Bill Hicks was born at Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, on Coronation Day, May 12, 1937. Although initially given the names William Robert by his parents, they were prevailed upon also to add the additional name George in honour of the new King, George V1. Bill eventually moved with his family to live in Clifford Chambers, a small village a mile or two outside Stratford-upon-Avon, which is where he leant to ring at St Helen's Church before leaving to join the Army for national service in the early 1950's. It would be about thirty years later that he would resume bell ringing after attending a recruiting day for new bell ringers at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1981.
Bill had the misfortune of being ill in the year prior to taking his 11 plus. This sadly meant that he missed out on vital school work and ultimately was not able to achieve the grades he wished for and go on to grammar school. He always looked upon this as his personal failure; ultimately his family recognised it to be a failure of the system! This early disappointment haunted Bill for the rest of his life and he surrounded himself with books to gain for himself as much knowledge as possible. Becoming extremely well read, he often had at least 4 or even 5 books on the go at any one time.
During the thirty years he was a regular ringer at Holy Trinity Church, he initially supported the late Dr Michael Wilcox with the maintenance of the bells, a job he continued to do regularly until only very recently. His care and regular attention has ensured that the bells and their fittings remain in very good order, in spite of them being more than sixty years old.
Bill was able to turn his hand to most things, and whatever he undertook, he saw through to the very end. Whether it was learning a new method, or learning about heraldry, wine making or collecting shells, he would plunge headlong in and would not rest until the subject had been mastered to his satisfaction. When tracing his family history, he managed to go back to the 16th Century – no mean feat, bearing in mind that his forebears were mainly farm labourers!
Bill was our Deputy Tower Captain and over the years he nurtured and supported many new ringers. I know that the time, energy and encouragement he gave to all of them were greatly appreciated. Bill became regularly involved with the KES Ringing Club, an initiative started by a teacher at King Edward V1 Grammar School. I know how proud Bill was of all the youngsters achieved, and how much he enjoyed watching their development and confidence grow week by week. Hopefully these young people will become the ringers of the future and Bill has played a significant part in making sure that they have all received a solid start to their ringing careers.
Bill passed away very suddenly on the 8 October and his death left many in Stratford-upon-Avon, not just ringers, deeply shocked and stunned. We have all lost a great friend and I know that I speak for all the Stratford ringers when I say, life up in the tower will just not be the same again.
Well over two hundred people attended the funeral and the bells
were rung open both before and after the service. There were many
tributes, but perhaps one of the most poignant came from his two
daughters, Jane and Sarah. They said that if he were here, he would
not a bad turn out for Old Bill the
Toolmaker He would also have followed that up by saying
that people were there because they just fancied a good
cup of tea and a piece of cake after the funeral.
Bill throughout his life never saw himself as anything special. But to everyone else, he was an extremely kind and modest man, someone who was always around to give help and support, always willing to go the extra mile and we will all miss him dreadfully.
A quarter peal of Grandsire Triples is to be rung within the next few weeks at Holy Trinity Church, a method Bill greatly enjoyed, and I am sure that when it is rung, he will be listening. (See box alongside. Ed). Bill's ashes will eventually be interred with his parents in the churchyard at Clifford Chambers, the Warwickshire village he loved throughout his life and where he may now rest in peace.
We extend our deepest sympathies to his daughters Jane and Sarah and their families, partner Annie and to his brother James.
God bless you Bill, you will not be forgotten.
Charles Wilson, Captain of the Ringers
(This Obituary also appeared in
The Ringing World of 23rd November. It was supplied to this Newsletter for publication by Charles. Ed)