For Whom the Bell Tolled – 113 Times!

There are days in one’s life when you feel you are participating in history – today, for me, has been one of those rare days.

This morning (Friday, 29th July) at All Saints’ Church, Ryde, took place the funeral of 113-year-old Gladys Hooper. A more fitting end to a long and well-lived life I have rarely seen.

The eight bells, half-muffled, commenced their majestic ringing at 11am as press and television gathered in the West end of the church. At 11.20 each bell was stood in turn until  only the tenor bell rang its sombre message across Ryde.

At 11.30 the Royal Air Force-draped coffin entered the full church to enable family, friends and those who just knew Ryde resident Gladys, the oldest living person in the United Kingdom since January 2015, to say their final farewell.

As the funeral cortege prepared to leave after the Service, conducted by Reverend Canon Graham Morris, the 26.5cwt tenor bell called out this passing of 113 years to acknowledge this lady from the Edwardian era – another time, unimaginable to almost all of us.

Following this the full peal of bells rang out as the cortege and the  congregation departed.

This evening, as a mark of respect, a quarter peal of Single Oxford Bob Triples was attempted. However, after two failed attempts it was felt we abandon the effort and try on another occasion.

Notice will be given when the team are able to go ahead with this.

I should personally like to express my thanks to the following, who played their full part in making this Service the occasion it demanded: Jo Davis (1); Caroline May (2); Ken May (3); Jill Taylor (4); Roy Tillcock (5); Adrian Burns (6); Peter Taylor (7).

Yours truly, as Tower Captain, tolled the tenor. Is this length of a passing bell the longest ever rung by a member of a home tower I wonder? It was certainly momentous for me, as to this point in my 50 years of ringing, I think 92 was the longest for any funeral service I have had the privilege to toll the passing bell. To admit as 108 was struck I experienced some nervousness at being able to stand the bell after the 113th is probably stating the obvious!

However, all went as it should and I congratulate all ringers on a job well done.

I feel sure Gladys would have been amused at all the attention this received and All Saints’ ringers offer their condolences to the family in the hope that hearing our bells gave them some comfort for what must have been a difficult day with so much media attention at what is usually a quiet family event. RIP.

John Stock

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