FREDA CANNON, passed away on 14th January. Freda was a long serving member of the band at St Alfege, Greenwich and Tower Captain for many years. She was also a former President of The Ladies Guild and a member of The Central Council.
Freda's funeral was held on Tuesday 14th February, 115pm at The Parish Church of St. Alfege, Greenwich, followed by Cremation at Hither Green Crematorium. There was excellent ringing before and after the service with several visiting ringers from around the country. A good quarter peal was also rung afterwards and several other quarters have been rung in recen weeks [please look at the Bellboard website to search for these].
Eulogy for Freda Cannon - 25 September 1928 to 14 January 2017
Freda Cannon passed away peacefully in hospital on 14th January 2017, in her 89th year. It was quite appropriate that we heard about this when we were at St.Alfege, Greenwich for a Kent County Association Lewisham District Quarterly meeting.
As well as ringing that day, there was a service and meeting with prayers for Freda being said at the service led by Rev. Caroline Risdon, The Curate at St Alfege’s. It was also apt that during the service Ave Maria by Caccini and a setting of The Lord’s my Shepherd (Psalm 23) by Stuart Townend were performed by Clare Sutton (Soprano), Angela Jackson-Smith (Clarinet - a ringer at Bexley) and Graham Long (Organ – the current Ringing Master at Greenwich). It was also very poignant when we came to sing The Ringers’ Hymn when we sang the words: We peal in muffled sadness For loved ones laid to rest. In the congregation was Jim Rooke who had learnt to ring with Freda on the bells at Lewisham under the tuition of Jack Dafters, who was the Captain of the Lewisham band.
Freda was a very long standing member of St. Alfege’s church and helped to run the 1st Greenwich Girl Guides group in the early 1950s before the church was rebuilt after World War II. When the church was reopened in September 1954 the peal of ten bells had been restored and Freda became a member of the newly formed band at St. Alfege’s.
On 30th April 1955 Freda was elected as a member of the Kent County Association and then became a Lewisham District Committee Rep in 1959. She was elected as a member of The Ladies Guild on 9th March 1957 which was to become one of Freda’s passions for the rest of her life.
Freda became a member of The London County Association on 26th February 1961 and The Royal Society of Cumberland Youths on 14th July 1963.
Freda’s first quarter peal, along with Jim Rooke, and in total a band of five first quarter pealers, conducted by Jack Dafters, was of 1260 Grandsire Doubles at St. Alfege, Greenwich, on 19th January 1958. Her first peal was rung at St. George’s, Beckenham on New Year’s Eve 1960 – a peal of 5007 Stedman Caters.
Freda only rang a few peals but many quarter peals over the years, the last one being of 1260 Grandsire Triples at Lewisham on 6th June 2004.
One peal was not without incident! This was actually Freda’s last peal – 5040 Grandsire Triples, rung to mark the 75th Anniversary of The Ladies Guild, at St. Peter’s, Portishead on 30th January 1988. Freda was ringing the 5th and had put a row of polo mints on the ledge behind her, planning to grab one at intervals during the peal. At her first attempt to get one, she knocked the whole lot onto the floor and spent the rest of the peal surrounded by sweets that she could not get hold of! It didn't help the concentration of the ringers but they did manage to suppress their giggles and get on with the ringing.
Freda succeeded George Daynes as Tower Captain at St. Alfege’s at the Tower’s AGM on 29th December 1956 and was also Tower Secretary for many years as well as being an active member of the congregation and a highly valued member of The Parochial Church Council.
Freda’s association with The Ladies Guild was legendary – she was a very active member at ringing events and meetings and went on many of the Ladies Guild Weekends. She was the National President of The Ladies Guild 1983-1985 and also served as Central Council Rep for many years from 1983. She was the Auditor 1971-1983 and then served again from 1995. She was appointed as a Vice President of the Ladies Guild (Kent) in 1984 and became a Life Member of The Ladies Guild.
