December- Seasonal Peace and Goodwill to All
The bell ringers wish everyone a Merry Christmas and hope our bell ringing over the Christmas season adds enjoyment to your own celebrations. This greeting is a little early, but as this piece is being written, we are in the process of agreeing our Christmas timetable of ringing events and other activities. The annual discussion is taking place about which church services it will be appropriate to ring bells for and which it will not. This involves quite a lot of matching up of diaries, church calendar and ringers’ personal commitments over the festive season. It also needs some reflection on the season’s ringing as a whole, in that we must consider both the church congregation’s needs and the needs of the local community.
This year we will offer to ring before or after at least five church services, in addition to our Tuesday practices and regular Sunday ringing. A local school’s carol service clashes with one Tuesday practice and this is perfect planning, as it enables us to hold our annual bell ringers’ Christmas quiz and shared supper on that evening. The more contentious issue of ringing for midnight communion on Christmas Eve and “ringing in” the New Year, does provoke debate, which basically comes down to “how nice and appropriate it would be” countered by “ we need to consider the neighbours at midnight”.
This year as in other years we believe the balance is correct with the five other services over Christmas and so we will not be ringing at midnight on either occasion. After all it is the season of peace, both spiritual and temporal, and goodwill to all, both church goers and neighbours!
November - The Bell Ringers’ Annual Weekend Ringing Trip
In September our annual weekend away took us to the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk Area. We made our base in Ely and travelled around the local towns and villages of Ramsey, Chatteris, Soham, Fordham, Exning, Balsham and Fulbourn ringing the bells in each place. We also had time to eat and drink in the larger towns and cities of Newmarket, Cambridge and Ely. Ely Cathedral is very impressive with its nickname ‘the ship of the fens’ justified, as one approaches it, across the flat landscape. The Cathedral has no bells of its own, but right next door is St Mary’s Church where we rang with the local band on their practice night and also joined their ringers in the pub afterwards.
We feel that lots of eating and drinking was particularly justified on this trip, as the wide, flat lands of this area mean that the local benefactors who endowed the churches, put up very tall church towers. This was probably so their largesse could be appreciated and seen over a much wide area, and to the greater glory of God. However, in ringing terms this also results in bell ropes which are very long indeed and therefore much more physically demanding to control when ringing. The effort needed to pull the ropes straight and true, certainly builds up an appetite and a thirst.
October - A sign, a coincidence or something else???
Last month we wrote about the purchase a pavement sign board and displaying posters about bell ringing. The sign duly arrived and we put it together, with its posters, with much enthusiasm. It is a large “A” frame pavement sign and some worshippers and visitors may have already noticed it outside the church doors during weddings and Sunday services. To our complete amazement on the sign’s very first Tuesday outing, a person climbed the stairs and introduced himself to the bell ringers as wishing to join us and ring regularly. In the month since that happened he has become a regular member of the tower ringing for weddings, Sunday services, a special quarter peal and attending and supporting Tuesday practices. Not only that but he is also experienced enough to support the less experienced and strong enough to ring the heavy back bells. Needless to say he is very, very welcome and we hope he continues his ringing career with us for many years to come.
We should also explain that John, our newest member, has been ringing church bells for over 60 years and has recently moved into the area having retired from active ministry, most recently in the Episcopal Church in America. John tells us that he was not aware of the sign nor was he “summoned by the bells” but far more mundanely, he has rung the Bingley bells at some time in his past ringing career and they are the closest bells to his current home.
Just coincidence then, although some readers of this news may feel there are other interpretations of John’s timely
arrival. We shall continue to put the “A” board out in hope that it will attract new people or that it will continue to attract other coincidences!
September - A Sign about Bingley Bell Ringing.
Recruiting and retaining people who are willing to put time and effort into learning to ring tower bells is a constant theme in the bell tower. This traditional skill takes a person at least six months to learn sufficiently well, to be confident enough to ring with the Sunday band and longer to be included in ringing for weddings, so we always need to be planning ahead.
In the past two months we have become depleted by the loss of three experienced ringers and so we felt we needed to take some practical action. There is an increased incentive for this because two of the three people had the strength and stamina to regularly ring the “back bells”, that is bells six, seven and eight. These are the heaviest bells with the tenor bell weighing around 125 stones or almost 800 kilograms, or roughly the weight of eight bell ringers put together.
This month, we therefore decided to purchase a pavement sign board and have had some posters about bell ringing printed. It is our intention to put this board out in a prominent position, probably chained to the railings, every time we ring the bells. Our poster advertises: “Bell ringing taking place now in the tower. Feel free to pop up the steps to learn more about it”. In doing this we hope that we might attract those passing who may be interested, the curious and those who will act spontaneously but who would not necessarily telephone first, make arrangements in advance or look at a website to find out more. If you should be passing and feel like visiting, please do. The main intention is to encourage people to understand what is involved in ringing and give it a go, but all are welcome to come up and see, just out of a general interest, with no strings (or should we say ropes!) attached!
July/ August - Bingley Bell Ringers in Competition with Grandsire!
As reported last year, the Bingley Bell Ringers have again taken part in the annual regional “Striking Competition” arranged by our regional branch of the Bell Ringers’ Association. In the 19th century such competitions were taken very seriously, often with prizes of money, barrels of ale or other alcohol, shields and cups at stake. Teams of male ringers from individual towers would compete, using their best ringers to undertake a piece of continuous ringing to be rung “Steady and True”, that is, with no mistakes and with even and rhythmic spacing of each bell as it struck in relation to the other bells.
