Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Obituary; Graham Hall of Bretforton

Graham (centre), with Tony Shilham (left) and Thelma James (right), taken on Monday 4th June 2012 when Bretforton bells were rung to open the village celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. (From a photo by Roger Hunt.) The malt whisky was courtesy of 'The Fleece'!

As 2013 drew to a close the village of Bretforton lost another of its sons with the passing of Graham Hall, the local tower captain, on November 7th at the age of 66 years. Graham had grown up in Bretforton learning to ring at St Leonard's church, as did his father Alf before him, besides playing cornet with Bretforton Silver Band amongst the many other pursuits on offer to the local youth.

He established himself as a haulier with a small fleet of lorries and employed his skills as both a mechanic and driver whenever the situation required. Following his marriage to Linda, a local girl from the Jelfs family, they nurtured their two children, Stuart and Karen, and as time passed enjoyed their three adoring grandchildren.

Whilst not playing with the Band for some years he maintained his allegiance and support for their longevity through being chair of the Supporters' Club and also a Trustee thus contributing to the strong fellowship that exists within their midst — Bretforton Silver Band is the only surviving village band in Worcestershire and has been going continuously since 1895.

Graham's term in office as the local tower captain extends back well before the Millennium arrived and he has kept together a small but loyal band of ringers. The onset of his illness several years ago curtailed his ability to both train recruits and ring for Sunday service with his periods of absence being covered by John and Hilary Bolton of Badsey whenever they could. His outstanding bravery and determination to triumph over his physical trauma involving several sessions of facial reconstruction and the attendant chemotherapy amazed everyone but sadly it was a battle that he could not win. In recent months he occasionally called in on the regular Thursday night practice — he last rang in the tower on August 15th ringing the treble to call changes.

Not surprisingly the church was packed at his funeral with some 30 people standing outside - such was his popularity with folk from not only Bretforton but also the wider Cotswold escarpment with whom he had rubbed shoulders in his travels over the years. Bretforton Silver Band played throughout the service and fittingly the local ringers had rung before. The tenor bell was tolled as he was interred a short distance away, at his wish, within earshot of his beloved bells. Donations given went to Bret Band, Bretforton Bells and Saving Faces (the charity who had supported him so well).

Later that day, a quarter peal was rung on Bretforton bells as follows:

St Leonard's, Bretforton, Worcs

Saturday, 23 November 2013 in 44 mins (9)

(240 Stedman, 480 Plain Bob and 540 Grandsire)

1 Sandra Parker
2 Martin Penny
3 Steve Bowley
4 Matthew Kemble
5 Roger Hunt (C)
6 John Cleveland

Rung to the memory of the local tower captain, Graham Hall, whose funeral took place here earlier today.

Although I knew Stan Betts, Wilf Newman and Philip Jelfs of the Bretforton ringers back in the 60s and 70s, Graham did not appear on my radar until 2003 when one of my sons joined the Silver Band. Our friendship grew as we rubbed shoulders supporting the band and eventually I found myself joining in with the local ringing on a regular basis. I found Graham to be totally reliable, forthright, a great pleasure to be in the company of and I am sure a tremendous loss to all who knew him. May he rest in peace.

Roger H Hunt