A BELL-RINGER has led a celebratory peal at his parish church to mark his 100th birthday.
Dennis Brock hit the milestone last month, but the celebrations did not stop him leading the bell-ringing team at St Mary’s, Sunbury-on-Thames, as he has done since the Second World War.
In the run-up to the peal on 23 November, Mr Brock had become something of a celebrity. Radio, TV, and newspapers wanted to interview him and report the story of his achievements, and his MP, Kwasi Kwarteng, drew the attention of Theresa May to his achievement at Prime Minister’s Questions, in Parliament, on 14 November.
“I am very pleased to wish Dennis Brock a very happy 100th birthday, and to pay tribute to him for his 87 years of bell-ringing,” Mrs May said. “I think the support he has given, the work he has done, and his commitment to St Mary’s, in Sunbury-on-Thames, are truly inspiring.”
Mr Brock rang his first peals before the Second World War, then survived combat in North Africa, serious injury, and capture, before coming back to lead the St Mary’s ringers. He remains tower captain to this day.
On his birthday, Mr Brock professed to be unperturbed by the fuss. “It felt like a special occasion because so many people came to celebrate with me; but, in other ways, it was just another quarter,” he said afterwards. “It was a musical composition that we’ve rung before, and I felt confident we were going to get it.”
RINGING WORLDMedia attention while Dennis Brock opens his cards in the church
His fellow ringers were full of praise: “Immaculate ringing — he looked so relaxed,” Mary Gow said. “Steady as a rock,” Geraldine Forster observed; and a third, Mike Wigney, who also conducted the peal, said: “There was never any doubt we would get it. He rang extremely well, as usual.” The Vicar of St Mary’s, the Revd Andrew Downes, rang the tenor, and said that it had been a privilege to ring with Mr Brock on his birthday.
The peals of Grandsire Triples and Bob Minor were rung simultaneously at towers in Hampton and Shepperton near by, in honour of Mr Brock’s landmark.
Chris Rogers, who was in charge of the Hampton quarter and whose father, Harold, was a peal ringer into his nineties, had researched the question. “We can say with confidence that no ringer previously has rung a quarter-peal at the age of 100,” he said.
“It is a tremendous achievement that he has kept the band going at Sunbury,” Mr Rogers said. “The amazing thing is how fit and able he is, and how sharp his memory.”
Among the helpers who provided refreshments for the ringers and the Sunday celebration was Mr Brock’s daughter Lorna. She was taught to ring by her father in the 1960s, and recalls the pleasure of ringing a quarter with him: Grandsire Triples, in 1971.
“Then children came along, and I never got back into ringing,” she said. Both her daughters, Helen and Belinda, did, however, learn to ring, and Belinda remains a member of the Sunbury band.
Over the years, Mr Brock, as tower captain, has recruited and trained hundreds of people to join him in ringing the bells, and many returned to St Mary’s for his birthday celebrations.
The future looks promising, too: three new adult ringers have arrived, thanks to the Ringing Remembers scheme, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards inspired two teenagers to sign up.
“They’re all showing promise,” Mr Brock said. “I just hope they’ll stick at it, and get as much pleasure from ringing as I’ve had.”
This article first appeared in The Ringing World. Reproduced with thanks. www.ringingworld.co.uk.