The Chester Diocesan Guild of Church Bell-Ringers
Monday, 05 June 2017
Flaming June is with us once more, the longest day fast approaches; and the rain is falling relentlessly outside my window as I type. Fear not! the summer will bring glorious days, although you might have to fly away somewhere to find them.
I do not need to remind anybody that, since my last Newsletter, there have been two appalling terrorist outrages, and innocent lives have been needlessly lost. The bombing at the Manchester Arena brought the tragedy a little closer to home for Iona and me, as one of our great-nieces was there. She was out of the way of any of the appalling scenes, but things could have been quite different. She returned to Manchester and attended the Old Trafford concert yesterday with her twin sister, mother and friends.
The British spirit which got us through the Blitz and the horrors of the last World War will sustain us again; and our values will prevail. It is only by coming together, despite our differences, that we can truly survive. There can be no place whatsoever for extremism that takes no real heed of the sanctity of human life. Please do not forget that men and women have been put to death in the name of Christ in this country in the past. A few hundred years ago we were burning witches and executing those who believed something different from state-approved religious belief. The memorial to George Marsh by St Paul’s Church in Boughton should remind all who pass it that intolerance can so easily tip over into injustice.
Bells can play their part here. Never forget the power they have to move: you will know that from ringing for Remembrance. A surprisingly high number of people appreciate the message of bells – usually by far one of the loudest instruments in a public space – and we do have a very important part to play. Of course, bells hang – for the main – in Christian churches. Whatever the particular beliefs of those who ring them are the bells will always, for me, remain holy instruments. And yet they can be rung by people of all faiths and none. I shall not forget the two Muslim girls who came to the Addleshaw Tower last September during the Heritage Open Days, and – showing great enthusiasm – had a few pulls on one of the bells. We all know that the overwhelming majority of our population have shared values: of compassion, decency and tolerance. Our bells can be rung by a whole variety of people with widely differing opinions, but their true message will be one of hope and one of a fundamental belief in the power of human beings to rise above their diversity, and to come together to celebrate their common humanity.
Events in May
There was a good Advanced Practice at Malpas on 19 May, which I missed as I was away. The two important events, however, were the Striking Competition at Pulford on Saturday 13 June; and the Walk and Ring in Shrewsbury on Spring Bank Holiday Monday.
Branch Striking Competition
I have said it many times, and I’ll say it again: we can be justifiably proud of our Striking Competition. True, we might not get the numbers we have had in the past, but where some CDG branches are struggling to keep their competitions alive ours is far from moribund. Well done to all those who took part in the competition at Pulford. When you listen to the bells outside the church you have to admit they do not sound so bad; but inside it is quite a different matter. My congratulations to all who took part and coped, in their different ways, with the odd-struckness. For the record, these are the results, the towers appearing in the order in which they rang:
Tower Rang Faults Position Award
Tattenhall Call changes 62 7 Intermediate Cup
Tarporley A Bob Doubles 32 1 John Griffiths Shield
Pulford Call changes 58 6
Cathedral Grandsire Doubles 40 2
Tarporley B Call changes 48 5 Novices Cup
Christleton Bob Doubles 44 3
Handbridge Call changes 47 4
Sorry if I’ve not got all that right. I made a couple of guesses. Once more Tarporley came out as winners. Congratulations to them, and the best wishes of us all to them for the Guild Six-bell Striking Competition at Poynton in September. Tarporley B also merit our congratulations for winning the Novices Cup. You may be surprised that the Intermediate Cup went to the team that came last. Our rules, however, make it impossible for them to be anything other than an intermediate band, since four of their ringers have rung quarter peals; and yet their band also contained two inexperienced ringers, one of whom has been ringing for only a matter of months. I think that is a wonderful achievement, and that award was well earned.
Our thanks, too, to the judge: Carrie Hyde, from Frodsham, but now a student in Chester. She did a very good job.
The next Striking Competition will be on 8 July at Witton: the Guild 8-Bell Competition. I shall be on holiday but I shall be looking out for the results, and we must all wish the Chester Branch team every success.
At the Quarterly Meeting following the Striking Competition I outlined my thoughts for a Striking Ladder for our Branch (and perhaps for a few towers outside it); and I wrote about it in the last Newsletter. I am determined to get this off the ground before the end of the year, but – quite rightly – I was asked to put all the fine details and rules in writing. I shall be getting on with that soon. Essentially it will work like ladders in sports such as tennis or squash. I’m quite sure a good number know all about these ladders.
Walk and Ring
This is another Branch event of which we can be very proud. I know that there has been a walk with ringing along the way since I returned to Chester from Bedfordshire in 2002; but there had been plenty of walks before that. I certainly enjoy them: it is a very simple concept and it definitely works. I shall not write too much about it, since Anita Dickens has written an account of it for her church website. I have asked for Anita’s article to be appended to this Newsletter on our own website. I cannot pass, however, without thanking Roger Boultbee once more for planning an excellent walk. The bells were good, too: I had forgotten how glorious are the bells of St Chad’s, and thanks to some local support we were able to ring the tenor, not only for rounds on twelve but for Grandsire Caters. And it stayed fine for our walk!
Events coming up soon
Boules (or, if you insist, Pétanque)
Last year some of you tossed those metal or plastic orbs into the air after the Brexit vote somewhere in Handbridge. We are soon about to start our negotiations with the rest of the EU, but – so our Prime Minister keeps telling us – we are still to remain great friends with the rest of Europe. It is thus in a spirit of entente (and I hope thoroughly cordiale) we meet again to play this most French of games on the afternoon of 17 June. The venue is the Calverley Arms, Handley. You should have all received a notice. Venez nombreux, as the French would say. Or, for monoglots, let’s see a good number of you there.
I hope you have all realised by now that this has been brought forward from 01 July to 24 June. I cannot tell you at this stage where it will be, but that is definitely the date. You will, of course, be receiving a notice from Helen. I do know that she is working very hard on these training events and she is concerned that she cannot always give you sufficient rope time. You are attending in great numbers, and that is wonderful; but there has been an unfortunate imbalance between the two towers that are open. Please bear with us – and above all keep coming – while we work out the best way of evening out the numbers. Once more, as always, big thanks to all those who keep turning up offering their help.
I am still hoping that the simulator at Tarvin will be working properly again soon. It has, indeed, been quite a saga, and I don’t pretend to know what the technical problems are. We should also have a simulator at Tattenhall before too long, and that must mean we can introduce another dimension to our training.
The Programme says it is to happen on Monday 19 June. Indeed that might be so; but we’ll have to wait for a definite announcement. Again, please keep coming if you’re at that level. Simon is doing a very good job and I’m quite sure these practices have a very useful place in our programme.
There will not be another Training Meeting until September, but I’m sure we’ll continue to visit some more practices in the Branch to provide a little strength.
Please do not forget the Chester Branch is to provide ringing for Evensong at the Cathedral on Sunday 16 July, and there is a specific invitation to all of you at Farndon, Hoole and Tilston.
We’ll be having a Quarterly Meeting – the only evening one of the year – at Aldford on Tuesday 15 August.
And finally, I have been approached by Graham Nabb of the Association of Ringing Teachers and asked if we might want to host a course in our Branch. I readily agreed, and there has been support from the Committee. It will not be until later in the autumn, but the proposal is to put on a day’s course for those involved in the initial training of ringers. You will be hearing much more later but I think that if you are the person who teaches bell handling in your tower you must expect some strong encouragement to attend the course.
I do try regularly to have a good look at BellBoard to see what has been happening. I certainly hope I have not missed any significant performances since January; and I sincerely apologise if I have done so. Congratulations, however, must be offered to four people who rang quarter peals last Monday at the Cathedral. You can, of course, check BellBoard (where there is also a photograph), but I have again asked for the complete details to be added to the online version of this Newsletter, but must mention that two people have rung their first quarter: Barbara Hocke (Tattenhall) and Sallie Sinnott (Cathedral); and then Ian Orme (Tattenhall) rang his first quarter away from cover, and Peter Law (Cathedral) rang his first quarter as cover. Well done! There are, I know, several other people in this Branch who would benefit from a quarter, and we must keep working on that.
I shall not dwell on this, but all the CRAG motions were passed with large majorities at the recent CCCBR Meeting in Edinburgh. It should gradually emerge what kind of central organisation we are going to have; but change is certainly in the air. No longer can we expect Victorian institutions to guarantee the future of bell ringing. What that means for the CDG in the long term I have no idea, but one thing I do know is that there will always have to be people working hard at local levels and in individual towers.
Last month I asked you about the opening of the Bell Tower. It was on Wednesday 25 June 1975 – the fortieth anniversary passed everybody by two years ago – and was by HRH, the Duke of Gloucester. Dean Addleshaw (whose name appears at the bottom of the tower) had very carefully applied all his scholastic knowledge and had named all thirteen bells. This was part of an old tradition, and the bells were named after saints. The Cathedral is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that is also the name of the tenor bell. At the opening ceremony we all listened to George Addleshaw’s explanation for his choice of name, and then we had to ring our bells (I think for three whole pulls). I can tell you that we all set the bell as required, and nobody needed an extra pull. The tenor did not need to set, as after it rang we all rang in rounds. I can also inform you that the Dean got the naming of the 10th and the 11th the wrong way round. I was going to give you the complete list of names together with the bells we all rang, but that will have to wait. I have just checked the names in the Centenary History book of the Guild, and see there are only twelve. We would not have rung 13 bells in rounds, but the flat sixth would definitely have been rung after it was named. Somewhere in the Archives there is a proper list, and it will have to be added to the online version of this Newsletter. I can tell you, though, that I rang the third bell: Benedict. Other ringers still very much with us in this Branch are David Andrews and Trevor Holmes. Chris Roberts rang the tenor. At Chris’s funeral I met Robert Nightingale (Tarvin), and he rang a bell on that June day in 1975. Others I am quite sure familiar to some of you were: Harry Furness (Christleton), George Weaver (Aldford), Robin Parry (Waverton) and Jackie Tilston (Dodleston). Who, I wonder, remembers Stephen Langford (Tattenhall) and the only Cathedral ringer, Phyllis Jeffs?
I note there are four female saints, and just one woman ringer at the naming ceremony. I have not forgotten I need to write in much more detail about women ringers in the CDG in general and in our Branch in particular, but that will have to wait a while.
I can ask a couple of questions for this month. They are based on Chester, and I’ll have to move back to other parts of our Branch next time.
There are two towers in Chester which used to have peals of bells hung for full-circle ringing, but which no longer do so. Which towers are they and what happened to their bells?
St John’s has a chime of eight bells in a specially built turret.