Richard F B (Dick) Speed

31/7/1926 - 22/11/2007


Richard Francis Bentinck Speed was born in Surbiton in 1926, and was educated at Eastbourne College and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

His ringing career started at Radley in 1943, where he was taught by Miss Marie R Cross. He was there because Eastbourne College was evacuated to Radley during wartime. A year’s tuition got him going such that he joined the Cambridge University Guild in the autumn of 1944 and served as its Master from 1946 to 1947.

He had already rung his first peal, of Grandsire Triples at Christ Church, Epsom, in 1945. By the time he left Cambridge he had rung 75 peals, many in hand, of which he had called some 20.

After leaving Cambridge in 1947, with a first in Part I, though this had declined to a third in Physics in Part II, he spent a year’s National Service in the army, mainly at Catterick, and army life left him time for more peal ringing.

When he left the army, he joined GEC, at Dollis Hill, Middlesex, where he was an electronics technician. It was around this period that he became friendly with Anne B Stockdale, also of Cambridge University, and married her in 1952 at Berkhamsted and lived at Hampton Wick. The successful marriage lasted until her death in 2006, and they had four very different children, all of them ringers for varying periods.

In 1954 he was elected as a representative of the Central Council by the Middlesex Association thus beginning his very long membership of the national organisation. He became an honorary member from 1958 – 1978. He represented this Guild from 1977 – 1979, then again an honorary member until 1987. He represented the Worcester and Districts Association from 1990 - 2004 and altogether attended 39 meetings. He served in various capacities starting with the Beginners’ Handbook Committee; on the Peals Collection Committee for about 9 years; then the Methods Committee for some 6 years. He was elected to the Standing Committee and served on it for many years up to 1982. He was on the sub-committee which re-wrote the Rules of the Council. He served on the Ringing World Committee (when it was still a Committee) for some years and he and his wife Anne held and distributed the Council’s stock of Publications.

He rang his first peal, Grandsire Triples, at Christ Church Epsom on 30th June 1945. He rang 3-4 in what was then the longest length of Plain Bob Royal and of Royal on handbells: 10,080 Plain Bob Royal on 2nd May 1948. He was also a prolific composer at a time when computers were not available to check for falseness. Steven Ivin wrote that Dick was always prepared to read and reply promptly to lengthy letters about new compositions. Dick had an encyclopaedic grasp of what had previously been published. He was a master at discovering compositions for methods with difficult falseness, and ingenious ways of constructing true blocks, which could be joined up to peal length. In his turn, he had benefited from his contacts with Harold Cashmore, who was equally inventive.

They moved to Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire, in around 1957-8, when Dick joined GEC’s Coventry office, where he worked until he retired in 1980. In 1964 they moved house to Hillmorton, on the Daventry side of Rugby.

The family became members of this Guild through the recently rehung and augmented bells of Daventry tower from 1965. With Pat Chapman, Dick formed a band that rang very many peals including various Surprise Royal methods, new and old, which he composed and conducted. He was tower captain in 1973 and after disagreements with the Rector, became unattached members until 1980. Dick was Daventry Branch Press Correspondent in 1973 and Branch Ringing Master 1973 until his retirement in 1980.

He had very little patience with anyone who made mistakes whilst ringing. Some will think of him as brash and noisy – which to a certain extent he was on the surface; but underneath he was a surprisingly kind man, with a vast amount of knowledge and a great willingness to share it. Ringing was his great love, and he put a very considerable amount of energy into it.

From working as a physicist with GEC to taking over ‘The Lion’ at Clifton-on-Teme in a rural part of west Worcestershire was a very brave step to make. They were good hosts at the pub in spite of Richard’s quirkiness. It was more of the older style of inn, a fairly large place, which did food as well as drink – in fact almost a coaching establishment, though not on any sort of route! Being a lover of good ale himself he usually had a good and well-kept selection of beers on offer. Seven years of pub life were sufficient for them, and in 1987 they built a house in the pub yard.

With pub duties reduced he began to ring more peals again. However, he fell down the stairs in 1993, and was unconscious for some weeks. After this in 1995, he rang only one more peal, Plain Bob Minor at Shrawley, his 732nd, but he did call it!

A service of thanksgiving and remembrance for his life was held at St Kenelm’s Parish Church, Clifton-on-Teme on Saturday, April 5, 2008. The church was packed with family and friends; ringers were well represented in the congregation. Central Council President Derek Sibson and RW Editor Robert Lewis were present, together with representatives from the old RW Board/ Committee (Howard Egglestone and Andrew Wilby) and the Ancient Society of College Youths. Dick’s son Jonathan Speed gave a moving address and grandchildren Alexander Speed and Barbara Speed gave readings from ‘The Nine Tailors’ and ‘Ulysses’. After the service Dick’s ashes were laid to rest in the churchyard alongside those of his late wife Anne.