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Peter Hendy: tributes paid to teacher, bell ringer and ‘a big man with a big heart’

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Tributes have been paid to former Marling schoolteacher Peter Hendy who has died at the age of 77, writes Ian Bucknell.

Peter’s funeral took place at Gloucester Crematorium on Friday, April 30th – he passed away on Thursday, April 8th.

The funeral was carried out by Michael Gamble Funeral Directors and Celebrant Patsy Gamble. Tributes to Peter were paid by his son, Glyn Hendy and friends Bob Brown, Jeff Gillett and Ian Bucknell. Attendance at the ceremony was limited by Covid-19 restrictions to 30 of Peter’s closest family and friends but it was also streamed online. Unfortunately, Peter’s daughter, Venetia, who lives in Canada was unable to attend. Peter’s love of folk music shone throughout the service and the musicians who played during the funeral were Tom Anderson, Jon Trim, Cathy Hill, Becky Dellow and Jeff Gillett.

peter hendy mid 1980s colour 001 | Peter Hendy: tributes paid to teacher, bell ringer and 'a big man with a big heart'

The son of a World War 2 pilot, Peter grew up in Gloucester and was educated at Crypt Grammar School in Gloucester followed by St Luke’s College, Exeter. His father introduced him to the world of sailing but, in his youth, Peter was also an enthusiastic rugby player for local teams, despite having only one eye following a prank at school that went wrong.

Peter’s working life was spent as a teacher at Marling School and during those years he grew a reputation among the boys as being firm but fair. He became Head of Middle School and, with the door of his office at the end of the long corridor always open, he dominated that part of the school with his strength of personality. 

Each Easter, for many years, Peter and a committed group of fellow teachers took a party of boys youth hostelling in the Lake District. Back-packing over the Fells between youth hostels on routes, sometimes as long as 15 miles, these holidays were for those who took part, the highlight of their time at Marling.

Peter and Marjorie, who was a teacher at Stroud High School, met at a party and after they married they moved to live in Bisley where the church bells of All Saints were being restored. Peter threw himself into the re-hanging project, which was completed in 1979, and then he began to learn to ring.

Now, Peter was very tall and extremely strong, so not an easy man to teach bell handling, but in the early 1980s Peter’s enthusiasm for ringing grew and he became a fixture in Bisley’s Bell Ringing team and, at various times, was Deputy Tower Captain and Tower Captain. The Thursday practice nights were, invariably, followed by visits to either The Bear or The Stirrup Cup where Peter could be relied upon to be the life and soul of the party, with his lively conversation and his tall stories which he embroidered to the best effect. 

Peter was not a great Peal ringer; he rang only 10 Peals and nine of those were at Bisley.  He was, however, a prolific ringer of Quarter Peals; his total was over 400 with the majority at Bisley. His range of methods extended from the most simple, to complex Surprise Major Methods. As a natural teacher, it is unsurprising that his greatest love was helping others learn to ring and he was always happy to stand in a band to help someone, especially a youngster, through their first Quarter Peal. It is appropriate, therefore, that Peter’s last Quarter Peal was at Bisley on March 6th, 2011 when he rang with Julian Howes, aged 13, who was ringing his first. 

About 10 years ago, Peter’s health began to fail which meant that he wasn’t able to continue ringing as much as he would have liked. However, he had so many other interests that he continued to live a full and active life. Apart from those activities already mentioned, Peter enjoyed playing the tuba in the Chalford Training Band, beekeeping, home brewing (beer and wine), pub quizzes and his dogs.

In the 1980s he began jogging and this progressed to half-marathons which lead to him being the inspiration and organiser of the Bisley Fun Run which was a half-marathon around Bisley and was an annual event for several years. He was a member of the Bisley Twinning Association which, when he entertained his guests from France, gave him the opportunity to show off his French in his terrible French accent complete with Gallic shrugs. 

Peter and Marjorie became interested in barn dancing which led to him founding the Downfielders folk group and for over 25 years Peter would spend weekends calling barn dances for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and charitable occasions.

The Downfielders, which drew its membership from the staff and pupils of Marling and High School, played to an extremely high standard and is another great example of Peter’s ability to introduce young people into a previously unknown world and set them on a path to personal, lifelong fulfilment. Peter’s natural ability as a caller led to him being invited to call for a large number of different groups in the county and further afield, but for many in the Five Valleys he will be remembered for Calling at the annual Stroud District Primary Schools Country Dance Festival held at Stratford Park Leisure Centre.

There are so many stories to tell such was his personality, but the best description I can give is that Peter Hendy was a big man with a big heart. Larger than life, full of energy and drive, he positively influenced the lives of so many people – young and old – and he was an inspirational figure to so many of us.  Our thoughts and best wishes are with Marjorie and his family.

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