A Bell-Ringer Remembers

A Bell-Ringer Remembers

John Martin-Jones was a bell-ringer at St Peter’s and he writes;

What follows are my thoughts and memories of the people mentioned on these boards. My comments are purely based on my memories alone and are not intended to be seen as exhaustive.
1948 Peal

Colin D Linch must have been very young when this Peal was rung. I remember ringing with him at weddings in the 1980s. Rowland Barrow, I believe, had been very influential in his early life. Colin was always friendly and encouraging to all in the tower.

Ronald W Swann was badly injured in WW2, while out in the east. It took several days to get him to a hospital and he spent the rest of his days with a metal plate reinforcing his skull and a glass eye. He must have often been in discomfort in his post-war life and was a very impressive man.

Arthur W Skinner I remember ringing with him at weddings as he reached the end of his ringing days. He was a gentle man who had time for the young and offered encouragement.

Rowland Barrow was the ringer who discovered the rot in the oak bell frame at Belgrave in the late 1920s. It must have been a frightening sight, seeing the frame sway as the bells rang. He worked at the Abbey Pumping Station and kept the beam engines going through WW2 and beyond.

E.E.C. Jones I understand the he left Belgrave to take up the living of Market Bosworth. He was bed-ridden by the time his successor celebrated 25 years at Belgrave but sent his best wishes.
1970 Peal

Jack P Kesterton taught me to ring. He was a gentle, kind man and a superb ringer. He was taken prisoner by the Italians in WW2. When the Italians capitulated, the camps were thrown open and he was one of many, British, POWs who lived the best they could after this. During this period, he was taken in by an Italian family and this led to a life-long friendship with ‘Ricardo’ and his family (Jack and he would visit each other regularly in the following decades). Eventually, Jack was rounded up by the Germans and was in a camp until being liberated. I remember him talking about coming across burned out Panzer tanks, after liberation, and the smell of burnt flesh within them. The things he must have seen! On return from the war, he drove trams for the Leicester Corporation before moving to buses. Later he worked for the electricity board and retired from them, aged 65, as a draughtsman.
He was Tower Captain of Belgrave in later years and, well into his 70s, was able to stride around purposefully on top of the bell frame. I remember on one occasion, we had a rope snap and fall down on a ringer during practice. The bell stopped against its stay and stood, at the balance, mouth upwards. A glancing blow from a swinging bell will kill but Jack casually climbed the tower, stood on the frame and kicked the bell off the balance. It harmlessly rang itself down and all was well.
Jack and his wife Frieda have a memorial stone in Birstall cemetery. They didn’t have any children and that is a bloody shame as the world needs more people like Jack Kesterton.

Willian J Root or Bill Root, as I knew him, was a member of the old-school of master ringers who made sure that the bells chimed in perfect rhythm. As I get older, I appreciate the qualities of his generation’s approach more.

Christopher B Martin-Jones arrived in Leicester in 1961 as a graduate apprentice at the BUSM. He learnt to ring at St Peter’s and became an accomplished ringer but, in Peal ringing, kept pace and time by ringing the Tenor behind. By the time of the 1970 Peal, he was son-in-law to J Clarke the Churchwarden. Chris became Tower Captain after Jack Kesterton gave up ringing, a title to add to his others as Churchwarden, PCC Secretary, Altar Server and more. However, I am sure that his happiest ringing memories are from Jack’s years in charge.

Ken Quine became the Vicar of Belgrave in 1961. He retired in 1993 and died in 2011.

G.H. Jeffs. George was honorary curate. He had been involved in a serious car accident in the late 1960s when another car had driven into the back of his at a junction. A year later, he suffered a major stroke but made a remarkable recovery and continued in ministry at Belgrave for the rest of his life. I remember his as friendly, thoughtful and kind.

J. Clarke was born in 1912, the son of a Nuneaton miner and the second eldest of nine siblings. He left school aged fourteen and took a job in a market garden. Moving from job to job, his career reached its zenith when he worked as a managing director of the Wolsey knitwear company. He and his wife, Mary, joined St Peter’s in 1961 and remained faithful members for the rest of their lives. He retired as manager of the Belgrave and Wigston laundry in the late 1970s and lived to be 90. His and Mary’s ashes both lie in the graveyard on the South of St Peter’s.

A. Rainer was a signalman at Belgrave and Birstall station on the GCR. He and his wife, Edna, were loyal members of St Peter’s. In my time, they had moved to being members of the evensong congregation and usually sat near to my grandparents, Josh and Mary. Alf eventually lost the majority of his sight due to diabetes but continued to attend church. My fondest memory of Alf is of him lighting candles for a carol service with a fierce petrol lighter that appeared more of a flame-thrower to my young eyes.