2.08.1916 - 17.02.2012

The parish church of SS James & Basil, Fenham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with which Ken Arthur was involved from his teens until his death at the age of 95, was built in 1929/30 and it was in 1932 that it was suggested to the boys of the confirmation class that they form a local band of ringers to man the superb Mears & Stainbank 14cwt 8. About six of them thought it might be a “good lark” and volunteered for training by John Anderson (father of John E Anderson) and his colleagues of the Newcastle Cathedral Guild. The team became an active and enterprising band with Ken often acting as conductor.

Ken rang his first peal in 1935 and in total rang nearly 300, conducting about 90.

His career was with Customs & Excise, first in Edinburgh in 1937 and at various places in Glasgow, the Western Isles, Carlisle, Stockton and London until he finally returned to Newcastle in 1951. He served in the RAF during World War II and it was whilst he was in North London during the ringing ban at the start of the war that he joined in tied and handbell practices and was elected a member of the Ancient Society of College Youths, membership of which he treasured. He was the second longest serving and second oldest member of the College Youths.

From 1951 until 2003 Ken took a leading role in the ringing at Fenham, whether as Conductor, Secretary, Ringing Master et al. He was a member of Tom Lock’s touring peal band in the 1950s. He held various offices at both District and Association level, being Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Association President for 1956/59, the first Association Ringing Master in 1960 and directing a series of day training courses at Lumley Castle from 1962 to 1967. He was the Association Central Council representative for 17 years.

Ken died in hospital on 17th February after a short final illness leaving his wife, Margaret, also a ringer whom he married in 1956, and for whom he had cared over the last 10 years since she suffered a stroke, and their two children, Adrian and Hilary, both of whom Ken had taught to ring.

There was a good congregation of over 100 at the Service of Thanksgiving and celebration at SS James & Basil on Friday, March 2nd, led by the Vicar, Revd Nicholas Darby, with tributes by Adrian Arthur and Ron Warford. A handbell team from Hexham rang a course of Bob Major. The tower bells were rung half muffled both before and after the service.

Ken’s meticulous, methodical and efficient organising ability was noted by all the speakers, whether it was in being Church Warden, PCC Secretary, Church Magazine editor, family holiday organiser, or leader of the “Old Codgers” monthly week day outings for over 20 years. As a committed and prayerful Christian his principal interest in ringing was to include the ringing as an integral part of worship. Over the decades he used his organisational skills to the full in arranging for ringers to ring at churches in the area without ringers and to support new or struggling bands. He could hold his own with expert bands and was a competent conductor, for example calling Parker’s Erin Triples twice in 1959, first as a practice and second to mark the 50th anniversary of the first peal in the method at Gateshead.

Right until the end Ken preserved his intense interest in the up-to-date ringing news both local and national and in SS James & Basil affairs. In closing his address the Vicar repeated the reading from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy (v 6/7), which he felt marked Ken’s last days;

“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.”


(On a personal note, I am glad that Kenneth recruited Eric Harrison and myself from the Bible Class to Fenham belfry in 1948. Over the years he has kept in touch with my ringing career, and indeed aged 93 he promptly sent me a card (of SS James & Basil church naturally) of congratulation when he read in The Ringing World that I was elected Master of the St Paul’s Cathedral Guild).

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