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Roy Retires

 

Chris Denmark (left) and Roy Wiles in the ringing room at Hethersett

 

When fresh faced teenager Roy Wiles heard the bells of St Remigius Church, Hethersett, he was entranced and “felt like having a go.” 

Well over 40 years later, Roy is retiring as Ringing Master, teacher and adviser at Hethersett Parish Church. Over that time he has continued his love of bell ringing and will stay on as Ringing Master Emeritus – an honorary position within Hethersett Bellringers. He will also be present to share his expertise as and when needed. 

Roy admits that he didn’t find ringing easy at first: “I really wanted to give it a try to see how I got on. At first I struggled a bit and found some of the ringing very difficult. Slowly everything began to slot into place.” Roy persevered and never looked back. 

Roy, who was born and bred in the village, and who has lived all his life in Mill Road, was the first person outside the Moore family to become Ringing Master. Sam Moore was the first villager to take on the position and he passed it to his son George. He in turn handed over the reins to his son Charlie, who was in charge for 33 years, before Roy took over. After 44 years and 20 days of being Ringing Master, Roy announced his retirement at the ringers’ recent annual meeting. 

In his time “in charge of the tower” Roy has rung for six different rectors and will shortly add another when a new incumbent is announced. He has led his team at induction ceremonies, weddings, funerals and a number of special events such as the Queen’s Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees, Royal Weddings and last year’s Olympic celebrations. Roy and his team have practised virtually every Thursday evening during his time in charge and he has always tried to inject some fun into the art, encouraging his fellow ringers to enjoy a “laugh and a joke.” 

“I always tell new people not to look up. When you pull a rope down it is only coming through a hole in the ceiling and if you look up you could get an eye full of dust. We always try to make our ringing lively and jolly and visitors have complimented us on this,” he said.  

Over the years Roy has been acknowledged as a Norfolk authority on the methods and procedures of bell ringing and has appeared on Radio Norfolk, BBC Television and in newspapers. He is Vice-President of the Norwich Diocesan Association of Bell Ringers and has perfected the art of being able to take part whilst issuing instructions to his fellow bell ringers. 

Bellringers rival sportsmen in their love of dates and statistics. Roy has kept a record of all his rings, although he admits some work is needed to put them in order. He vividly remembers his first practice in St Remigius which took place on April 10th, 1958 for Easter services. 

Over the years Roy has had to stay very focused and fit both mentally and physically: to ring a complete peal can take up to three hours (Roy has rung 40 of these). The ringing chamber at St Remigius is up 42 very narrow stairs and that’s a journey Roy estimates he has taken well over 5,000 times. In addition he was for many years responsible for manually winding up the church clock every week until electronic parts were installed a few years ago. 

The Hethersett Company of Bellringers currently has 16 members. The new Ringing Master will be Chris Denmark who has 46 years of experience under his belt and says that he is “really looking forward to the challenge.” Roy believes the future of ringing in Hethersett will be in safe hands.