1920 - 2012

It is with great regret that we heard earlier this month of the death of Harold Neilson, long-standing member of the Hartlepool-Stranton team of ringers.

Harold learnt to ring before the War. He immediately joined up and became a gunner in the RAF. Harold’s activities during the War read like a boy’s comic adventure book. Shot down over Dijon, Harold was rescued by the French Resistance and slowly made his way back to the channel port of Brest. Here he heard the code message ‘the chestnuts are hot’. This meant that he had to rendezvous with a fishing boat off the French coast. This was the end of Harold’s career on the ‘front line’. It was thought that if he were to be caught again he might be forced to give away too much about the French Resistance networks.

At the end of the war, Harold returned to his former job of woodworker and picture framer. Apart from his ringing activities he was also deputy commissioner for the Hartlepool Scouts. Both ringers and scouts were well represented at the funeral service – proof of the love and high esteem in which he was held by all who knew him.

A quarter peal was rung immediately after the service with a second a few days later. Both teams consisted of ringers who had known Harold for many years and newer younger volunteers who have come to join the rejuvenated Hartlepool team in the past few years.

Recently, Harold felt that the Stranton staircases were not for him but he could not leave his beloved belfry entirely. For the past few months he manned the door and greeted ringers and visitors alike with a cheerful word of welcome.

Harold will be much missed. He leaves a son and daughter, his wife Nancy having died six years ago. His last years were spent with Kath, a fellow ringer, who made his final years so full of warmth and happiness.


BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers