A MEMORIAL service was held on Wednesday in a packed St Nicholas Church, Guisborough, to commemorate a well-known Guisborough character and bell-ringer.

George Willerton, 69, had been a bell-ringer at St Nicholas Church for more than 50 years, even though the spiral staircase to the belfry would test a much younger man.

At the service, his fellow team members rang the bells unmuffled on his behalf. He was a long-standing member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and organised many trips to real ale pubs throughout the North-East and Yorkshire and was often to be found in the Anchor Pub in Belmangate near to his home.

George was born and bred in Guisborough and spent his early years with his parents and brothers, Dave, Frank and John in Oak Road. He attended Guisborough Grammar School and then joined the South Durham Steel and Iron Company in Middlesbrough. He worked for British Steel and associated industry before spending three years on a Business Studies Course at Doncaster University, then joining Cleveland Technical College at Redcar as Bursar, retiring at the age of 60.

George was an accomplished cricketer and played for the Anchor pub and in the tug-of-war team. He joined the Guisborough Theatre Club in the 1970s and had a short career treading the boards. He was famed for his Panto performance one year as a pig farmer and his dancing pigs. He was also a sailor and restricted his activities to canals but once collided with a bridge at full speed.

He was very mentally alert, especially when playing cribbage, dominoes and predicting horse-race winners. He was often to be found in the back room of the Tap and Spile pub on Westgate as it was the first and only non-smoking room at that time in the town’s pubs.

George was the founding member and Chairman of the GCAS, the Guisborough Curry Appreciation Society, a euphemistic term for organising the popular trips to real-ale pubs throughout the area.

These were often well attended by a considerable number of ladies, who felt some affection for him.

In delivering his eulogy at the service, long-time friend Barry Hart said: “George was a true gentleman, a working-class gentleman, who avoided profanity, and was always willing to help those who needed it, without making an issue.

"He was a very affable companion with very deep-seated social humanitarian values. He was a very likeable chap who will be missed greatly.”

The service was conducted by the Rector of Guisborough, Rev Alison Phillipson, who thanked George for his services to bell-ringing at the church and said: “He was a gentleman, always smiling and with a toffee in his hand.”