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Centenarian in West Yorkshire still ringing changes in parish church

14 April 2022

DAVE HALL

Terry Holstead turned 100 in March

Terry Holstead turned 100 in March

AGED 100, Terry Holstead reckons that he is Britain’s oldest regular bell-ringer. “Certainly no one has challenged me so far,” said the former plumber, who celebrated his birthday last month.

Not even a case of Covid has put him off. After a period isolating, he plans to return tonight for practice at the ringing room of St Mary’s, Todmorden, in West Yorkshire.

“I still ring twice a week,” he said, “Friday practice and Sunday-morning service; but these days I don’t like to do more than about ten minutes a time. I have never rung a full peal — that can take up to three hours — but I used to do quarters, which go for about 45 minutes. I also did weddings and special events, but not now. However, I’ve no plans to retire just yet.

“It’s a great hobby; you have to be quite fit. Strength is important, but it’s more mental than physical. Bell-ringing is music but it’s also mathematics. It’s about counting the places where you come in. You have got to hold the combinations of the numbers in your head. I’m sure it keeps me mentally sound.”

He first got into bell-ringing as a teenager in the 1930s. “Four of us lads went to Christ Church, in Todmorden, and they agreed to teach us the art. It was probably a mistake — four teenagers were something of a handful — but I have loved it ever since.”

The start of the Second World War meant that church bells were not to be rung except to warn of invaders, and, in 1940, Mr Holstead was called up into the RAF. It was 1951 before he returned to bell-ringing and joined the Lancashire Association of Change Ringers. In 1961, he became a Reader.

When Christ Church closed, in 1992, he moved to St Mary’s, where a new set of eight bells had been installed. “It proved to be a wise move as I got older,” he said. “It is a ground-floor ringing room; so there are no steps to climb.”

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