Obituaries

Dennis R. Randall

at St Paul'sDennis was born in Templecombe, Somerset and died at his home in Chatham on 9th June 2012 At the age of 81.

He started work as a youngster on the Somerset and Dorset railway based at Everccreech Junction. He became a fireman on the footplate and worked the Pines Express amongst his other duties. This express was normally headed by a Stanier Black Five and this became one of his favourite locomotives. Hearing the bells at Ditcheat inspired him to progress with his ringing in the 1950s and he attended practices at that tower which housed what became his favourite peal of bells. In the later 1950s he came to London and for a brief spell was a fireman on the Bullied Pacifics and other locomotives working out of Waterloo before becoming a driver on the electric trains of the Southern Region. Well loved by his fellow railwaymen he was affectionately known by them as ‘cue-ball’ on account of his distinguished shiny pate.

On his arrival in London he rang with T. H. Taffender’s Sunday evening service quarter peal band and was elected to the College Youths in April 1957 before becoming a member of the St Paul’s Cathedral Guild and the Westminster Abbey Company. He became steeplekeeper at both these towers and also at Imperial College, Jewry and Cornhill and a first class steeplekeeper he was too. If a clapper broke at St Paul’s Dennis would see that it was quickly replaced to ensure there would be no interruption in service ringing. He was, in effect, the last ‘King of Scroofs’. ‘Scroof’ is an old London term for the ringers who did much of the central London ringing in a bygone age.

Dennis was not a prolific peal ringer, but to have Dennis in the band encouraged us to expect good ringing. His first peal was on the treble to Stedman Doubles at Templecombe on 16th August 1947 conducted by Ronald Beck. As some indication of his ability he rang the 7th at St Paul’s in the half-muffled peal there following the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. He also rang the 9th at Cornhill to a peal of Stedman Cinques silent and non-conducted at the first attempt. We had Teddy Barnett of the Cumberlands and David Parsons sitting in the ringing chamber as referees on that occasion so everything had to be strictly correct. Afterwards in the pub I asked Dennis how he knew when the bells came round. He looked me straight in the eye and replied “when everyone looked the same way”! Dennis had a lovely sense of humour.

He would always rise to the bait, and say the opposite – you used to work on the old Slow and Dirty, Dennis. No, it was the Swift and Delightful. Dennis was also an expert card player – his speciality was the game of crib. It also happened to be the favourite game of the resident landlord of The Rising Sun in Carter Lane which opened on both Saturdays and Sundays in those days and was frequented by the CYs and the St Paul’s Guild. On sighting Dennis, Fred the landlord would almost immediately challenge him to a game of Crib for a free pint. The games would invariably go to Dennis who would enjoy himself on free beer for most of the evening! Dennis and his ringing pals continued to meet long after he was no longer able to ring, when we would rehearse the familiar stories, anecdotes and good memories of yesteryear. His pals would agree there was something very special about Dennis as a friend.

The College Youths rang a quarter peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus at St Paul’s Cathedral to his memory.

The body of Dennis was received into Westminster Abbey to rest overnight prior to his funeral. There was a short service, and a beautifully struck course of Triples was rung on handbells by members of the Abbey Company. The following day there was standing room only at Medway Crematorium where family and friends paid moving tributes to Dennis.

His wife Margaret predeceased him earlier this year. He leaves his son David, his stepdaughter Margaret and a goodly number of grandchildren. They all showed him an old fashioned respect and affection – something of a patriarchal figure. He will be sadly missed by all those who knew him.

JIM PHILLIPS

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CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers