John’s funeral at Kingsway Christian Centre was attended by a large number of family and friends, a testament to the respect and affection in which he was held by so many. The ceremony reflected his faith and beliefs: a faith which had sustained him through some low points in his life; his unemployment when he first came home from Africa, his divorce in 1986 and the death of his son from cancer in 2004. The Kingsway Christian Centre was also the venue for one of the most joyful days of his life; his wedding to Janet on 5th December 1998, which was to herald a very happy chapter in his life. His choice of a cardboard coffin, decorated with flowers and foliage from his and Janet’s garden, reflected his concern for the environment. A large number of ringers were present including contingents representing histime in Birmingham and Southern Africa. Handbells were rung and St Luke’s, Great Crosby bells were well used for general ringing after the ceremony.

I first rang with John in a peal of Stedman Cinques at Birmingham Cathedral in December 1973. By that time he had firmly established himself on the ringing scene in Birmingham and his peal books reveal that he rang in many peals with Birmingham bands in 1973 and 1974. However he learnt to ring near his family home at Eling in Hampshire. His seventh peal was one of Bob Minor at Eling, the first peal by the local band. The band contained three first pealers and after the conductor, John Hartless, John appears to have been the next most experienced ringer! By the end of 1968 he had rung in peals which, at the time, were the most Doubles methods/variations and the most Minor methods on tower bells for The Winchester and Portsmouth Guild, both conducted by Derek Jackson. I rang a few more peals with John before he emigrated to South Africa. These were on the first “Lads” peal tour where he amply lived up to his nickname of “The Smethwick Syphon”.

John always enjoyed handbell ringing and it is fitting that the handbells used at his funeral were his own set. His first handbell peals were rung in Birmingham under the influence of Chris Rowson. With the opportunities to ring tower bells limited in Southern Africa much of the ringing he did there of necessity was on handbells both methods and tunes. I know that John particularly enjoyed and valued the handbell ringing he did with the band led by Sam Austin over the last few years in Liverpool.

On his return to the UK in 1984 John quickly established himself in Liverpool ringing circles where his knowledge and expertise were very welcome. Out of his total of 517 peals 241 were rung for The Lancashire Association. His last peal was one of Stedman Triples at Garston on June 9th last year, shortly before he was diagnosed with the prostate cancer that eventually claimed his life. John, though, was much more than just a peal ringer. He supported and encouraged local ringing in the Liverpool Branch where his ready wit and mischievous sense of humour will be sadly missed. Without ever formally being elected Tower Captain, for many years he led the ringing at Christ Church Bootle and most recently St Luke`s, Crosby. A fitting memorial to John would be that ringing at those two towers continues and thrives because, as was said at his funeral, John saw bell ringing as part of the ministry of the Church.

He will be missed, not least by his wife Janet, son and daughter-in-law Chris and Caroline and his Mum.

Rest in peace dear friend.


BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers