05-08-1920 - 2001The Whittlebury band had been ringing together since the ban was lifted in 1943 and by the late forties managed to strike plain courses of Grandsire and Bob Doubles reasonably, but by numbers.
After finishing National Service in 1951 and not progressing with my ringing I decided to attend the Towcester Branch meetings and practices. This is where Bill stepped in. He realised that we needed help at Whittlebury and came week after week during the winter months and almost single-handed transformed us into a change ringing band.
Bill conducted my first peal in 1957. I rang the treble to Plain Bob Minor at Sulgrave. He had also called my wife Betty’s first peal in 1954.
In 1958 Bill very kindly invited me to join the Monday evening surprise practice at Helmdon which was renowned for the methods being rung and also its precise striking, mainly due to Bill’s enthusiasm, energy, patience, attention to detail and many other attributes.
No matter what the weather he would pick me up at Silverstone on his motorbike and take me to Helmdon. We would stop at the Green Man on the way back for a pint or two where he would explain all the things I would need to know about Spliced Surprise Minor ringing.
One of the highlights of the year, starting in the early sixties, was Bill’s long weekend outings, organised by himself and his wife Kay. The outings were mainly in the West Country but did venture into East Anglia and Yorkshire. Bill insisted on good striking in that outings were not a time for practice, starting with a good up and then a touch of Stedman followed by mainly surprise methods which all present were more than capable of ringing. Bill’s guidelines ensured remarkably good ringing.
After ringing things were more relaxed. Ray Vickers tells the story when he had to cut Bill’s bootlaces before putting him to bed, after being in the bar for an hour or two.
In 1967 Bill and Kay honoured me by asking me to be godfather to their daughter Sarah - an invitation that I was delighted to accept. Bill was a devoted family man and very proud of Richard and Sarah. He was devastated when Kay died in 1971 but being Bill he kept his family together with help from family and friends.
In due course Richard married Clare and Sarah married Michael and when grandchildren James, Catherine, Henry, Oliver and Hannah arrived his life was complete. Bill was a countryman through and through, working on the same farm until he retired in 1985. He could turn his hand to anything, being a Championship hedge cutter he won many prizes for growth.
Bill was a shepherd, also a devout Christian, working hard at both. He was brought up to the 1662 Prayer Book and woe betide the parson who missed a certain part of the service out or forgot particular feast days! A loyal and dedicated man, who for more than 50 years with his tremendous energy, helped at one time or another most of the towers in the Towcester Branch and also many around Buckingham.
Betty and I had known Bill for around 50 years and have lost a true friend - as have very many more who attended his funeral at Stowe Church. We send our love and sincerest sympathy to his family.
May he rest in peace. Jim Linnell
Quarters and reals rung to mark and celebrate the life and works of William A Yates (5 August 1920-2nd October 2001)
I am sure Bill would have been pleased to read this report of the many quarter peals and peals successfully completed by members of the Towcester Branch, North Bucks Branch, Culworth Branch, ringing friends and colleagues.
At Bill’s request all ringing was ‘open’. A quarter peal has been scored at every tower in the Towcester Branch and in many in the North Bucks Branch. Peals have been rung at Stoke Bruerne, Moulton and Long Crendon and have already been recorded in these columns. The ‘Helmdon Beat’ echoed across the meadows again to a peal Spliced Surprise Minor (16m), and a fine peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was recorded at Wicken, two towers that have profited from Bill’s dedication, enthusiasm and influence at different times in his ringing career. Many ringers and bands have been encouraged as a result of Bills unselfish works; indeed there is not a tower in the branch that hasn’t benefited from his help over the years. This alone really does not do justice to Bill who of course achieved much more than this and leaves us with a legacy that each and every one of us should ensure is upheld, maintained and embellished upon as the branch moves into the 21st century.
Bills contribution to ringing in the branch is unparalleled throughout its history. He had many attributes; one that I am sure will be missed by all was his perpetual drive and enthusiasm, which served to inspire many others around him. He was always organising quarters around the branch, many of which were to help learners get through a first. After a successful peal or quarter he would always be the first to buy the beer, such was his generosity. A mark of his illness over the last years is the declining total of quarters rung in the branch, he would regularly notch up close to one hundred quarters a year. Which of us will achieve this sort of record next year?
These are just a few reasons why his passing is such a great loss. I am sure he would have been pleased with the good quality ringing we have achieved over the past weeks, although not without a few comments just to keep us on our toes!
My thanks go to every one who has contributed here. We owe it to Bill and to the future of the branch to ensure his deeds are upheld and his work is carried forward in some small way by every one of us. - "Keep ’em ringing"
God bless you Bill, may you rest in peace and your spirit live on forever.
NIGEL WILLIAMS, Towcester Branch Ringing Master.