The ‘Ringing World’ Obituary for Pat and Gareth Evans

Leslie Boyce has given the following tribute to ‘Ringing World’ for publication:

Patricia Mary Evans (nee Seymour) and Martin Gareth Evans
28.06.1954 – 13.02.2023 27.05.1952 – 13.02.2023
Pat’n’Gareth spent the whole of their working lives in Cumbria, living first in Workington and then in Brigham, near Cockermouth. After leaving university Gareth got a job at the Sellafield nuclear plant, with Pat following him to Cumbria soon after to take up a mathematics teaching post at Newlands School (later becoming Stainburn) in Workington, jobs which they held for over 40 years. They married in Epping in July 1976 and brought up two children in Cumbria, Richard and Caroline.
Gareth was born in Wrexham in 1952, to Donald and Marjorie Evans. His father was a vicar, so Gareth’s childhood was spent in three different parishes, the first – Tallern Green on the Welsh border – still without electricity in Gareth’s early years. Then Towyn, near Rhyl, where Gareth enjoyed summers busy with holiday makers and the empty beaches of winter. The last was Seighford, a country parish in Staffordshire, and from there he gained his place to read Chemistry at Christchurch, Oxford from 1970.
Pat, born in 1954 in Epping, Essex, to Robert and Olive Seymour, enjoyed a happy childhood with her older sister Janet – Brownies & Guides, ballet lessons, and riding. They both attended Loughton High School for girls where Pat excelled in Maths and Science, winning a place at St Hilda’s, Oxford going up in 1972. It was at school that Pat’s love of music began, singing and playing the recorder. It was her sister Janet who introduced her to bellringing at Epping in the church youth group, and it was bellringing at Oxford which brought Pat and Gareth together and made them seemingly inseparable thereafter.
While at Oxford, both developed their ringing with the Oxford University Society (OUS), Gareth ringing over 40 peals during his time there and Pat ringing her first peal with the OUS and over 50 more while there. Some of Pat’s fellow students remember her often being more interested in learning a new method than paying attention to a maths lecture, and being slow to get out of bed in the week, but first to be out and about on a Sunday when there was ringing to be done. Both Pat and Gareth enjoyed the Sunday circuit of OUS activities – ring at three towers in the morning, coffee in undergraduate rooms, lunchtime drinking in the King’s Arms, followed by a curry, tea, evening ringing and finishing in a college beer cellar. The previous day there had usually been a cycle or car outing to towers near Oxford often ending in a Saturday evening curry. It was here in Oxford that the foundations for a lifetime’s service to ringing were laid; both Gareth and Pat served as steeplekeepers for the OUS towers. It was not for nothing that Pat was known as “Wol” (the wise owl from Winnie the Pooh) by her fellow mathematicians.
In Cumbria alongside bringing up two children and building a home, they both continued to ring a few peals most years, indeed they had each scored well over 100, but other ringing activities gained greater prominence. They remained loyal ringers at St Michael’s in Workington, Cumbria throughout their lives, despite being regular worshippers at St John’s in the town, a church without bells. Gareth was Tower Captain at St Michael’s for many years and undertook several Branch and Carlisle Guild roles, including Western Branch Ringing Master, Education Officer and Guild Webmaster. Pat was Guild Treasurer for over 30 years and latterly was Vice-Chair of the PCC at St John’s. Both were heavily involved in many aspects of church life at St John’s and were committed to preserving the fabric of the church, helping initiate and steer a number of repair and conservation projects.
It will be as supreme teachers and supporters of ringing that they will be remembered by many ringers in the west Cumbrian area. Two comments from local ringers sum up that support:
“Gareth was what I called my Bell Whisperer, he would stand behind me and gently coach me with his gentle voice. He always made me feel that I was progressing, and his encouragement was so appreciated.”
“Both Gareth and Pat were so helpful to all of us at St Michael’s Church, Arlecdon, in recommending adjustment to the position of the bell-ropes to make the bells as easy as possible for us beginners to ring. During his last visit to look at rope positions, Gareth recognised the ropes were getting damp due to the on-going refurbishment programme, and offered to take the ropes down, and to his house to dry and air. This showed he was happy, not just to advise us, but to go that extra mile to provide much appreciated practical help.”
Although ringing kept them busy in Cumbria, Pat’n’Gareth developed a range of other interests in the home and outside. Not least was a love of the Lake District, and it was therefore appropriate that the first reading at their funeral was from one of Alfred Wainwright’s books. In retirement they revisited many hillwalks in the Lakes and managed to climb all 214 of the Wainwrights. Between them they pursued interests in music, gardening, cookery, DIY and knitting. A love of the hills and mountains featured when they went on foreign holidays. Over the years, often with the children and both walking and skiing, they managed to visit the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites, as well as the Canary Islands, Russia, USA and Canada and finally in 2016 they took a holiday of a lifetime to Australia and New Zealand. They were also good at keeping in touch with friends around this country. An annual trip to Devon, for example, enabled them to enjoy a different countryside and different bells while catching up with old college friends.
The ringing community across the country and their friends in Cumbria were stunned to get the news that on the 13th February, Pat and Gareth had lost their lives in a road accident. Typically, they had been on their way to St Michael’s in Workington to run a ringing practice. Two weeks later St John’s was filled to capacity with standing room only for their funeral, an emotional occasion filled with much sadness, but also with joy. Many of the mourners remained after the service for a wake lasting for several hours. An OUS party continued the wake in a Whitehaven pub and curry house afterwards. Pat and Gareth’s children, Richard and Caroline have summed up the feelings of many when they write: “We have received so many beautiful letters and cards these past few days, many of them commenting on the strength of Mum and Dad’s love and devotion to each other – some even referring to them as “Pat’n’Gareth”, all one word. They always used to say, “We make a good team”, (indeed we found a recent anniversary card to Dad from Mum saying, “We still make a great team!”) And they really did – whether it was wallpapering the house, navigating all over on holidays long before sat nav, or more recently fixing the coffee machine. They were always on the same wavelength and were the epitome of unity and togetherness.” May they rest in peace.
Adapted from the Funeral Eulogy of The Very Revd Dr Frances Ward with contributions from Leslie Boyce, Chris de Cordova, Edwin Matthews and Cumbrian ringers.