John Romain

16th October 1926 - 21st December 2009

John was born in 1926. His mother was a regular member of the ringers at St John The Baptist Church in Devizes and their home was close by in St John’s Street. Ringer, Mac Baker remembers … ‘I first met John at Devizes Grammar School where he was one of the senior boys. Later, St Matthew’s Church in Rowde was recruiting new ringers at the end of the Second World War between the years 1945 to 1950. They included, Iris and Peter Flower, Odette Perrett, June Speak, Cecil Amor and myself. John came from his home in Devizes where he rang at St Mary’s Church, to Rowde to teach us on our Thursday practice evenings and he was an excellent mentor. In 1960 I moved to Devizes and started to ring at St James’ Church, Southbroom where I eventually became Tower Captain. John expressed a desire to join our band and I readily agreed recognizing that John’s ringing ability far exceeded mine and that he was also an accomplished instructor. My wife June and I became friends with John and his wife Eileen and their two sons enjoyed travelling on many ringing outings together which invariably ended at the local hostelry! I have records of 150 quarter peals that we rang together, conducted by John and I know that his ringing record far exceeded mine. I counted John as a dear friend, a true gentleman and a very accomplished ringer and conductor.’

John was a telephone engineer and worked at the exchange in Castle Lane in Devizes. If a tricky job arose, John was always able to make a suitable tool to sort the problem. He was a keen photographer and set up a dark room in his home where he spent many hours working on his prints, the subjects being mainly related to architecture. His wife Eileen, also a bellringer, was the daughter of ringer Jim Culley who was captain at St John’s for twelve years and whose name appears on peal boards there.

Derrick Bailey remembers … ‘I first met John in the 1950s when he came round with the then branch ringing master, Sid Grant, taking courses of learning change ringing which would last for six weeks. He was not a prolific peal ringer but he did enjoy ringing quarter peals. In the 1990s he became a member of the ‘Friday Gang’ who would meet at Avebury once a month to attempt to ring a quarter peal of Surprise Minor, unfortunately this all had to end when John had to stop driving. He was an expert at splicing bell-ropes and would happily splice a rope for anyone who needed his help.’

John rang in the local area for over sixty years and all three Devizes towers, amongst many others, benefited from his expertise. He was skilful ringer and instructor tackling the most complicated methods with ease. He rang several peals and he conducted hundreds of quarter peals. With a quiet and confident manner he taught numerous people how to handle a bell and become competent in their skills. At St John’s he was vice-captain for nine years and captain in 1957-58 and also Tower Keeper. He held the post of Branch Ringing Master in 1987. He enjoyed using his computer to work on difficult ringing methods. Latterly when he had to give up driving he still came to church in his motorised buggy. He last rang with us on Remembrance Sunday but then gave up because climbing the stairs had become too difficult for him. The model bell he so carefully made has been used many times to demonstrate how bellringing works and its continued use ensures John’s good work goes on.

His passing is a great loss to us, the Devizes Branch and to the Salisbury Guild to which he was given an Honorary Life Membership in recognition of all his years of service.

Elizabeth Merritt

Gillett and Johnston
The Ringing Foundation