29th September 1954 - 6th August 2014

Catherine learnt to ring in 1968 on the 3cwt six at Christ Church, Radlett, alongside several other members of the church youth group. By the time she arrived as a Theology student at Durham University in 1973, she was a useful ringer of the standard six bell methods. She joined the Durham University Society and made quick progress on higher numbers of bells under the attentive eye of her future husband, Jeff, who was the current Master. Her first peal was of Plain Bob Minor at the University tower of St Brandon’s, Brancepeth, conducted by Jeff.

Catherine completed her studies with a teaching certificate in 1977, and she and Jeff married that summer. They settled in Leeds, joining the then flourishing band at St Michael’s Headingley. In 1980 they decided to start a band at the silent tower of Christ Church, Upper Armley. Catherine eventually took over from Jeff as tower captain and maintained a steady Sunday Service band there until changing circumstances led to the decline of the band in the early years of the new century. Armley bells were rung for just one service each Sunday, so this allowed Catherine and Jeff to join the band at Wakefield Cathedral too. They rang there for several years before leaving in 1999 to help form the new band at Leeds Parish Church. Their three sons, Alan, Philip and Jonathan, all benefited from early exposure to 12-bell ringing and all went on to become capable 12-bell ringers.

Catherine was for some time a driving force behind the Leeds Branch of the Yorkshire Association, holding the posts of Secretary and Ringing Master. She was in the Branch band which rang a peal of Newgate S Maximus in 1981, no mean feat for a district band over thirty years ago. She was a member of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths and was very proud to be one of a relatively small number of members in the area, steadfastly refusing to defect when another society decided to admit women to its ranks. She rang 9 peals with the Cumberlands, but her leading association was the Yorkshire Association with 253 peals. A further 52 were for DUSCR. In recent years she took part in several notable peals by the Leeds Parish Church band, including Yorkshire S Maximus at Worcester Cathedral, Stedman Cinques at York Minster and the ‘all the twelves’ peal at Escrick: 5012 12-spliced Maximus on 12th December 2012, commencing at 12:12 pm. In total she rang 381 peals, with almost exactly a third being on 10 or 12 bells. Her experience on 12 bells made her a valuable member of the Leeds competition team, and she represented them in three 12-bell finals, at Surfleet, St Paul’s Cathedral and Ripon.

Sadly Catherine was unable to ring in Jeff’s 1000th peal in August 2011, because she had recently undergone an operation for the cancer that was to end her life three years later. Thus she was utterly determined to ring in his 1000th tower bell peal on Boxing Day that same year. At that time, even the 3cwt 5 of St James, Seacroft provided a significant challenge; she needed to hang on bravely on a day when she should have been in hospital, suffering badly as she was from the effects of her chemotherapy. The band was completed by her sons, making the peal perhaps her most special, since it was the only time that the family rang a peal together on their own.

Catherine’s final tower bell peal was Pitman’s 6-spliced Surprise Major at Augusta, Georgia on 8th May 2013, and this same composition was rung by the Durham University Society in her memory at St Lawrence, Jewry on 31st August. She rang four handbell peals, the first, conducted by James Holdsworth, on 4th September, 2013. She was alerted to the birth of her second grandson, Aaron, by the persistent ringing of her mobile phone in the last extent. Her final peal was of Plain Bob Major in hand, less than a month before she died. Catherine’s last blows on tower bells were with Jeff and her three boys at All Saint’s, Gosforth for morning service on Father’s Day 2014. It’s a massive testament to her courage and determination that she was able to ring at all that morning. Sixty steps to the ringing room would have proven an insurmountable barrier to virtually anyone else with her problems.

Catherine wouldn’t let anyone use words like ‘battle’ or ‘struggle’ in connection with her cancer. She faced her illness with a quiet acceptance, decided what she wanted to do with her final eighteen months and got on with it, fitting in trips to the USA and France and remaining active until two weeks before the end. She was on holiday in Ireland when the disease entered its final stages. With characteristic fortitude, she improved enough to be flown back to Leeds where she died in Wheatfields Hospice a few days later.

A Service of Thanksgiving for Catherine’s life took place in Leeds Minster on 29th September, the day which would have been her 60th birthday. Her theology shone through in the readings she had chosen from ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’, the Narnia Chronicles, Isaiah and Revelation. They were read by representatives of DUSCR, Abbey Runners, Christ Church Armley Community Projects and Calderdale and Kirklees Careers for whom she worked as a careers adviser. Her choice of hymns and anthems gave full scope to the magnificent Minster organ and the choir formed from her family and friends, and her exuberant love of life was captured perfectly by the Elgar organ sonata which thundered out at the end of the service.

There was, naturally, plenty of ringing that weekend. At the Minster there was open ringing before the service and a quarter of Stedman Cinques afterwards. Grandsire Triples on handbells was rung in the service by Catherine’s husband and three sons. Details of all the ringing which took place appear below. It was a piece of pure fortune that on the same weekend a starlit sponsored walk had been organised in Leeds by the Sue Ryder Foundation. Jeff, Al, Phil, Jonny and Jenni were able to raise over £1000 for Wheatfields, to add to the nearly £2000 donated in her memory to CCACP: a fitting tribute to a very special lady.


Leeds, W Yorks. (Minster) 29 Sep, 1265 Stedman Cinques: Katharine M Thorley 1, Adrian M Moreton (C) 2, Wendy Bloom 3, Roy Meads 4, Frances E Haynes 5, Robert G Chadburn 6, Benjamin R G Johnson 7, Paul D Bennett 8, Jonathan M Ladd 9, Alan J Ladd 10, Jeffrey P Ladd 11, Philip G Ladd 12. Rung following the service celebrating the life of Catherine Ladd, a loyal member of the Minster band, on the day which would have been her 60th Birthday.

Burley, Leeds, W Yorks. (S Matthias) 29 Sep, 1260 PB Minor: Katharine L Maxwell 1, Sophie J Hughes 2, Jonathan D Calvert 3, Peter Elliott 4, Danny Squires 5, Peter S Oldfield (C) 6. Rung in memory of Catherine Ladd on what would have been her 60th Birthday. 1st even bell Q: 1.

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