1929 - 2011

Miss Bessie F. Hacker was born at Broad Hinton, Wiltshire on 22nd September 1929 and at the age of two moved to Heddington where she lived for the rest of her life. Her entire working life was with C. & T. Harris Ltd, Calne until the factory finally closed in 1982.

Bessie was a quiet, unassuming person with a deep Christian faith who worked away in the background without seeking attention or praise for whatever she was achieving; and yet she had strong views on many things, putting forward a very forceful argument when she had to and she could be rather difficult, and stubborn when she felt it necessary.

Throughout her life she has made an invaluable contribution both to the Hacker family and to the local community. Bessie’s knitting skills were outstanding and she knitted shawls, baby clothes, jumpers, hats and gloves for all of her nephews and nieces, family and friends as well as for herself. One of her outstanding achievements was to knit herself a jumper with the diagrams of a course of Stedman and a course of Grandsire Triples incorporated into the front with different colours for each bell, having first worked out the pattern on a piece of paper.

Also her needlework, embroidery, crochet and smocking were of the very highest standard, she played a very big part in making altar and pulpit linen that is used regularly at Heddington and was used at her funeral service. Bessie taught at the Heddington Sunday School for nine years and during that time she created and embroidered a banner which the children took to Salisbury for the Annual Sunday School service at the Cathedral where they carried it with pride. She also made a similar banner for St Mary’s Church at Calne in order that when the BBC televised a Palm Sunday service from there a microphone could be hidden in the banner as the choir and clergy processed around the church.

With her sister Peggy, Bessie would make fudge, toffees and sweets and run a sweet stall at the village fetes raising invaluable funds for the community. Then in later years they collected waste paper storing it in their garage until they had a truck load and then selling it to raise funds for the Church. And we think of recycling as a modern idea. They also took their turn at church cleaning, church flower arrangements and attending to altar linen. Together they were a formidable pair when it came to the Village Flower Show. They would spend hours in their garden nurturing flowers, fruit and vegetables as well as making and cooking things in order to enter as many classes as they could and they often came home triumphant with the cup for the highest number of points.

Like so many of the Hacker family Bessie took up the art of bell ringing and was elected a member of the Calne Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers in 1943 when the wartime silence was lifted, being the first lady to be elected into that branch of the Guild. She regularly rang at both Calne and Heddington taking part in the celebratory ringing in both towers to mark V.E day and V.J. day in 1945 and in September 1945 she was elected a member of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths along with several of the Calne tower band. This was at the time when the late Teddy Barnett rang regularly with the Calne ringers during his time at RAF Compton Bassett. A society peal board in the ringing room at St Mary’s records a peal with mostly local tower members taking part. On the day of the funeral of King George VI in February 1952 the management at Harris’s gave permission for eight ringers to leave work and to ring the bells of Calne Parish Church. Bessie was one of the eight and they rang a fully muffled quarter peal of Grandsire Triples; there is now only one member of that band surviving. Although not one for peals she was what you might call the backbone of local ringing. In her time Bessie was a first class ringer, a good striker, always reliable, seldom went wrong, and an asset on the treble to Double Norwich at Calne on a Sunday morning.

Bessie along with the other members Heddington tower worked tirelessly to raise funds for the installation of the new treble bell to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and to give us the lovely six that we have today. She helped at jumble sales, whist drives, collecting ship halfpennies from workmates, selling raffle tickets and collecting waste paper to cover the cost of the new bell and its fittings.

Bessie along with her sister Peggy became very involved in providing teas at ringers meetings when they were held at Calne and at Heddington and they also provided the refreshments at some of the Diocesan Guild’s Annual Festivals when they were held in the branch which entailed an enormous amount of food preparation before the big day, taking it and serving it to those attending on the day and then clearing away afterwards. But they took it in their stride paying attention to the smallest of detail even down to drawing the guild motif on each serviette to be used on the day.

Bessie rang at Calne and Heddington regularly for Sunday Service and for many other local and national events for over 60 years. She could be relied on to be there week after week, but besides this she was a strong supporter of the Calne Branch and of the Salisbury Guild regularly attending meetings throughout Wiltshire and Dorset. She was made an Honorary Life Member of the Guild in 1993.

With Bessie’s death on 9th September we have reached the end of another generation of Hackers, the final tie with the village of Heddington after 80 years, apart from the memorials in the church and the graves in the churchyard. But Bessie has set an example for us all to follow to make our communities better through our efforts to give back as much as we take out. We pray that Bessie is reunited with her parents, brothers and sisters in heaven. May she rest in peace.

(abridged from the tribute given by David at the funeral service)

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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers