Bell-ringing champion: Shoreham church bell-ringers gather to celebrate longest-serving member’s 90th birthday

Shoreham bell-ringing champion Jim Lilley was treated to a special peal of bells, the town church’s first in many months, to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Saint Mary de Haura Bellringers gathered at the church at 6pm on Monday to hear the bells chimed a total of 90 times by one sole bell-ringer, to comply with Covid restrictions.

Jim learned the traditional art of bell-ringing at Cuckfield in 1944 and attended the church there until 1956, barring a two-year gap for National Service. He then moved to St Mary’s in Shoreham where he was captain for 40 years from 1969 to 2009.

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Jim has rung bells at 3,411 different towers to date, including every single cathedral in England, Scotland and Wales, and Westminster Abbey for his 80th birthday.

Jim Lilley, a bell-ringer at St Mary de Haura Church in Shoreham for more than 60 years, on his 90th birthday

He was also the county’s oldest school crossing patroller before he retired in December at the age of 89.

He helped youngsters safely cross Eastern Avenue, Shoreham, for 28 years, including pupils from St Nicolas & St Mary, St Peter’s and Buckingham Park primary schools.

Jim wanted to enjoy his retirement helping to ring the eight bells in the belfry at St Mary’s but Covid has made that impossible so far.

Ahead of the birthday bell-ringing celebration, Hamish Mckenzie, current captain of Saint Mary de Haura Bellringers, said: “For the first time in many months, all the bells will be heard, as they will be chimed a total of 90 times by one sole bell-ringer, to comply with Covid restrictions.

Saint Mary de Haura Bellringers with Jim Lilley, listening to the special peal of bells for his 90th birthday

“This will also be an opportunity to bring this predominantly English pastime to public attention after a significant period of ringing silence.”