22 Sep 1937 – 19 Oct 2022


As a family they were bombed out of London in 1944 and settled eventually in Glasgow where Ken went to Giffnock School and Hutchesons Grammar. After, in his own words, a totally undistinguished academic career, he left home and school at sixteen to become a nursery boy in the Forestry Commission. After two years there, five years in the RAF and two years at college in Argyle, his first posting was Wittering near Peterborough. They had bells, three (now 6 bells, 5-3-12) and only two ringers. His boss was much involved with the church, which was the centre of village life, where he was recruited. He didn't know at the time that it was a plot: one of the other ringers was a teacher at the village school and at twenty-five the village thought it was high time she was married. Two years later there was the wedding of the year between the village teacher and the assistant forester, and two days after that Ken and Thelma arrived at Patshull & Pattingham in Staffordshire.

He had got a job as Head Forester with the Crown in Shropshire, so they moved to Patshull, where the estate church had six bells (10-0-21) but no ringers. He also joined nearby Pattingham which had eight bells (12-3-6) and a band. With a lot of help from Pattingham ringers and many others they got a band together at Patshull. Three of that band were grandsons of the Earl of Dartmouth: a blue blooded band! They continued to ring at both churches until the children came along, then they took it in turns.

Ken got involved with bands from Shropshire and Staffordshire resulting in ringing sixty-eight peals in the next few years from Essex to Wales, all over the Midlands, and Rutland to Edinburgh. They were lucky enough to ring peals of everything from doubles to maximus, including spliced surprise. He also rang eleven minor quarters in a day (they went for twelve) and ten major quarters in a day. The rule was different methods and different towers for each quarter. They had back-up bands going ahead to put the bells up, and another to get them down. Ken became the Tower Captain at Pattingham until July 1975 when work took him and the family to London. It was in that year that I first met Ken when I joined the Pattingham band in February 1975.

Ken and Thelma continued to take turns going on ringing tours and child minding until Ken re-joined the Commission and was sent to Ae Village, Dumfries Office and Castle Douglas. Despite an industrial injury that left him without a thumb, he just adapted by holding the rope between index and second finger.

In 2014 Ken was able to resume his ringing career when he joined the new band at Dumfries. He became at once a greatly valued member of the team, and his wise words and sensible advice will be much missed. He played a key role in starting the new band from scratch where his expert and seemingly effortless style of ringing, and his patience for teaching newcomers, was invaluable.

On 12th November members of the Dumfries band rang for 45 minutes in his memory: the bells were half muffled and his daughters and other members of his family came to listen.

Tony McIlwrick


Performance in memoriam