Today marked the end of an era for ringing in Saint Ives. This afternoon saw the funeral of Les Fisher. He was a small child when, in March 1918, the tower of Saint Ives church was hit by an aeroplane.
The pilot was killed, and amongst much other damage, the bell wheels and frames were smashed, the bells themselves falling to the belfry floor. It was over 12 years before the bells were ringable again — apart from rebuilding the spire and repairing all the damage to the church, it was decided to place the bells lower in the tower than before, at the level which had previously been the ringing chamber, and to ring the bells from the ground floor of the church. In addition the bells were melted down and recast as a somewhat lighter set of eight. Not until September 1930 was the new ring dedicated by the Bishop of Ely.
It was around this time that Les Fisher learnt to ring, and just a few years later, in 1935, he became a member of the Ely Diocesan Association of Church Bell Ringers, remaining a member until his death 70 years later.
Les was for many years the Tower Captain in Saint Ives, maintaining the ringing through the incumbencies of several vicars. In 1985 a peal was rung to celebrate his 50 years membership of the Ely DA, and it had been planned to ring a peal this year to mark the 70th anniversary. Sadly, this peal will instead now be rung to celebrate his life.
Many ringers were present at today’s funeral, amongst them George Bonham, Chairman of the Huntingdon District of the Ely DA, who captained the ringing before and after the service. The bells were rung half-muffled, a traditional symbol of mourning, and a rather eery sound, in which the handstrokes sound normally, and the backstrokes as a muffled echo.
Les will be remembered as the backbone of St Ives ringing over more than half a century. He will also be remembered as the donor of a model bell, which, with a model frame added by Bob King, enables us to demonstrate how a bell moves when it is rung. At the moment this model is not on display, but we hope to provide a suitable table and protective case so that it can be left on general view, both to encourage an interest in ringing, and also as a memorial to Les Fisher.
May he rest in peace!