Walter T Wilson

1873? - 24/2/1932

After his father's death in 1909, Walter Wilson carried on his father's old-established carpentry and wheelwright's business at Isham and neighbouring villages. He was also chosen to succeed his father as Rector's churchwarden, and served the church in that capacity for 23 years. He was also a school manager.

Walter took up ringing in 1907, when Isham bells were recast, augmented to six and rehung. A band was started and struggled until taken in hand by Edward Chapman of Kettering. Walter rang his first quarter peal on June 30, 1907 – Plain Bob Doubles with an all local band. The band developed by ringing a total of sixty 720s in various minor methods within the next year. Edward Chapman called a peal at Isham on April 13, 1908, which was probably Walter’s first, and another in five methods in October. The band continued to make progress with Maurice Atkins (the rector's son) conducting before he went to Cambridge University. They rang date touches in 1909 and 1910 and in 1913 a local peal of four surprise and three plain minor methods. Maurice returned after war service to conduct a peal of Plain Bob Minor at Isham on July 2, 1921 in which his sister Dorothy rang her first 'inside' and ringing the treble was Frances Cannan, who three months later was married to Maurice at Isham.

When, during the war, Walter was left almost alone in the belfry, he started a ladies' band which was most successful. His enthusiasm when his niece and adopted daughter, Miss Cecil Hepburn (as she then was) conducted a ladies' peal on the Isham bells was still remembered. Since that time Walter's perseverance with young hands had kept a band together. He had rung upwards of 50 peals - mostly of Minor in several methods until his last on October 4, 1930 again at Isham. He considered peals without an educational motive, or for a specific purpose, to be repugnant.

His chief delight was to arrange an afternoon tour of out-lying five and six-bell towers, taking two of his recruits on his motor-cycle combination, and in this way he had visited most of the towers within a range of 20 or 30 miles.

Walter was often consulted in rehanging schemes, when his knowledge of building and woodwork was of greatest use. More than once he was able to allay a scare of the presence of the death watch beetle. He was always endeavouring to prevent recasting of good old bells and the breaking up of really serviceable frames, though he was the first to advocate a clean sweep where this was really necessary.

When the Peterborough Diocesan Guild grew out of the Central Northants Association in 1924, he was appointed Treasurer, an office he held until his death. He was most anxious that the new Guild should be both diocesan in fact, and in name, and his association with ringers in outlying districts was partly instrumental in bringing more outlying centres into the Guild. He was a man liked by all who came in contact with him, but he would not tolerate the type of ringer who regarded ringing as a kind of sport and was not a thorough practising churchman.

Walter had been in poor health for his last eighteen months, suffering from heart trouble. About six months ago he seemed to take a turn for the better, and it was satisfying to his friends that he was able to take a rope again. His serious condition on January 17 caused the celebration of the wedding of his niece, Cecil Hepburn, to be very subdued and curtailed. Walter was then attacked by influenza and although he had apparently recovered, he died in his sleep on the night of Wednesday, February 24, aged 59.

The funeral took place on Monday, February 29, 1932. The body was brought in to church during a special memorial service on the previous night, for which muffled bells were rung. The church was completely filled for the funeral service. The Rector, Revd E J Atkins, officiated. The ringers present included Mr F Wilford (Master of the Guild), the Revd R C Thursfield, Rector of Cranford (President of the Kettering Branch), Miss Thursfield (Secretary, Northamptonshire District of the Ladles' Guild), Miss Atkins (Vice-President of the Ladies' Guild), Mr P Barber (Secretary of the Wellingborough Branch), Mr R Adams (Secretary of the Guilsborough Branch), Mr R Abrams (representing the Orlingbury ringers), Mr and Mrs E M Atkins (Surrey), Mr and Mrs R Richardson (Surfleet), Mr W Perkins (Irthlingborough), Mr J Saddington (Burton Latimer), Mr J Morris (Warkton), Mr T Howell (Little Harrowden) and Mr A E York (Rothwell).

As the coffin was carried from the church by four friends - Messrs C H Whiting, George Johnson, E J Chamberlain and T Garley - the organist, Miss Mabel Eaton, feelingly played Mendelsohn's 'O rest in the Lord’. After the committal a course of Grandsire Triples was rung over the open grave on the deceased's handbells by: W Perkins 1-2, E M Atkins 3-4, R Richardson 5-6, F Wilford 7-8. Among the many flowers were wreaths from the officers and committee, Peterborough Diocesan Guild, and from 'The Isham bellringers’. Afterwards the whole pull and stand and muffled touches were rung on Isham bells.