The Hereford Guild Appoints a New Vice-President

The Hereford Diocesan Guild made a rare appointment at its AGM on May 9th by electing Valerie M Roberts, of Much Wenlock, as its Vice-President.  She joins a very select group of four ringers who have held this position within the past 50 years, namely Arthur W Davis, Wilfrid F Moreton MBE, George T Cousins and Michael V Powell JP.

Valerie was taught to ring at Much Wenlock in 1952 by her father, Harry Edge, and she has retained her close involvement with that tower ever since.  Harry was in the band for her first peal, at Stokesay, Shropshire, on May 9th, 1959.  Thereafter she progressed rapidly and soon demonstrated her organisational abilities by taking Guild office, the first of many, as Bridgnorth District Secretary in 1962.

At the age of 23 she became the first lady, also the youngest person ever, to be elected Master of the Guild from 1968 to 1970, a post she held for a second time from 1993 to 1995.  In between, she was one of the first trustees of the Guild Bell Restoration Fund when it was founded in 1976.  She was elected a Freeman of the Guild in 1982 and from 2000 to 2004 was the Bridgnorth District’s Education Officer.  In addition, she and Alec Osbaldiston led the sub-committee that organised the Guild’s highly successful annual ‘Thomas Cooper Trophy Striking Competition’.

Arguably her greatest service for the Guild, though, was as its Peal Recorder for ten years from 1970, during which time she meticulously wrote out, using a Rotring pen and stencil (not to mention masses of patience), more than 3,000 of its peals, which now fill ten of the ‘Viggers’ Record’ volumes that make up the Guild’s Peal Book.  The magnitude of the task becomes apparent when one hears Valerie declaring ruefully that it used to take her longer to write out some of the multi-Doubles peals than it had taken to ring them in the first place!  Given that it required at least an hour to write out even the simplest of peals, it was truly a heroic labour of love, for which the Guild has long been highly appreciative.

The rare honour of ‘The Order of St Ethelbert’ was bestowed upon Valerie at a service held in Hereford Cathedral in October 2017; it was awarded ‘for services rendered to bellringing and in recognition of loyal and distinguished service to the Church of God and to His people in the diocese’.  It is perhaps not generally known that the “young and virtuous” King Ethelbert of the East Angles, whose shrine is in the Cathedral to this day, was brutally murdered whilst on his way to King Offa of Mercia’s Palace at Marden, Hfds, in AD 794:  his demise at Sutton Walls is widely thought to have been at the instigation of Cynethryth, wife of Offa.

Much Wenlock bells are an Abraham Rudhall II back six with two Taylor trebles added in 1930.  They are a fine eight and popular with peal ringers, 61 peals having been rung on them since their augmentation;  Valerie has rung no less than 17 of her 74 peals on them.  But, after nearly 100 years of heavy use, the bells are now in need of some professional attention, and John Taylor & Co., of Loughborough are about to embark on a £25,000 restoration to bring them back into tip-top condition.  Unsurprisingly, Valerie is a leading light in the preparation of, and fund-raising for, this project; work is expected to be completed this summer with, it is hoped, financial support from the Hereford Diocesan Guild of Bellringers Bell Restoration Fund and other grant-awarding sources.

Val Roberts
Val Roberts

To all who know her, no meeting is ever boring when Valerie is present.  She holds strong, and always well-thought-out, views, about the Guild in particular, and ringing in general, and is never afraid to make them known!

It’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving of this latest honour than Valerie M Roberts (née Edge), so many thanks for all you’ve done, and a warm welcome to this new position you now have in your favourite Guild!

Neil Bennett