Obituaries

Leslie Evans

Born 7th December 1912,
died 26th August 2011, aged 98

Leslie’s father was very skilled and would make a cart, including the wheels, for £30 (£30 would have bought 3,600 pints of beer!).

Leslie wrote an autobiography (which you must read) in which he describes how, as a very small boy, he helped with the watering can to cool down the metal wheel rims, so they contracted onto the wheels.

He lived most of his life in Eardisland, on the smallholding “The Brauch” which his family owned. They had a few cows (milk, cheese & butter), fruit trees; plums and, for making cider, apples. He also had a large barn where he made beautiful garden seats and garden chairs. He also made lovely gates, for church yards. In fact, he could make anything.

He could make bell frames, and did, as he worked for Taylors from time to time, hanging bells. He loved Taylor bells. He would not hear a word against them, and in Herefordshire before the war there were very few examples of good Taylor bells. Eardisland was an ordinary six, and Leslie hit on the idea of a TAYLOR EIGHT. What a marvellous idea! The money was raised and the new bells were installed. They are a wonderful musical eight, and Eardisland which has a reputation of being one of the prettiest villages in Herefordshire, and perhaps England, now had one of the prettiest sounding rings of bells in England too.

The Vicar of Eardisland was a Mr Rock, and he had two sons; Peter and John. Leslie taught a new young band after the War, including the Rock boys, Frederick R. Harris, Laurence Mainwaring (father of Andrew Mainwaring) and others. The clappers were taken out because of the ban on ringing during the War, and they had got up to ringing Kent Minor, when they first heard the bells. What a shock! Their striking needed a lot of improvement, and Leslie did a really good job.

He was soon contacted by Wilfrid Moreton, who had finished his time in the Army, and started arranging lots of peals, including the young Eardisland ringers and Wilf’s brother Michael. Progress followed with three, four seven and more Minor methods, and peals on eight.

The young ringers grew up, left Eardisland and Peter Rock moved to Stockton, where he eventually got the peal augmented. John moved to London at about the same time as Michael Moreton, and both rang at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Both had joined the College Youths and, in due course, both became Master. Leslie Evans was very proud of John Rock, and was very sad when he died at the age of 41 of cancer.

Leslie’s first Surprise Major was on 18th April 1949, and on 1st July 1949 he rang the very difficult tenor at the Cathedral in Hereford – thought at that time to be over two tons – to Grandsire Triples. Wilf Moreton was conducting from the 7th and he began to lose his voice because at that time the bells were very loud, and you had to shout. Suddenly, to our surprise, Leslie, on the tenor, began to shout the bobs and singles and Wilf signalled to him when to make the calls. The peal was successful!

Wilfrid had a new idea – Little Surprise where in Major the treble only goes to 6ths. place. He got a method out, named it Herefordshire Little Surprise Major and Leslie was in the first peal of it at Burghill on 26th December 1949. Nowadays, Little Surprise methods are often rung.

In 1952 on 15th April the Hereford Guild broke a record. Six ringers, including Leslie of course, rang five peals in a day. This had not been done before. We had rung more changes in a day than had been done before. In actual fact we also rang a 720 and a bit in a failed attempt when two bells swapped over in Kent Minor after leaving the back and were crossed over for about 10 changes. “Stand!” said Wilf Moreton. “We are not going to break records like that.” So that day we rang 25,920 changes. The last peal was rung by oil lamps – not a lot of electricity about in villages in those days. The village was Llanfihangel Rhydithon, Radnorshire.

In 2002 Leslie rang in a 50th anniversary peal at the same church. On 8th April in 2002 we rang a peal with Leslie at Eardisland for his 89th birthday. The Queen Mother had died aged 101 on March 30th, so our peal was rung half-muffled.

Leslie was a marvellous man. His humour was infectious, his steadiness was consistent, his many skills amazing.

He played the organ at Pembridge church for fifty years!

He never boasted about the many bells he had hung, while working for Taylors.

He was in a beautiful male voice choir called the Vale of Arrow Choir, I believe, and I have the record which they made.

And he wrote his book. The humour, compassion, and interest sings out from every page, and below are the details of how to get a copy. He decided that the proceeds should go to a hospice, not to himself. This was a typical act of generosity by a lovely man. His funeral was held at Pembridge and the church was packed.

A life well lived, well done.

MICHAEL P. MORETON

To obtain a copy of Leslie Evans’ Autobiography write to:
Mrs Nicky Wood, St Michael’s Hospice, Bartestree, Herefordshire, HR1 4HA.
Send £12 + £2 postage & packing for each copy.

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers