declared unringable, and the huge task of fundraising for their restoration began. Money came only slowly at first, but later with wider D&N assistance and then Millennium funding, a scheme was finally able to be implemented to replace St Hilda’s bells with a similar sized ring from the demolished church of St Aidan’s Blackhill, with new frame and fittings, in time to be able to Ring in 2000. During the intervening period Enid had successfully managed to keep her band together by arranging practices and joint practices with other Newcastle towers, notably Heworth. Appearing on local television news to promote the restoration project, she expressed her gratitude to the other bands in accommodating the South Shields ringers, and saying how she looked forward to being able to welcome them to ring at South Shields in return. A few years after ringing had resumed at South Shields, Enid passed the tower captain’s baton on to Kris King, one of the ringers she had taught in the 1980s.

In 2008, Enid had the distinction of being the first member of their family to become an octogenarian, but last year her health began to deteriorate significantly, she was no longer able to ring and was particularly dissatisfied at having to give up driving. She was, however, able to continue singing with the choir right up until just before a major stroke she suffered just after Easter this year, from which she never recovered.

Enid is survived by her younger sisters Kathleen and Margaret, and a peal jointly in her memory and that of Mike Taylor, former tower captain at Wylam, was rung at Allendale (RW p. 561).

DENIS CROWE

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers