As many of my friends know, I have a great love for the sound of church bells. They ring to call the faithful to worship and to proclaim joyful events such as declarations of peace after war. They celebrate births and marriages and toll to commemorate the dead. This journey through life has never been more beautifully expressed than in the Edith Piaf song Les Trois Cloches (The Three Bells)
I am not at all religious, but one of my favourite songs at Christmas is Bing Crosby’s, ‘The Bells of St Mary’s’.
I’m delighted to present a guest post from a real live bell ringer, Kate Jennings, from the UK. .
THIS WONDERFUL RINGING FRATERNITY
During The 1950’s when money was in short supply, bell ringing became one of my hobbies and gave me a lifelong circle of friends. Wedding peal money was a bonus while I was still at school in London. Later, there was much socializing after ringing when we all adjourned to the pub near either St Luke’s in Chelsea or St Mary Abbot’s in Kensington, where I had learned to ring.
A holiday in Yorkshire in April (still cold in the evenings) was fun. Ringing hand bells, two each end of a brass bedstead, seemed risqué to a young girl kept cloistered from men.
Training as a nurse made attendance at ringing sessions more difficult, but after a year I had digs with the Tower Captain of St Luke’s and his partner, although my parents were very worried about them ‘living in sin’. Once a year we hosted members of the international College Youths for a dinner. The organization was founded in 1637 to promote excellence in bell ringing. My task was to ‘mop up’ any spillages and they could really drink! They did buy us theatre tickets as a reward.
Unlike some organizations, the great family of ringers welcome all sorts of eccentric people, which is admirable. As long as they can ring, they are completely acceptable. It is the most wonderful exercise too, keeping the belly flat and the boobs up (not so successfully lately though!)
I lived in Windsor for 33 years from the 1970’s to 2004, and my election to the Curfew Tower was an enduring pleasure, even though the bells are hard to handle.
We were present at all state occasions. During a visit from the head of state of another country the procession came up the hill and the clapper flew out of my bell, hitting another and creating some chaos. The tower captain fixed it back during the service so I could resume ringing afterwards. The Queen doesn’t miss much, and surely would have noticed!
In the early years of my marriage my husband learned to ring. We travelled then, and had the opportunity to ring in Harare Cathedral. It is so good to be welcomed all over the world. Ringing a quarter peal in Melbourne Cathedral where my eldest son lives was a special joy and Perth and Sydney were an equal pleasure.
There have been many funny accidents over the years; trousers falling, teeth coughed out and dropping through a grating in the floor. Once a young woman with a cropped top and no bra, brought the ringing to a standstill as she reached up. One of the places I ring now has a fish shop outside. Part way through a quarter peal on a hot day, some chips were thrown through the open window, a measure of someone’s displeasure.
EDITOR’S NOTE – A more extreme protest occurred at the English village of Compton Bassett
Bell ringing can be risky too, what with heart attacks and rope burns.
Moving to Cornwall in retirement 12 years ago, I thought my ringing days would be over, but on the contrary. Great enthusiasm exists here and I have learned many more methods, with a weekly surprise practice and regular peals in the district.
I was delighted when The Ringing World published a letter from me looking for people I had lost touch with years ago. Thanks to technology we are corresponding again. This summer saw a reunion of London friends from the 1960’s. We rang at St Dunstan in the West (shared with Rumanian Orthodox) and also performed on The Queen’s Jubilee Bells, now hanging in St James, Garlickhythe.
Today, apart from ringing at Tavistock in Devon and Callington in Cornwall, I belong to Old Codgers (eligibility is to be retired). It’s not always fine ringing….. sometimes a broken stay, but lots of fun and good lunches as well as reminiscences.
PAULINE’S NOTE – here is a little treat; the sound of bells.
FEAR NOT, THEY DO NOT TOLL FOR THEE.
FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A MESSAGE FORE KATE IN THE BOX BELOW. MAKE SURE YOU COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’.
Kate….message left on the site’s home page.