Askrigg’s church bells will ring out again thanks to a generous donation

Suzanne Wright and the Revd Dave Clark show the plaque to Prof King.

By Betsy Everett

When the church bells finally ring out over Askrigg later this year, much of the credit will go to former bellringer, Professor Cuchlaine King, whose generosity will have made it possible.

To mark not only her financial contribution, but her association with the bell tower for 15 years until 2003, a commemorative plaque has been specially commissioned from local potter, Suzanne Wright, who is a member of St Oswald’s Church.

It bears the inscription: “In 2017 new bell ropes were provided through the generosity of Prof Cuchlaine King, bell-ringer, 1988-2003.”
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“It was a privilege to do it, and to make it very relevant to Professor King herself,” said Suzanne. “We knew her favourite flowers were blue gentians, but of a very special kind that grow profusely in the Alps, so I have incorporated those into the design.”

The ceramic plaque echoes the ‘feel’ of some of the recently-restored commemorative marble tablets already in the church, and the lettering also complements their style.

Prof King, a world-renowned geomorphologist, gained her degree at Cambridge University, and joined the faculty of geography at University College, Nottingham, in 1951. She is the daughter of the late eminent geologist Prof William B.R. King, OBE MC FRS: the family roots are in Wensleydale and they had a second home for many years at Worton. She now lives in Bainbridge.

Prof King attended St Oswald’s for many years, and she started bell-ringing there when she retired to the area in 1988.

“The tower captain then was Jack Metcalfe,” she recalls. “He taught me how to ring in about three weeks and he was an excellent teacher.”

Prof King led pioneering arctic expeditions in the 1960s, blazing a trail for gender equality in the field. But the blue gentians remind her of expeditions of a less demanding kind.

“I enjoyed very greatly walking in the Alps for pleasure and recreation and I loved the Alpine flowers,” she says.

The completed plaque was shown to Prof King by Suzanne, and the Revd Dave Clark, vicar of the Upper Wensleydale Benefice, prior to its installation.

Three bells ropes in the tower of St Oswald’s broke 18 months ago, partly due to wear and tear and partly to the damp conditions of the tower. The bells have been mainly silent ever since, Ripon Cathedral having made generous loans of their own ropes in the intervening period for special occasions. Plans are in hand to cure the damp in the tower.

The process of replacing the ropes permanently has been a lengthy one as only very few places in the country now manufacture them.