1920 - 2011

A native of Eastbourne born on 6th May 1920, Harold joined the choir at Christ Church at the age of eight and was taught to ring there by Harold Hobden in 1934. He became a member of the Sussex County Association in the following year and rang his first peal at St Mary’s, Eastbourne in January 1936 – this peal being rung fully muffled following the death of King George V and lasting 3 hours 30 minutes. His second peal was only ten minutes shorter and rung on the old steel bells at St Clement’s, Hastings. Altogether Harold rang a total of 54 peals, 22 of them at St Mary’s, Eastbourne and 14 at Christ Church. His total may well have been greater but for the fact that his occupation as an electrician often meant Saturday working or being on call.

Apart from a break for military service during the Second World War, Harold remained part of the Eastbourne and Sussex ringing scene for in excess of 75 years. Following his marriage to Ruth at St Mary’s, Willingdon in 1949, he joined the band at St Mary’s, Eastbourne where they both continued to be loyal members of the band and congregation until Harold had to go to live in a care home following a fall shortly before his 90th birthday. Harold held the position of Tower Captain from 1961 to 1982 and was also the Tower Secretary for many years; he again served as Tower Captain from 1989 to 1993. In addition to ringing at St Mary’s, in the second half of the 1950s he also taught a band of young ringers at Christ Church, where the ringing had gradually lapsed during the period following the war.

From 1953 to 1964 Harold and Ruth lived at Polegate where there is no church with a ring of bells. They therefore continued their support of the band at St Mary’s, Eastbourne. During this time their children, Kathleen and twins Alan and Geoffrey were born. From small beginnings ringing Christmas Carols with his family at the church in 1965, a handbell group was formed by Harold and, in 1968, became fully established as the St Mary’s Handbell Ringers. One of their first ventures as a group was to play at the Expo Sussex ’68 Show at Ardingly, where they came second in the tune ringing competition. They also took part in productions at the Eastbourne Congress Theatre, including one of Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten, and, on one occasion, rang for Percy Grainger’s widow at Pevensey Bay. Through Harold’s enthusiasm and leadership, this group continued to give much pleasure to the many who heard its performances until 1990. As well as entertaining in many of the local churches, hospitals, retirement homes and other venues, the group was affiliated to the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain and took part in national events in different parts of the country.

Harold had a great (sometimes wicked) sense of humour, never taking himself too seriously but always treating others seriously and with great respect. Any visiting ringers or potential recruits could be sure of a very warm welcome whenever he was present.

Apart from his ringing in Eastbourne, Harold also served the Eastern Division of the Sussex County Association as a Committee Member in 1954 and 1955 and as its Secretary from 1956 to 1958. During this time, he encouraged many of the bands of ringers throughout East Sussex to affiliate to the Association and to attend meetings in order to make progress in their ringing. At that time I was just starting to learn to ring and have much for which to be grateful to Harold in his patient and clear expositions of the theory of change ringing. As well as being an excellent ringer himself, rarely making any mistakes, he was also an excellent and patient teacher of the art. For his many years of service he was elected as a Life member of the Association in 1986. In 1971, he was elected to membership of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths.

Following a private cremation, a thanksgiving service for Harold’s life was held on 28th November at St Mary’s, Eastbourne where a large number of ringers and other friends filled the nave of the church to pay tribute to one who had contributed so much during his lifetime. Two Vice-Presidents, the Master, two past Masters and the Eastern Division Secretary of the Sussex Association attended the service and, as well many others living in Sussex, ringers and former ringers from Somerset, Dorset, Kent and London also travelled to be present. The bells were rung half-muffled in memory before the service and open in thanksgiving afterwards – a number of touches in various methods being rung. The organ was played by Alastair Macfadyen, a member of the local band.

Quarter peals have already been rung in tribute to Harold at Alfriston, Bexhill, St Mary’s, Eastbourne, Hailsham and Salehurst, and a peal attempt is planned shortly.


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