The Queen’s birthday honours list revealed a local name this year. Dennis Brock has been awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to bell ringing. Great news for the 100 year old bell captain of St Mary’s who still climbs the bell tower every week, who still helps maintain the bells and who is continuing to pass his knowledge and enthusiasm on to younger generations. He rings locally also at St Marys Walton, St Peters in Molesey and St Nicholas in Shepperton.
The process of attaining an award is a long one. Fellow bell ringer Alan Worrell first approached MP Kwasi Kwarteng to enquire about how to initiate the process in January 2018. By June 2018 the nomination was in the right hands at the cabinet office but required a lot of supporting material to show just how much of a contribution Dennis had made. Daughter Lorna Doyle was involved. Fellow bell ringer and captain of St Nicholas, Shepperton, Eric Pizzey was involved.
Sunbury Matters procured copies of its various articles we had run about Dennis and his bell ringing exploits, from when he was a young man up to the current day. Kwasi Kwarteng wrote a supporting letter, Nick Pollard, chairman of the Sunbury & Shepperton History Society did likewise as did St Mary’s Church where Dennis has worshiped since childhood.
Dennis is a popular choice indeed. It is not his first award, as he reminds me. He was presented with the Order of St Mellitus medal in 2016 by the Bishop of London. This was also in recognition of his long service to St Mary’s and to the world of bell ringing. He is one of only a few hundred recipients of this award.
Dennis also reminds me that he has already had a few encounters with Buckingham Palace! He has been both instructor and examiner of bell ringing as one of the skills for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. As such he has attended the award of the gold medal at the palace.
Over the years Dennis estimates he has taught “several hundred” in the skill of bell ringing, taking around 3 months to reach competency. “It is not a matter of strength (although the 3 1/4 ton tenor bell at St Paul takes some!), but you need rhythm and a musical ear to ring” he says.
Visiting Dennis to pass on our hearty congratulations, he confessed with a twinkle in his eye to being “delighted. Surprised but delighted” at the award.
He will be given his award at a ceremony at the Tower of London on November 19th, only days before he celebrates his 101st birthday. Meanwhile he will also be attending a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
Well done Dennis! What a legend.