Denis Albert Frith
The Saint Wulfram’s Society of Change Ringers gathered on Saturday 11th June 2016 to ring in memory of Denis Frith who had died on 11th May aged 87 years.
Brian Buttery the Chairman of the Society thanked friends and members of the Lincoln Guild for joining the Society on this celebration of one of its members. He said,
"I started ringing in 1954 and was taught by the then Tower Captain, Sid Proctor. He taught me in a week - an hour a day after school - and allowed me to ring open at the Sunday service. He was as proud as punch at what I had achieved and said to the rest of the ringers.
"What do you think of that then?" Cyril Blakely replied in a very loud voice. "Not much" and that deflated both of us.
It was in the belfry the following Sunday that I saw a thin, gangly young man ringing on the sixth. This was Denis Albert Frith who I got to know very well over the next few years. I very soon got to know his very bouncy gait.
He was outspoken even in his early days in the belfry and wanted to have the tenor turned in and lobbied for methods other than Grandsire Caters and Stedman Caters. The old school was not amused. For example: the tenor clapper broke one morning while ringing and it crashed into the wall. In the Ringing World some weeks later Denis wrote to the Editor saying that "This was for the third time of blasting"
Denis was born at Silk Willoughby near Sleaford on 5th October 1928 and was self-taught to ring with the help of his uncle Henry Collin. He left school and joined the GPO telephones and after National Service in the Royal Signals Regiment came to Grantham in 1952 and set up home with his new wife Gill in Dudley Road. Being opposite the Lord Harrowby pub must have influenced him in choosing his first home.
Denis gave of his time to us young boys from the Kings School very generously and took us to Barkston for our 6 bell ringing. Barkston ringers had a very good reputation as theywere able to ring anything on 6 bells in those days. He organised our first peals and with the help of Fred Pinchbeck we were taken on mini tower grabs in the fens, Rutland and Lincolnshire.. We were taken in the Read laundry van, driven by Denis and navigated by Fred. I well remember Fred asking the way to a tower in Rutland when we had lost our way and was told by the farm worker who was stood by the side of a tractor. "Go down there and you’ll come to a big five barred gate. It’s not there now but turn left and you’ll come to the village". We eventually found the tower.
Denis’ life was ringing. He immersed himself in the life of the Lincoln Guild and first became Secretary and Ringing Master of the Southern Branch. It was during this time that he proposed holding Striking competitions; the Southern Branch being one of the first.
The First Guild final was at Branston. It was memorable in that Grantham was the first winners of the John Freeman Cup much to the upset of the Lincoln Cathedral Band.
Peal ringing was another aspect of his ringing life and he became well known throughout the exercise. He organised peal weeks and we would ring 2 peals a day for 5 days. This was a holiday? The first was at All Saints Stamford and about six weeks later withdrew it as he had called it false. He was ready to state his mind when ringing peals and many a ringer has been the subject of a blunt tongue. At Pinchbeck a certain gentleman from Bicker was told that he was "Ringing like a pregnant duck", which did not go down very well and we went on to lose the peal in the final 14 changes when Denis called, "You two have crossed over again. Stand" There then followed an argument between the pregnant Duck and Denis; while Denis pulled down all of the 8 bells for which we all very grateful.
He was also Guild Secretary and Central Council Representative We were very proud here in Saint Wulfram’s when Denis was elected Ringing Master of the Guild and he was for a short while Guild President.
His reputation went before him. He was not the easiest of men to get along with especially if the ringing was not up to standard but for all that he was a great ringer, a great friend and a great servant to the Exercise. We shall not see his like again. When he retired from ringing he had served this tower and bell ringing in general for nearly seventy years and he will be sadly missed."
To end with a poem: Christina Rossetti
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Will you please remember Denis in your prayers and I would ask you to raise your glass to drink to his memory. ‘The toast is Denis Frith’.