Hand bell and tower bell ringers at Melton’s St Mary’s Church gathered to say goodbye to eighty-two-year-old John Sutton, who has retired from the group after dedicating 30 years of his time.
On September 20, John thought he was going to celebrate the birthdays of four members of the bell ringing team, so imagine his surprise when he discovered it was also a surprise party for him.
Bell ringing members wished him well and presented with a voucher for afternoon tea for two a Nice Pie tea room in Old Dalby.
John said: “The presentation was completely unexpected. I was shocked. Marian, my wife, did a great job keeping the secret. She told me we were going along to celebrate the birthdays of friends.”
John’s love of bell ringing happened by chance. He was persuaded by Marian to volunteer to take people up the church tower on Melton Day in 1986.
While he was there he got talking to then tower captain Liz Carter and she showed him the church bells. He enjoyed bell ringing so much that three years later, when Liz left, he became tower captain, a role he cherished for 14 years before handing over to present incumbent William Saywell. He has been deputy tower captain ever since.
Unfortunately for John, ill health has forced him to give up bell ringing.
He added: “It’s a great shame as I will miss it very much. I’ve rung the bells at so many services over the years. I don’t think I missed many.
“When I took over as tower captain the bells were in a poor condition. I did a lot of work to improve them.”
Many people have been taught and encouraged to ring the bells at St Mary’s Church by John over the years.
Wendy Saywell, who is also group leader of the hand bell ringers, and who helped organise the surprise party for John, said: “John put in a huge amount of time and effort as tower captain. He has taught many ringers and has always been a great encouragement to me.
“His work as tower captain meant he was also steeple keeper, which involves making sure that the church clock always has the right time.”
“John can also proudly say that his name is inscribed on bell number four in the church. When the bell cracked in 1994 it was recast and John’s name, along with two church wardens at the time, were added to it.”
John will continue as a deputy tower captain until the group’s annual general meeting in February.
If you’re interested in either joining the hand bell or tower bell ringers they both practice in St Mary’s Church on a Tuesday evening, the hand bell ringers from 6.30pm to 7.30pm and the tower bell ringers from 7.30pm to 9pm.