It is with deep regret that the Furness and South Lakeland Branch has to report the passing of Thomas F Metcalfe MBE on Christmas Eve 2020. He became a member of LACR in 1957 when he was a ringer at St John’s, Flookburgh. Since then he has been hugely influential in all aspects of the life and organisation of the Branch, serving as Branch Secretary from 1964 to 1986 and becoming Bell Advisor to the Furness and Lake District Branch in 1963. His exceptional ringing skills and enthusiasm for sharing these with others, has meant that many of our ringers owe their achievements to him. Latterly he was Tower Captain at both St Mary’s, Great Urswick and St Cuthbert’s, Kirkby-in-Furness, where he continued to be an inspiration and an example to those whom he taught. His talents as a Bell Engineer are legendary, both in the Branch and in LACR, where he became an Honorary Vice President. Tom’s contributions to bell ringing were recognised in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List, when he was awarded the MBE. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

Below are two tributes to Tom submitted by Branch members, Peter Gardner (St Mary’s, Ambleside) and Andy Pollock (St James the Great, Barrow).

My first recollection of ringing with Tom was Boxing day 1972, a peal of Stedman Caters at Preston conducted by my mentor Cyril Crossthwaite. More recently on my return to the North, Tom and I rang together frequently throughout the 90’s. At that time, he was very active in the Furness and South Lakes Branch. He organised practices with other members and arranged many peals for the Branch which he usually conducted. I particularly remember the fairly regular trips to Inverary and Edinburgh for ten bell peals. The bands were predominantly Branch members with some from the Carlisle DG.

No doubt others will recollect his considerable bell hanging and other engineering skills and details of his work in the augmentations of the rings at: Broughton in the mid 90’s, Kirkby Ireleth around 2000 and Great Urswick about 6 years ago. One unusual peal from this period was Plain Bob Cinques on 11 bells (no cover) in 1994 before he had installed the current treble of the 12. Also, Tom was not too happy with the Tenor so he hunted around for another one. He found and installed a more suitable bell with a bit more weight.

We at Ambleside had particular reason to value Tom’s expertise as he supervised and managed the voluntary work in rehanging and ¼ turning the bells between 1995-1998. The plain bearings and gudgeons of the front bells were so worn they were too difficult for learners to handle. They were replaced with self-aligning ball races and the clappers were overhauled. Removing the very heavy Tenor headstock (and refitting it) plus getting it down and back up the spiral stairs involved some interesting moments and words! What a difference to the handling of the bells and we started to teach learners. Thank you, Tom.

For various reasons around 2000 Tom lost some interest in ringing other than at Kirkby and later at Great Urswick. But he rang with his good friend Richard Palmer in the first 12 bell peal at Preston in 2004, then he did a bit more after 2010 including peals on the Tenor at Ambleside and a couple at Great Urswick. I was pleased to meet Tom again after his last illness. This was at Kirkby earlier this year and we rang a peal of Little Bob Major. A few weeks afterwards we were in lockdown. RIP.

Peter Gardner (St Mary’s, Ambleside)

I remember the heyday of Broughton-in-Furness in the early 1990’s, when I was introduced to ringing, with all the excellent ringers (local and across the Branch) who came to the practices. I had the perfect environment in which to learn with a strong and stable band around me, and, typically, with a stander-by, on 6, 8 and 10 bells (and later 12!). Tom was excellent at putting people right whenever they hesitated, drifted or fell off the blue line! Tom was at the centre as Tower Captain, and jovially managed excellent practices with plenty of encouragement and a good variety of ringing that ensured each and every ringer had the opportunity to stretch themselves. As a learner I looked up to Tom and all these good ringers, and appreciated the good standard and striking – giving me something to strive toward one day. The good tower atmosphere extended to ringing trips including Lincolnshire, Bedale and regular trips to Inveraray – very happy days and memories. This is where I clocked up many of my peals with Tom, and with plenty of encouragement made great strides in my ringing ability despite being not as naturally gifted as many of my ringing peers. In recent years, I occasionally visited the Great Urswick practice where Tom was in charge and there was a familiar warm welcome and light hearted banter around some solid teaching.

Tom had been teaching others for more than 50 years, probably for about 25 years before I started, and continued to teach ever since. I wonder how many ringers have learnt to ring under his tutelage over that time, and how many ringers in the Branch he has conducted or rung peals and quarter peals with! Some of his students are now teaching other ringers and/or have roles in the Branch. He leaves behind his wife Jennifer, and sons Stephen, Andrew and James and grandchildren. My thoughts and prayers are with them all at this difficult time.

Andy Pollock (St James the Great, Barrow)

Keith Hackney, Furness and South Lakeland Branch Secretary