1931 - 2011

Malcolm was born on 18th February 1931. It was some 65 years ago that Malcolm and his twin brother Peter left the choir of St James’ Church, West Derby, Liverpool and decided to learn bellringing. Malcolm’s only vivid recollection of that time was to be advised that “you only set your bell when told to do so.” During the winter of 1947 there had been heavy snow falls, the wind had blown a large amount of it through the louvres and because the bells had been left up a large amount was deposited in one of the bells. The snow had thawed somewhat by the following Sunday morning. When Malcolm pulled off the second bell he was promptly showered from head to foot with water, which resulted in him “setting his bell without due reason”. Despite such strict rules he was not put off too much and continued to ring.

In 1949 he moved to London and joined the 8 bell tower at St Mary’s, Woolwich for six months before spending two years in Yorkshire on National Service. He joined the then 6-bell tower at All Saints, Pocklington; the speciality at that time was plain courses of Grandsire Doubles. On returning to London he lived next door to Ernie Rowe opposite the then 6-bell tower of St Anne, Stamford Hill. Ernie was a bellhanger at Whitechapel – they had some memorable experiences together being involved in plenty of ringing outings and tower grabbing et c. It was at that time that Malcolm started to teach people how to ring, from here on he was involved in teaching people to ring at most of the towers that that he rang at for Sunday Service.

Between 1955 and 2001, due to career moves and retirement he rang for Sunday Service at seven different towers making a total of eleven towers in all. He spent fifteen years at St John the Baptist, Croydon (14 bells) with five years as Tower Captain and from 1986 he was Tower Captain at Rye (8) embracing ringing at Iden (6) and Peasmarsh (6).

Malcolm had a moderate interest in peal ringing but as he did not keep specific records he had no idea of the total that he had rung. He rang his first peal in December 1951 being inside to seven Minor and his last in April 2000 being inside to Stedman Doubles.

During his time as Tower Captain at St Mary’s, Rye East Sussex, Malcolm trained at least 10 ringers towards the millennium ringing, as well as managing a more experienced team of ringers, some of whom were learning methods such as Grandsire, Stedman Triples and Bob Major. As part of his innovative approach, he donated a computer and established the necessary wiring to set up a system of silent ringing to support learning outside “official” practice night sessions. He supervised the re-hanging and refurbishment of the bells at St Mary’s including the maintenance of all metal and wooden parts including the pulleys.

In 1990 in addition to his work at St Mary’s, Malcolm was approached by the Church authorities covering All Saints’ Church at Iden, near Rye. He was asked to inspect the bell frame and tower, as the bells had not been rung since the early 1900s. Following his inspection and major ‘clean-up work’ with the help of other volunteers, the bells were refurbished professionally, and rang for the Easter celebrations in 1991. Following which, Malcolm worked tirelessly to ensure the bells were safe and rung at least once a month for family service. That was no mean feat in itself, since the bells are notoriously difficult to ring, having a very long draught and being hung on ancient bearings. Many competent ringers shy away from tackling this tower. Malcolm was Tower Captain at All Saints, Iden, and from 1985 to 1998 he was also the Tower Captain at Peasmarsh Parish Church.

In 1998 Malcolm was approached to give advice on the bell chamber aspects of the tower at Playden church in order to facilitate the removal of the spire. He was also invited to demonstrate and teach pupils at the Thomas Peacock School (Rye) in ringing handbells. During this year he collaborated to produce a children’s TV programme “Rosie and Jim’, related to bell ringing.

In order to broaden the experience of ringers, he took novice learners to residential weekend courses to help them to learn new methods. Malcolm planned and ran a number of fund raising activities including Open Days, encouraging members of the public to try out the bells, have coffee and cakes and a chat about what ringing entailed.

In 2001, Malcolm received the MBE for services to ringing. At the time Malcolm acknowledged all the ringers who had supported him over the years in helping to keep ringing going, he said without their help and the support of his wife Betty (who he taught to ring in the 1950s) he would not have received the honour.

His sponsor wrote: “Malcolm Parry has dedicated over fifty years to the art of bell ringing. What makes him special is the extent and breadth of his capabilities and achievements in ringing. Malcolm has the personal ability to ring all of the standard methods currently available. He is a constant and inspirational teacher to novice ringers; working in an enthusiastic and understanding way to assist and support them, recognising that all learners are individuals, with different learning styles and pace”.

In 2002 Malcolm and his wife Betty moved to Frant in East Sussex where, again, he took on the role of Tower Captain at the church of St Alban (6). Here he encouraged the existing ringers to broaden their ringing capabilities while patiently imparting bell handling to a number of beginners whose ages ranged from 13 to 80. He oversaw the installation into the tower of a ringing simulator system, and joined in energetic fund-raising for the acquisition of new ropes. All the while, Malcolm continued his tradition of offering warm hospitality and kindly encouragement to all.

Malcolm died on 24th October following a short illness. He leaves his wife Betty, daughters Yvonne and Annette, and four grandchildren.

There was a large congregation at his funeral service at St Alban’s, Frant, the local band ringing half muffled call changes before the service and the tenor was tolled eighty times.

The service was very moving with lovely singing. Tributes were paid by Malcolm’s brotherPeter, and by his grandchildren. Before the Blessing, Eunice Finn a member of the local band very movingly sang: ‘God be in my head and in my understanding’.

Following the service a quarter peal of Bob Minor was rung on open bells, the band then joined the rest of those present, who had retired to the George Inn opposite the church.

Thank you Malcolm for the legacy you have left us, may you rest in peace.


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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers