Tribute paid to Rodney S. Bambrick B.A. , L.T.C.L. (1 March 1927 – 14 March 2015), during his funeral service in Queen’s Parade Methodist Church, Bangor, on 20 March 2015, by his friend, Mr Jack Thompson.
Rodney – the teacher
That’s where I first met Rodney. I was a raw student from Stranmillis Teacher Training College on practice placement in the then Secondary Intermediate School in Castle Street. Rodney was Head of history and my timetable included some history lessons. Rodney made it clear to me that I should follow his teaching plan so that his scheme for the year would not be upset. I was soon to learn that this attention to detail and organisation was one of his great strengths. He took having a student in his classroom seriously and after a lesson he would give me some feedback on how he felt I had performed. Again, typically, there was no bluff. The good was good and the bad bad. You knew where you stood with Rodney but no matter how bad it was the conversation would continue on a range of topics.
Rodney – the conversationalist and raconteur.
He liked nothing better than to sit down with or without coffee or wine and engage in conversation. No matter what the topic Rodney either had his view or he would elicit information from you on a new topic and seemed to relish the gathering of information. His mischievious wit often gave spice to the comversation –at choir practice there would be a grin breaking over his face when he would say to the choir “we’ll sing about the expensive trousers next Sunday” we knew that he was referring to the hymn “As the deer pants after water”. Sometimes his views were quite controversial which made us re -evaluate some beliefs which we just took for granted. Bring up the topic of church music and you found that he was very clear in his assessment of the musical value of some of our hymns tunes and especially some of the modern church songs which tend to be accompanied by guitar. And so we have –
Rodney – the musician.
Music was without doubt the love of his life. He listened to music, played music and wrote music. He was a supporter of the Ulster Orchestra and went on Friday evenings to their recitals in the Ulster Hall in hail rain or snow .
He was organist in this church from 1961 to 2014, approximately 54 years. He was responsible for the purchase of the present organ.
He was also our choir master. In this capacity, when the male sections of the choir became depleted he arranged the music for three parts soprano, contralto and the men.
Over the years he composed a number of pieces and these were published in the volume “Sing Holy Spirit Sing”. He got great satisfaction when he heard that one of his compositions had been sung in another church. Indeed his compositions have been sung in places as far apart as Melbourne Australia, South Africa, Canada, Paris, England and in churches at home in Northern Ireland . This is a quote from an article he wrote for our church magazine on his – Reflections of a retired church organist “For almost 30 years I have served the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters as its Honorary Secretary and later President, was for many years a member of the North Down Arts Committee and have been a keen supporter of our splendid Ulster orchestra. I also have a collection of well over 1200 CD’s”. In Bangor he will be remembered for acquiring the Compton Organ from the Tonic theatre in 1969 and having it installed in Gransha Boys’ High School where it accompanied the morning assembly and was used for regular organ recitals. In the article on his Reflections he tells us that when the Gransha Boys’ School closed no suitable alternative location could be found in Northern Ireland, so it has now been shipped to England where it is to be rebuilt at a venue near Barnsley in Yorkshire. His music has been appreciated in many people in many countries, countries which he loved to visit because there is also –
Rodney the traveller.
He was a world-wide traveller having visited many countries over the years. In conversation some city would be referred to and Rodney would ask if I had ever been there , when I replied “No” he would go on to describe the place, its buildings, holy places, places of historical interest and always ended “You must go there”. It was almost a command. The interesting thing was that sometimes when I enquired when he had been there it could have been quite a few years previously, yet he could describe it vividly. His travels combined with his slides provided entertaining talks for many clubs and societies. So then there is –
Rodney the photographer.
As far as I was concerned the big problem with Rodney’s photography was that he was a “Pentax” man. If there are any amateur photographers present you will appreciate that when you buy your camera you then want to add accessories and of course they have to be compatible with the camera so you build up your equipment and become a Pentax man or in my case a Canon man and the friendly rivalry develops. To produce such beautiful photographs with Pentax equipment he had to be an excellent photographer. Over the past two or three years he complained that he had thousands of slides taken in various parts of the world and he wanted them to be properly catalogued. I was able to source special boxes on the internet and he said he would let me know when he needed more. Sadly I don’t think he got the cataloguing completed as I did not have another request. Digital photography took over and gradually the supply of his favourite film dried up even on the internet. He had never got involved with computers or the digital age preferring hand write his letters.
Rodney – the writer
I did not use the word “author” because Rodney’s script was so perfectly formed it bordered on calligraphy. In the same way as he didn’t just listen to music he composed so with writing and literature he didn’t just read to appreciate he also attended lectures in Queen’s University. These encouraged him to write poetry.
He was an avid letter writer as his friends and magazine editors know.
It was because the then Leaders’ Board of the church recognised his writing skill and his interest in history that he was asked to compile a history of the church. This resulted in the publication of The Church by the Sea in 1991, the centenary year of this building. A few months ago I suggested to him that it was time to write another chapter. I think he would have if we had pressed him.
Rodney the gardener
He obviously was very fond of gardening and his garden reflected his attention to detail and organisation. Everything was well cared for. It was because we knew of his love of the garden that when he retired the choir bought him a bird bath which we thought might sit outside a window and provide some pleasure. Some of the ladies in the choir chose the bird bath at a local garden centre. I was tasked with collecting it and taking it to Rodney’s house. When I arrived at the centre the young man recognised the order and if I would stand by my car in the car park he would fetch it. In a few minutes he arrived with the bird bath wrapped in straw on a trolley. Just to be sure I parted some of the straw and what I saw made me doubt if it was the one chosen by the ladies. Four scantily clad young ladies held the bird bath above their heads. I asked him to check and sure enough he returned with a much more suitable item. Later I told the story to Rodney and you can imagine his reaction. That mischevious look came into his eye, he laughed and said “ I don’t know what the vicar would think if he were sitting drinking my coffee and saw four young ladies desporting themselves around the bird bath in my garden. I don’t think it would do the image of the church organist any good at all. At least he couldn’t sack me “
Farewell Rodney, teacher, conversationalist, musician, traveller, photographer, writer and gardener but most of all,- friend.