When at the age of 14 John Gipson rang his first church bell he did not know that he would still be sending out peals over 70 years later.
Now the Meldreth 88-year-old has potentially set a new world record of 9,000 hours of bell-ringing. He is thought to be the only active peal ringer who started prior to the Second World War.
His record is now being looked at by the Guinness World Records’ team.
John, a grandfather who met his wife Joan, 82, through bell-ringing, signed up as a bell ringer in 1937 when he was a teenager at Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth.
“It all started when the choirmaster came to my school and asked if anybody would like to join the choir at the church,” said John.
“I stuck my hand up straight away, and from being in the choir I got to know the bell-ringers. Two old chaps from Melbourn showed me the ropes and I’ve never looked back. I just love the bells here. They have a great tone. Since then I have rung all over the UK, including at St Paul’s Cathedral, and in America too.”
In 1943 John went out to fight in India and Burma in the Second World War. On his return in 1947 he became one of the original members to get the bell-ringing started again at Cambridge’s Great St Mary’s Church, after it was stopped during the years of war.
John even purchased new bells for Holy Trinity Church in the 1960s.
He said: “I have trained up hundreds of young ringers. It’s a very popular interest in Meldreth. People queue up on Sundays to get ringing.”
John’s daughter, Chris Duiguid, who also lives in Meldreth, said: “We are from a bell-ringing tradition. My parents met doing it as my maternal grandfather was very keen on it and my two sisters Catherine and Hilary do it too. I am the only non-bell-ringer – what a black sheep.”
She continued: “He might be 88 years old but he is still climbing that church tower to fix those bells. He shows no signs of stopping. We are very proud of his world record – it has been sent off to be verified officially.”