1931 - 2011

To many long time residents of the town, Ray was ‘Mr Lechlade’. Many photographs of town events over the last sixty years include him. He was a player and officer of both the town’s football and cricket clubs and a member of the RAOB Thames Lodge and local History Society, but it was the Church, St Lawrence, which took most of his attention. Ray was a PCC member and Churchwarden for more than 25 years, a trustee of The Lechlade Parochial Charities, a chorister from the age of seven until three days before he died and a bell ringer for well over 50 years.

Ray was born and lived all of his life in Lechlade. He went first to the local school and then Cirencester Grammar School where he did well. If he had not been a village lad from a humble home, he might well have gone to university but he had to settle for employment with the Great Western Railway. Ray was called up for National Service and joined the Royal Engineers, rising to the dizzy height of Corporal.

On his return home, Ray asked Alf King, the long standing Tower Captain, if the few remaining old bell ringers could teach some youngsters how to ring so that Lechlade could have its bells back. Eventually the Vicar called a meeting and five new recruits, including Ray, arrived eager to learn. From that time on, Ray became a very regular ringer, eventually taking over the tower captaincy, a position which he held for about forty years.

Ray took his ringing responsibilities very seriously. In an article in Cotswold Life, written about Ray and his love of ringing in July 2001, he is quoted as saying “It is a wonderful hobby, but a full commitment – a duty, really, because the bells are there for when the church needs them.” He was justly proud of all the ringers he had taught and his role in ensuring that the bells were rung for Sunday services and weddings. In addition, in the same article, he talks enthusiastically about ringing tours and the peal boards in the St Lawrence ringing room attest to some of the peals he rang. However, he was also a supporter of the close link between bell ringing and local hostelries. When the ringers gave Ray an engraved glass tankard for his services to the local tower, his other friends in the pub worked to keep it filled. The next day his comment was “D’you know, I reckon I was a bit ‘Harry & Bill’ when I went ’ome last night!”

In recent years Ray found it increasingly difficult to get up the tower stairs and needed help but such was his commitment that he struggled up every Friday evening for practice. Indeed he was in his usual ‘observation and comment’ seat on the Friday before he died. However, he had given up trying to ring as well as sing in the choir for services. He continued to ring the treble, by propping himself against the wall, until just after last Christmas when the arthritis in his hands defeated him.

Ray loved his ringing and had high expectations. This meant that he could occasionally be ‘Mr Grumpy’ when learners did not meet his standards. Adult learners, struggling to cope with something new, could find their efforts accompanied by gales of heavy sighing from the corner and the ringers were aware of ‘the evil eye’ from the choir stalls when before service ringing was not up to expectations! However, Ray gave praise when it was due, especially to children who he was extremely supportive of; perhaps surprisingly as he was a confirmed bachelor.

Lechlade as a whole and St Lawrence’s Church, in particular, have a lot to thank Ray Hayden for although, when it came to write his eulogy, it became clear that everybody knew what he had been a member of but nobody really knew this very private man. His dedication to the art of bell ringing means that all of the Lechlade ringers feel a desire to get it right “for Ray”. Speaking personally, that is certainly true for me. I came to ringing when I was well past my first, and indeed second and third, flush of youth and am well aware that it is not something that I am particularly adept at. However, I keep working on it so that we can ring for service in the way that Ray did for so many years. I often ring the third on a Sunday morning. It is deep set and effort is needed to ensure that I pull off in time. When I fail, I can feel the ‘evil eye’ from the choir stalls and I quietly offer up an apology.


BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers