1935 - 2012
Brian was President of the Barnsley and District Society of Change Ringers and a very well known ringer in the area. He was brought up in Wath-upon-Dearne, which in those days was a mining town in the South Yorkshire coalfield, where he attended the Church of England National School. He joined the church choir and learnt to play the organ, eventually becoming the assistant organist.
When his voice broke in 1951 he was, so to speak, ‘kicked upstairs’ to learn to ring. It was here that he met his future wife Margaret who was also learning to ring. They, along with a group of other young people were taught to ring by Mr W. Green.
His National service was done in the Army Medical Corps when he was stationed at Shawncliffe Barracks near Folkstone in Kent.
He continued ringing in the local towers of Cheriton, Newington and Hythe and continued to play the organ in the garrison church.
On returning north he joined the West Yorkshire Police Force and rang on the higher numbers of bells at Wakefield Cathedral and Ossett, the eights at Rawmarsh and Wath but his real affinity was with six bell closed lead ringing (known locally as cartwheel ringing).
After training he joined the Traffic Police, eventually becoming a police driving instructor. He then became involved with his other passions of motor sport and rallying which luckily for most of the time runs on a different timetable to bell ringing.
Ringing at Sandal and Cawthorne he rang many methods named after local villages like Wragby, South Kirkby and Havercroft and the flower methods of Snowdrop, Violet and Woodbine as well as the more nationally known Oxford and Kent.
He rang a hundred and thirty five peals for the Yorkshire Association some of which had twenty to thirty of these methods spliced. Brian was a very steadying influence when it came to peal ringing, although occasionally he would tell very hairy stories about his days in the traffic police on the way there, which did little for the nerves. He was an experienced member of the band and a great comfort when three of the six of us were all first pealers!
He served on the committees of both the Central Branch of the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers and The Barnsley and District Society for many years. The Barnsley Society which rings in towers within a twelve mile radius of Barnsley generally rings closed leads. They will however make allowances for visitors but will usually suggest that they have a go at closed lead ringing!
Brian was President of the Barnsley Society in its centenary year in 2009 and very ably hosted the very crowded tea held in Cawthorne Parish Rooms, at which the president of the Yorkshire Association and the Mayor of Barnsley were present. He also played the organ in the service following the tea.
His funeral, which filled Wath-upon-Dearne Parish Church, had quarter peals rung in his honour both beforehand and afterwards. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Bell Repair Fund both benefited from the collection and donations.
He will be greatly missed by all his friends.
Brian Heppenstall – an appreciation
Brian’s earthly 76-year-old remains lie in the soil of the public cemetery at Wath some quarter-mile from the parish church of All Saints, Wath-upon-Dearne, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire and over it, every Sunday and on other occasions, the sound of the bells ringing out from the tower drift over, mingling with the song of birds and mostly overcoming the hum of the township’s traffic. Bells that Brian learnt to ring on in the 1950s, bells that rang out for his marriage to Margaret his devoted wife of 51 years and bells that rang out in full voice (not half-muffled) to quarter peals before and after his funeral service, whilst the last rites of the Anglican funeral were read and performed around this, his final earthly resting place.
His spirit and caring manner will live on even though the world in Wath will carry on with its daily routine, little caring about the man who became not only Tower Captain at Wath but then, due to pressures of work, moved to live in Sandal, near Wakefield where he joined the local team and in later years, also the team at Cawthorne, near Barnsley.
Never one to boast his ringing capabilities (open lead doubles, closed lead treble bob minor or whatever), he served his church as faithfully as he could, often with Margaret in the team and once a year returned at the time of his wedding anniversary to ring at Wath.
In his final five years he became a ‘founder’ member of Wath Old Codgers and friends which is a group of retired ringers who ring quarter peals roughly eight times a year before and after a social meal in a pub. He rang in the first quarter (up the 69 steps at Wentworth) for this group but in his final year, requested only ground-floor rings. His final quarter (and ringing session) was of plain bob triples at Bolsterstone in August 2011 and the same composition was rung as the Committal was in progress at Wath Cemetery.
Farewell Brian, God bless and may you rest with our Lord in eternal peace.