Eynesbury man steps down after 50 years as lead bell-ringer at St Neots church

16:00 22 February 2014

Retired bell-ringer George Bonham at St Mary's Church, St Neots.

Retired bell-ringer George Bonham at St Mary's Church, St Neots.

Archant

Life may have changed in the last five decades since George Bonham was a 13-year-old choirboy, but one thing has stood the test of time – his love of bell-ringing.

Mr Bonham, 65, a retired financial advisor of Richmond Close, Eynesbury, has stepped down as tower captain at St Mary’s Church, St Neots, after ringing up 50 years of leading the team.

But while he has passed the controls to fellow bell-ringer David Griffiths, Mr Bonham has no plans to give up bell-ringing.

He said: “I felt that it could do with a splash of youth – I have been doing it my way all these years. I want to keep doing it because it keeps my mind active and I have a lot of friends there.”

Mr Bonham was persuaded to try out the hobby back in 1961 when the ringers at the church were desperate to find new recruits. A couple of years later, he was appointed tower captain by the vicar, Canon Leonard Galley.

He said: “I had to learn a lot because there were so few experienced people around at the time.

“It is said to be as difficult as learning to ride a bike. It’s about the same to actually handle a bell, while developing technique is never-ending.”

Mr Bonham soon became hooked, travelling to other churches almost every night of the week to hone his skills and taking control of the ropes at St Mary’s every Sunday.

“I was totally sucked in – it was the camaraderie I suppose and the aspect of challenge,” he said.

Bell-ringing became a part of all aspects of his life – including romance. It was through the hobby that he met his wife Avril, 62, when she came to the church for lessons back in 1974. A year later, they were married in St Mary’s.

“There was no other place it could be,” said Mr Bonham. “I’ve been associated with the church all my life.”

Their children, Claire, 35, and David, 31, also learnt to ring, but have since given it up.

Since he was appointed as tower captain as an enthusiastic teenager, Mr Bonham has retained the post – with the exception of one year when he stood aside to let someone else have their chance as captain.

His achievements to date include ringing 941 peals, of which he has conducted 150, with an average time of two hours and 58 minutes. Two of those were on handbells and one was in a guards van on a train from Edinburgh to Leicester so that he could ring a peal in two countries.

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