Peal marks 100th birthday of retired Norfolk farmer

A special peal was rung to mark the 100th birthday of a retired farmer, soldier and churchwarden at a North Norfolk church as an appeal to restore the bells has reached the half-way stage.

And the band of ringers at St Mary's, North Creake, rang seven methods as a salute to retired churchwarden Harry Schulman, who served the 14th century church for more than 50 years.

As he was not able to get to church, the veteran soldier, who fought the Japanese in Malaya and survived three years on the railway of death in Burma, listened to a recording of the successful peal in the bedroom of his home in nearby South Creake.

His two daughters, Prudence Finch and Sarah de Chair, who is show manager of the Royal Norfolk Show, asked tower captain David Emerson if he would attempt the peal to mark the special day on Wednesday, given their father's love of the bells.

'We were pleased to be asked because Harry Schulman has been churchwarden of St Mary's for more than 50 years,' said Mr Emerson, who completed his 47th peal with five companions in two hours 38 minutes. The band was led by conductor, Simon Rudd, who master-minded the required 5,040 changes at the church, where there has been a tradition of change ringing for more than 250 years.

The bells, ringing floor and tower structure needed urgent attention and the �170,000 appeal had been launched two years ago to carry out the changes and augment to eight bells, said Mr Emerson. The Appeal4apeal has reached the half-way stage, with more than �85,000 raised.

Mr Schulman started farming in 1937 at Abbey Farm, North Creake, near Fakenham, after working on a tea garden in India. Having joined the Indian Territorial Army as a trooper in the Assam Valley Light Horse, on his return to England he transferred to the Royal Norfolk Regiment. Having read agriculture at Cambridge, Mr Schulman adopted what was regarded as a revolutionary practice of farming without stock or manure.

Most Read

But as the war approached, Mr Schulman left the farm and re-joined his unit. He transferred to the Scots Guards and trained for a proposed special alpine force in Finland. Later, he was sent to Malaya with the 5th Battalion the Royal Norfolk Regiment. And there Capt Schulman, who commanded the battalion's rearguard as Japanese forces advanced, became a prisoner of war.

He returned to his farm, where he became a leading member of Norfolk County Council for more than 20 years. After retirement from public service, he was made MBE, as was his late wife, Peggy.

His daughters played the peal's recording to their father, who had also received the Queen's 100th birthday greetings. Then his eldest great-grandson, Joshua, aged eight, read a poem specially composed for the occasion and yesterday, his nephew, Evan Schulman arrived from the United States to complete the family's week of centenary celebrations.