Ronald F Diserens (1936 – 2020) obituary

Ron was born in Balham in 1936, the fourth child of Albert and Freda, the family subsequently moving to Reading after a brief evacuation to Bracknell. He was taught by his father to ring towards the end of World War II. Both Ron’s parents were ringers who were active in London between the wars. He learnt to handle with his brothers Jim and Neville and his sister Audrey at St. Mary’s Reading on tied bells. After learning to handle, the family went over to Caversham: first to practice on tied bells and, once the war was over, on open bells.

Not long after the war’s end, Albert took over as tower captain at St. Mary’s Reading and the family moved its ringing back there. Ron rang his first peal at Goring on Thames in 1949 and soon joined his brother Jim on peal tours to Wales, Scotland and Ireland organised by Wilfred Williams throughout the 1950s. Touring became quite a theme for Ron as he also joined the Roving Ringers travelling, often by bicycle, throughout the UK. Ron was introduced to Pat, his future wife when she joined a university friend at a practice night at St Mary’s in 1958; the couple were married in 1962 and moved to Winnersh and then to Storrington for three years, returning to Reading in 1966.

Ron quickly became a key member of the St Mary’s band, which by the early ‘60s had developed (with the Diserens family as its core) into one of the top Sunday service bands in the country, regularly ringing home-band peals of Surprise Major – not such a common thing then. The band considered it important that the position of Tower Captain rotated around the band, and Ron would have taken his turn along with conducting a proportion of the peals: in total he conducted 98. The family also developed some handbell ringing – the party piece being a ‘demonstration’ course of London Major. It’s a pity they never went on to ringing any peals as a family. However, handbells was not Ron’s thing: he rang just one peal of Plain Bob,

As was common in this period, Ron focussed on local and regional ringing – most of his peals then were in the Reading/ODG/Surrey area with occasional forays to ring with Derek Sibson in Sussex. At this time, Ron was regularly ringing peals of Surprise Maximus, including taking part in the Bristol Maximus revival with David Hilling in 1968 which led on to the method being so popular today. Ron’s wife, Pat was also active at this time, with peals on twelve together with Ron. She dropped out of ringing when they started a family. Ron did teach his three children to handle a bell, but none of them caught the bug.

Ron joined the Society in 1951. Some think this is a bit strange as both of his brothers were so active in the College Youths and that the Diserens is a traditionally College Youths family. In fact, the opposite is true. Both Ron’s parents were Cumberlands as was his brother Jim who had not yet jumped ship to join the College Youths. (Neville hadn’t joined either society at that time) – so it was only natural that Ron would join the Society. Cumberlands have always outnumbered College Youths in the Diserens family, including Jim’s wife Helen and Ron’s wife Pat.

Ron had joined the Civil Engineering firm of Howard Humphries in 1952 and in 1969 accepted a two-year posting to Ghana with Pat, Janet and Martin, their first two children. The family returned to Reading in 1971 where their second daughter Catherine was born, finally moving to Dorking 1981. Ron joined the local band there continuing to ring a handful of peals each year including trips up to London for peals at Shoreditch with Derek. He rang 182 peals for the Society. Ron’s work took him all over the world during his 46-year career, developing a love of travel that extended well past his retirement in 1998 and included a number of long-haul ringing expeditions with Derek Sibson and others.

In 2006, Ron was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He realised that he wasn’t far off his 1000th peal, but that time to complete it was finite. Having retired, with time on his hands, he ended up joining several peal bands active in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. He quickly passed his 1000th and the momentum continued, ringing a total of 1411, before his illness prevented him continuing some two years ago.

Ron was quite a shy person, never one to put himself forward, let alone into the limelight. He was happiest ‘just taking part’. The fact that Ron took part in so much quality ringing is entirely down to his own merits as a ringer. He was a completely reliable striker, preferring good striking to complex methods – he once commented that anybody can learn methods, but the real skill is in getting good striking. Having said that, Ron was an incredibly dependable method ringer – ringing anywhere in the circle with the minimum of fuss, rarely making trips, let alone needing to be put right.