The Field Number 2 - My father & the one armed bell ringer

Tom Winnifrith Monday 6 February 2017


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My father says that he remembers the name of the man who liberated goldfish, hastening their swim to meeting their maker: it was Mr Hutt. Winnifrith Senior 1 Alzheimer's nil. This surprising defeat of the Alzheimer's creates a long discussion, was that Fred Hutt or was Fred his brother or indeed related at all. Fred, who I am sure was not the goldfish liberator and who I am far from certain was a Hutt, but was certainly called Fred enters my memories of Byfield for two main reasons: he had only one arm and he was a bell ringer at the Church.

Fred was one of those fellows in Byfield, of whom there were many, who had been abroad just once in their life, that was to say on that great mass expedition to France in 1944. Somewhere along the line he had returned to Byfield and had then never travelled further than Banbury of Daventry as he retreated to the safety of that little world.

My mother was a fairly accomplished singer, played the flute, recorder and piano and was jolly musical. I remember her taking me to Banbury to concerts in which she was appearing. My father, like myself is tone deaf. He is a loud and enthusiastic singer in church but musical ability is not quite his middle name. While the Good Lord will score him highly for effort over many years, he will find it hard to score him anything other than harshly for technical merit.

None the less he thought he would show willing by trying his hand at bell ringing. I did accompany him once or twice and noted that the bell ringers, away from their wives for the belfry was an all male preserve, seemed to enjoy drinking quite a bit of beer. It was thirsty work.

My father was the youngest and strongest so was given the big bell. The other ringers were men of the same age as Fred, that is to say in their fifties. All of them apart from Fred had two arms and I asked my father if, given his well known lack of musical ability, he was better than the bell ringer with one arm. That question remained unanswered but he did boast that the Byfield Bell Ringers came fifth in the South Northamptonshire championship with him and Fred in the team.

I was genuinely impressed and congratulated him. This prompted the confession that there were only five teams in the contest.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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