Barry Couzens (1936-1972, aged 36)

Quarter peal rung in his memory (for his ninth anniversary and following the tower restoration).


From the Ringing World:

June 2, 1972



It was an appalling shock to hear that Barry had been killed in a road accident near Strasbourg on April 19 and it seems the accident had no apparent cause.

He learned to ring at Cliffe, near Rochester, and spent some eight years ringing call changes. When he went to the University of Wales he learned to ring methods at Sketty and neighbouring towers, ringing his first quarter in November, 1959. His first peal was inside to eight Doubles methods/ variations the following January. Although he 'was not quite a founder member of the University of Wales Society he was sec­retary very early in its life, and in recent years enjoyed attending the society's tours. He gained his B.Sc. degree in botany with chemistry and zoology, and did some graduate research at Aberystwyth. His first peal as conductor was seven extents of Bob Minor in February, 1961.

Early in 1962 he came to Fison's Chesterford Park Research Station and worked on problems associated with potato blight, vine and cereal diseases. In August he rang a handbell peal at Wood Ditton for the Essex Association. The next year he was sent to South Africa for a few months, and rang two quarters at Cape Town. His first peal of Surprise was Cambridge Major at Grundisburgh in October, 1964. He was secretary of the Saffron Walden Society from 1966 and did all he could to encourage suitable recruits to maintain a Sunday service band there. He also established Sunday service bands in many local towers, and successes of those he taught gave him a lot of pleasure, as in the case of Whittlesford (Cambs), where ringing is still flourishing.


He was one of the instigators and editors the now defunct newsletter for the North-Western District, of the Essex Association. From 1969 he was a committee member, and at the last annual meeting was elected deputy master of the district. He did a lot of ringing in the Cambridge area and rang 23 peals for the Ely Association.

Barry enjoyed ringing at new towers, often managing to visit 100 or more in a year. He rang on about 900 different rings, mostly in England, but also in Scotland, Ireland and Africa.

His firm found his gifts in both sciences and languages valuable, and sent him abroad to France and Africa. He was able to visit Kilifi, where no one remembered how to ring the bells, and damage had been done in unskillful enthusiasm. He repaired the stays, taught some Africans to ring properly and after he returned home, sent a number of letters and publications to keep interest alive. From 1965 he and J.S. [Jean Sanderson] combined their talents, teaching jointly. All their learners will remember their ten­dency to give instructions in unrehearsed unison, and the system of hand signals they used. He was constantly on the alert for better ways of keeping learners keen, and devising means of helping them over their difficulties. He believed that the foundation of good ringing was good tuition, especially in the early stages, and wrote most of a long article on teaching techniques of bell handling: "Suggestions for Instructors," which appeared in the R.W. in 1967.


He only rang 52 peals (25 were with J. S.), not because he lacked interest or ability, but because he waited to be invited, or had a learner who would benefit from a peal. Most of his peals were in the simple methods, yet he took pride and pleasure in good striking and Surprise. He rang 67 quarters, usually as part of a programme to encourage learners. He became a com­petent conductor and was very pleased when he rang a peal of Stedman Cinques at Saf­fron Walden. He regarded it as an honour to be asked to ring in the first peals on the bells at Ashdon and Hadstock after they had been restored. When he visited his parents and sister in Cliffe he rang with the Rochester Cathedral band and was proud that he had been included in the official list of members there as well as at Cliffe.

He led a very full life, concentrating more into a few years than many another. He built up a collection of tape recordings of bells and ringing of all kinds and de­veloped an interest in animal bells and carillons. He wrote an article about French carillons which is yet to be published in the R.W.

Although Barry was inherently reserved and quiet, except on the subject of bells and ringing, he made many friends who recognised how conscientious and reliable he was. He held deep and sincere Christian convictions, and his bible and prayer book invariably accompanied him on his journeys. Dr. Evans of Fison's spoke of his uncompromising integrity.

On one occasion the tenor clapper had broken at Saffron Walden, and was repaired just as Barry was about to set off for Kent, on his way to France, He knew that visitors were expected the next day, and stayed to refit the clapper, which made him nearly a day late in his own private affairs, so that visitors might enjoy the full ring.

When he was abroad for months we missed him badly. To know that he will never again call "some of Barry's funny Doubles," take a rope for some Surprise Major, or spend a happy day navigating to new towers, and helping learners in any way, leaves a void that cannot be filled. He was not famous as many count fame, but spent most of his free time teaching people to ring, time that a more selfish person would have used to advance his own skills and achievements. May the good that he did in this life live on.


Tower bells: 4 of mixed Doubles; of Minor: 9 Plain Bob (7 conducted), 1 Cambridge. 7 multi-method; Triples: 2 Grandsire, 1 Plain Bob; Major: 11 Plain Bob (1 conducted), 4 Cambridge, 2 Bristol, 1 Uxbridge; Caters: 1 Grandsire; Royal: 5 Plain Bob; Cinques: Stedman. Handbells: 1 Doubles in 2 methods, 1 Plain Bob Minor, 1 Plain Bob Major.

And from the local press:

Mr. Couzens' tragic death in France

His many friends were shocked to learn of the death of Mr. Barry John Couzens, of 110 Debden Road, Saffron Walden, in a road accident at Lunville, France, on Wednesday, April 19. He was 36 years of age.

He was employed as a scientist by Messrs. Fisons Ltd. at their Research Station at Chesterford Park in problems associated with diseases, blight, and vine and cereal diseases, and was sent abroad to many countries in this work.

His home was at Cliffe, near Rochester, Kent, where he was educated at the local schools, then Swansea Universities after which he studied at Aberystwyth and took his degree of bachelor of science in botany and zoology.

At Cliffe he started to learn bell ringing and, on coming to Saffron Walden in 1962, joined the local society of ringers. He became secretary in 1968, an office he held until his death. At Saffron Walden he immediately set about training learners in bell ringing and gave valuable help in the towers at Ashdon, Hadstock, Wendens Ambo, Great Chishill, Chrishall and Whittlesford.

The funeral took place at Cliffe on Saturday. The service was conducted by the vicar of Cliffe, assisted by the Rev. John Sibsen, who represented the vicar of Saffron Walden.

Among those present were representatives of Messrs. Fisons of Chesterford Park and many ringing friends. Immediately after the service the local ringers rang the Church bells half muffled, while on the previous evening a quarter peal was rung by the ringers of Rochester Cathedral.

The death of Barry Couzens is a great loss to the bell ringing community, not only in Saffron Walden, but to all young ringers in the surrounding villages to whom he has freely given so much of his time and skill.

A memorial service will be held in Saffron Walden Parish Church at 3.30 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, to which all friends are invited.

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