Bells still ap-peal to Marion after 70 years of ringing in Sidmouth

Marion Baker has been bell ringing for 70 years. Ref shs 43-16TI 0552. Picture: Terry Ife

Marion Baker has been bell ringing for 70 years. Ref shs 43-16TI 0552. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

‘Remarkable’ Sidmothian was at forefront of change in previously male-dominated hobby

A trailblazing Sidmothian has been lauded as an ‘inspiration to us all’ as she celebrates 70 years of bell ringing in the town, writes Eleanor Pipe.

Marion Baker, 83, first took up the ropes when she was just 13, at a time when women and girls were not universally welcomed in the belfry. Now, seven decades later, she has no intention of giving up a hobby that has brought her great happiness.

The former teacher at All Saints School was taught to ring by her father, who was a bell ringer prior to World War Two and again after the conflict.

He went on to become captain in 1946, when his teenage daughter, Marion, came to the forefront of change as attitudes in the previously male-dominated art form began to shift.

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Marion, of Drake’s Avenue, Sidford, said: “My parents got married in the 1920s. My mother would have loved to ring but they would not let women in the belfry. After the war they were glad of anyone who wanted to ring. My father taught my son, Graham, and others who are still ringing.”

As a girl guide, Marion wrote an article in the association’s magazine about bell ringing, prompting a response from a fellow female bell ringer, Pam Bird, who went on to become a lifelong friend. Even a stint away at teacher training college in Bath did nothing to deter Marion and she was often seen cycling around the historic city travelling to bell ringing practise.

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Marion married in 1960 and, although not a bell ringer himself, her husband, Ron, was fully supportive of the hobby and Graham – who still rings to this day - was often taken along to practise from a very early age.

As vice president of the East Devon Branch of the Guild of Devonshire Ringers, Marion is described by her contemporaries as ‘a formidable source of information and support for us lesser ringers’.

Reflecting on 70 years of bell ringing, she said: “I have met such a lot of lovely people and made great friendships. As long as I keep well I shall keep doing it. I enjoy it very much.”

Sidmouth’s captain Anne Bailey said: “I just think Marion is a remarkable lady continuing to ring after 70 years and she is an inspiration to us all.”

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