John S Barnes obituary

John S Barnes
John S Barnes

John had many interests but ringing always came first. He rang his first peal in August 1948 and went on to ring nearly 100 peals for the Norwich Diocesan Association, including conducting several peals of Minor with first-pealers in the bands.

Following his move south he started ringing in North-West Kent and then in London, particularly with the Society. He had been elected in March 1953 and now, 10 years later, he was able to ring regularly with the Society. Dennis Beresford was Master at this time and recognised in John both a good method-ringer and an accurate striker and soon involved him in the 10- and 12-bell ringing that was being practised. Before long it was clear that John should be more involved in the running of the Society: he served as Junior Steward, twice as Senior Steward, twice as Secretary and ultimately Master in 1979. More recently he was a Trustee for 20 years, taking special interest in the Library and other assets.

He was elected as a Society Representative on the Central Council in 1969. It was not long before he realised the need for a committee to help affiliated societies with restorations and he proposed that a Bell Restoration Funds Committee be formed and this was agreed at the Lincoln meeting in 1975. For many years John was the chairman and driving force behind all the committee’s work, but then the amount of work with parishes increased substantially, so he relinquished the chair and became the Parish Contact. In this capacity he gave advice on all aspects of a restoration; indeed, there are many parishes up and down the country which would not have restored their bells, had it not been for the support that John gave so willingly. The Central Council acknowledged this by conferring upon John the honour of election as a Life Member.

John did not keep any record of his peals. His total of 507 included 268 for the Society, including peals in the United States and Australia. Nearly half of the peals were on 10 or 12 bells, with many ‘firsts’ for the Society. He was in the bands which rang multi-method peals of 165 Spliced Surprise Major, 126 Royal and 110 Maximus. John felt that the pinnacle of his peal-ringing was a peal of Orion at St Sepulchre’s Holborn in September 2001. It will be no surprise that his leading peal tower was Shoreditch with 105. A serious road accident some 20 years ago damaged his left hand, necessitating a change in his ringing style and accounts for a reduction in peals in later years. His last peal was in 2014.

John felt strongly about ringing for Sunday services and for many years was a member of the band at St Martin-in-the-Fields. After St Martin’s he went very regularly in later years to St John’s Waterloo Road and latterly to Christ Church, Spitalfields, all three on the same morning.

He was a member of the committee formed to plan the restoration, to undertake the fund-raising and to make the case for replacing the old St Martin’s bells. He contributed a great deal to the report that was produced to counter the arguments for retaining the old bells, which was eventually accepted by the diocesan authorities and resulted in the faculty being granted.

In 2017 the St Martin’s band marked John’s 70 years of ringing during the morning of Sunday 14th January, which was followed by John giving a brief talk about his ringing career to the congregation at the end of the service. After the service the band rang a specially composed quarter peal of 1270 Spliced Maximus, followed by a lunch to celebrate this huge dedication to bellringing.

For the past 40 years John co-ordinated the annual peal weekend, sending emails to organisers, collating the attempts and linking members to organisers. This year’s peals have been dedicated to his memory, in recognition of the vast amount of effort to ensure each weekend’s success and his stalwart support of the Society.

Ian Oram

A full obituary was published in The Ringing World issue of 20/27 December 2019 on pages 1264/5.