There was an occasion on a Central Council Education Committee’s annual weekend ringing course when the ringers were being videoed by a man from the BBC so that there could be some feedback on everyone's bell handling style. Freda was wearing a pleated skirt and as she was being filmed, the tuck in the rope caught the bottom of her skirt; it billowed into the air leaving little to the imagination! That evening the video was replayed in slow motion both backwards and forwards for some considerable time. The next morning the ringers went to ring at Tewkesbury and Freda had securely pinned her skirt down with a clothes peg to ensure there was no sequel. This incident is mentioned in one of Steve Coleman's books on bell ringing, The Bellringer’s Bedside Companion, as he described:
The sequence clicked through frame by frame. The skirt started to lift. And went up ... and up... and up ... and still further up ... and further up still ... until the upper half of the ringer was completely hidden by a huge semi-circle of skirt in the manner of a Moulin Rouge can-can dancer. ...
Afterwards, I apologised profusely to the helper in question. “It’s just as well you’re such a jolly good sport, Freda,” I said.
“Yes,” she replied, “but next time that camera man is around I shall certainly be wearing trousers.”
Freda and her brother Ron Cannon (1924 – 2010) had a love of motoring and holidaying in many places. From 1959 to 1977 they took their annual holiday touring in various cars: Morris 1000, Austin A40, Austin 1100 and Austin Allegro. They crossed by ferry to Europe and usually camped; amazingly in 1968 they even used the flying British United Air Ferries plane, with their car, to return from Le Touquet to Southend. In their travels they covered anything from 2000 to 4000 miles each time. They visited most countries in Europe and when they went to Turkey they carried on from there to visit Asia via The Bosphorus Ferry. From 1978 onwards Freda travelled by air and used hotels, sometimes with, sometimes without Ron to Majorca, Ibiza, Israel and Corfu. Freda went on some overseas ringing tours to Canada and Australia and New Zealand, ringing four quarter peals Down Under in 1988, as recorded on Bellboard.
Freda’s love of motoring was well known, even if in later years some of her later models had the odd scratch and dent or two on them! In the early 1960s she took up to travelling around on a motor scooter and in ringing circles she became known as The Lady on The Lambretta.
Freda worked for Lloyds Bank from the early 1950s until she retired from work in 1983, at the age of 55. In retirement she continued to go the Lloyds Bank retired employees luncheons at The Bromley Court Hotel until only a few years ago. Apparently Freda made herself very useful. For many years she took on the task to hand write the 600 or so envelopes that contained the invites to the next retirement club lunch which must have made her fingers ache to say the least. The members of the club were very grateful to her for undertaking this task and looked forward to seeing the envelope arrive with her recognisable script.
In the early 1980s Ron’s health was by now a major concern and Freda became Ron’s long term carer for many years until he died in 2010. However, Freda made sure that Ron kept as active as possible and they often attended ringers’ dinners and events together.
Freda’s last ringing was in late 2012 – she had rung in a very well struck touch 120 of Stedman Doubles at Greenwich for The Queen’s Jubilee in June 2012.
In recent years, Freda’s health became more fragile and she went into respite care on occasions and in the end resided in a lovely care home – Fairmount, Mottingham, Eltham which was W.G. Grace’s home until his death in 1915 (there is a Blue Plaque on the wall of the property to recognise this). Up until the last year or so she often came to St. Alfege’s when Alan Munden used to bring her for the monthly Choral Evensong – she loved to hear us ringing for these services, sometimes managing to get up to the ringing chamber, but was no doubt frustrated that she was no longer able to take part.
Freda’s funeral at St. Alfege’s, Greenwich was well attended with many ringers coming from across the country. Some excellent ringing took place, 88 blows were rung out on the tenor as the coffin left the church, and a quarter peal was rung afterwards. There were two appropriate hymns sung: Glad bells ring loud and clear (sung to the tune Moscow) and Ding Dong! Merrily on high.
Freda was a lovely lady who was always kind and great fun although she did not suffer fools gladly and would often speak her mind and defend a cause! She was extremely devoted as a servant of the church and bell ringing was a major part of her life.
One ringer has said: Freda was part of my ringing life. She was always there and had been from when I learnt to ring. She was a really nice person and always looking out for other people. I think this sums up what Freda meant to a lot of people.
She is sadly missed by all, especially The Ladies Guild, The Royal Society of Cumberland Youths, The Kent County Association and The Meridian Ringers based at St. Alfege, Greenwich.
May she rest in peace – and rise in glory. Amen.
Graham Long (February 2017).