Memories of Roger Bailey

We're very sad that Roger has gone. We failed to ring a peal in his memory yesterday evening, but we managed a quarter afterwards. We'll try again for the peal another day.


Roger had a huge influence on my handbell ringing. I first met him in October 1991, when I arrived at Imperial College to start my PhD. I knew about his lunchtime handbell practices, so I went along one day and joined the group. At that time I had rung a few peals of Bob Major, and I could manage Yorkshire with a lot of concentration, but it was ringing with Roger that gave me the chance to develop further. I rang my first peal of Yorkshire Major, then a couple of peals of Surprise Royal, and then came my big breakthrough.

We had planned an attempt for a peal of Spliced Surprise Minor with Roger and Lesley Belcher. During the day, Roger decided that going for Major would be more likely to succeed (he was undoubtedly correct, because my grasp of the standard Surprise Minor methods was pretty shaky) so he phoned David Brown on the off-chance that he would be free. David was free, so he came along and called a peal of 8-spliced. This led to further arrangements and we rang most of Crosland's Spliced Surprise Major series; later, with Mike Trimm replacing Lesley, we rang other exciting compositions including Horton's Four and Norman Smith's 23-spliced. That period was the high point of my ringing career, and it would never have happened without Roger.

Roger's handbell ringing at Imperial College had a big influence on many handbell ringers over a long period. While I was there we used to practise three times a week, at lunchtime in Roger's office, and there were often two evening peal attempts on top of that. These open practices were very unusual in handbell ringing and Roger taught many people to ring handbells, including a few who never learnt to ring tower bells. Roger firmly believed that teaching is an integral part of ringing, and often said that being a ringer entails a lifelong obligation to teach other ringers.

A few other memories of Roger, in no particular order:

  • In 1992 I had organised a peal of Spliced Surprise Royal at Isleworth on a Friday evening, to be my first on 10 as conductor. I foolishly arranged for another member of the band to give me and Roger a lift by car. The A4 in West London is not a good place to be at 5 o'clock on a Friday. We arrived an hour late. Roger persuaded the rest of the band to go up the tower and start for the peal, which was successful.
  • Roger was a film enthusiast. One evening he invited me to go with him to see a Belgian film called Man Bites Dog, at the Odeon in Tottenham Court Road if I remember correctly. The film was great, although rather disturbing at times, and it opened my eyes for the first time to the world of non-Hollywood films.
  • Roger was also keen on hillwalking. One day in 1995, after a peal in Roger's office that included Steve Mitchell, Steve mentioned that he still had a space on a hillwalking holiday in Scotland that he was organising, and which Roger was going on. Roger suggested that I might like to join them, which I did. Steve organised these holidays regularly, with other ringers, and Tina and I joined them on several more. That gave us a taste for Scottish hillwalking, which eventually was a factor in our move to Glasgow. A few of those trips involved handbell peals too.
  • At some point Roger got involved in the Keele ringing courses, and he became a regular part of the team of tutors right up until the final course in 2010. I have many good memories of ringing and socialising with Roger and the rest of the course group during those years. The last couple of courses were after he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but it didn't slow him down much at that stage.
  • Another of Roger's ringing sub-genres was the ringing of handbell peals in other countries, especially countries without any tower bells. I'm sure he has rung peals in more countries than anyone else. In 1996 I spent the summer working in Paris, and one weekend Roger and Susie, with Mike Trimm and Ruth Blackwell, came out to visit me. We rang a peal of a new Surprise Major method and called it Paris, and managed to fit in another of Roger's interests by finding a showing of the seldom-screened Peter Greenaway film The Falls.
  • We also rang two handbell peals in Lisbon, both of Cambridge Minor. The first was in 2007, when Tina and I and the children were there for the autumn during my sabbatical. Roger came for a visit, bringing Julia Cater (and her daughter Bethany) with him so that we would have four ringers to form a peal band plus babysitter. Unfortunately only one of our two attempts was successful, so Tina didn't get her Portuguese peal that time. But in 2008 we were in Lisbon again for a shorter visit, and Roger and Susie came out; we rang a peal in our flat, slightly distracted by what seemed to be a piano lesson wafting up from the flat below.
  • Most recently, Roger visited us in Glasgow a few times, when we were going for our first peal with Jonathan and Angela. In the end we didn't get Angela's first peal on any of those trips, but he helped us along and was always willing to go for another attempt.

I could go on, but I think that's enough for now. I'm glad I knew Roger, and I'm going to miss him.