Our most experienced bell ringers took part in this year’s competition on the 16th May, competing against eight other teams. The team rang the method Grandsire Doubles and made an excellent showing of coming in 3rd behind the teams from Ilkley and Brighouse. The winning team is the one which has the least faults, Ilkley won with 17 faults and Bingley scored 42 faults to place them 3rd.
However the Bingley Team were triumphant, coming 1st in the annual general knowledge quiz, held as part of the social event after the competition. So this piece is finished with a little bit of general knowledge about the naming of the piece which was rung in the competition. The ringing method Grandsire originates from around 1650 and its early draft was composed by Robert Roan the Clerk of the Pantry to Charles I. Robert was a ringer with the Society of College Youths, as the name suggests, at that time, these were all young men and Robert though youngish may have been slightly older. It is thought the youths may have given him the teasing nickname “Grandsire”, just as the oldest in a group of men today may be nicknamed “granddad”! Hence Robert’s method became known as “Grandsire” and continues to be rung and venerated to this day.
June - Day Trip to Humberside
Just over two years ago, Ashleigh, a young ringer, joined us in Bingley having moved to work in the area from her home town near Grimsby. She has often told us about her ringing experiences in the Humberside/ North Lincolnshire area and the absence of ringing in some churches due to a lack of local ringers. Curiosity about the area and its close proximity made a day trip there an intriguing prospect. So, in mid –April, with Ashleigh’s help, we arranged a trip which included ringing at 4 towers, picnic lunch overlooking the River Humber and its bridge and a traditional fish and chip supper in Cleethorpes to finish.
Eighteen ringers enjoyed a glorious, sunny, but cold day out, with long distance views of huge skies and vast fields of golden oil seed rape in blossom across North Lincolnshire. Sadly, in three of the four towers visited there were many “oh dear” moments when the somewhat neglected bells were challenging to ring or out of tune, while their bell towers and ringing rooms seemed to lack the vitality of well -used and well- loved places of continuous team activity.
At the end of the day we travelled to Cleethorpes and fish and chips at Steel’s Corner House, which is in a building close to the site where John Wesley preached and is a long established, popular and well known eating place in the town. What was less well known to us visitors was the size of the portions, a large portion being like the long distance views of huge skies and vast fields of oil seed rape in North Lincolnshire – huge battered fish over-hanging both ends of the plate, with piles of golden chips, enjoyable for some but another “oh dear” moment for others!
May - Beware of the Beasties in the Tower!!
This month has been a relatively quiet time for the bell ringers. Christmas and New Year behind us, Easter services mostly not requiring bells and the wedding season yet to start. However, over the past couple of weeks we have had to turn our thoughts to a thorough spring clean because we appear to have visitors in the scores, literally descending upon us. It is those cute but annoying little mini-beasts the ladybirds.
Close inspection shows they are gathering in the highest part of the ringing chamber around the windows but either the sound of bells or the warmth generated by the ringers causes them to fly around or explore the carpet. We can now recognise at least two types – the black with red spots and the red with black spots. The problem is both fly noiselessly and it is very distracting when ringing to have them appear in ones’ peripheral vision and then collide with ones’ hair, ears, mouth or clothing. Ringing requires smooth, long pulls of the rope using both hands, but small as they are, the ladybirds are managing to turn us into twitchy, head tossing and jumpy individuals.
Ringers from other towers tell us that they have similar problems and it is clearly a very good or very abundant year for ladybirds depending on your point of view. However, cute they may be, but we are afraid that their nuisance value means the bell is finally about to toll for them!
April - Bell Ringing and Bradford City Football Club
Over the last month the team in the tower have had several conversations which focus on Bradford City’s football team and its current (at the time of writing 12.3.15) ability to “punch well above its weight” in terms of the F.A. Cup progress. Three of our ringers and their families are ardent fans and there has certainly been extra verve in their ringing after each successful score line. Discussion in the pub after practice is also about chances of reaching the semi- finals or going even further! However this has not been the only discussion about Bradford City FC., we are also aware that a very sad anniversary is coming up for the club in May this year, as it will be 30 years since the Bradford Fire where so many were killed and injured.
We understand a special service of remembrance will take place in the City Park and enquires are taking place to see if some members could ring the bells at Bradford Cathedral in conjunction with the commemoration service, or during the day as a mark of respect . The tower members who support the football club would be particularly keen to combine their interests and skills in such an act of loyalty and remembrance. However, for all of us who lived in the Bradford area 30 years ago and remember that terrible day it would also be an honour to do so, even if our ringing is not given that extra verve by the score lines in the FA Cup!
Since writing the above article, Bradford City were subsequently knocked out of the FA Cup by Reading 3-0 in a quarter final replay held at Madejski Stadium. Although a bit of a lacklustre effort by the Bantams they did make small fortune along the way so as good true Yorkshire folk, everyone went home happy.
March - David Appleton – Bell Ringer for 45 years
At practice night, on Tuesday 20th January 2015, tower members at All Saints’ were given the very sad news that our friend and fellow ringer David Appleton had died that morning. David had a ringing career in Bingley which spanned over 45 years and it is remarkable to think that David, a very regular attender, probably made over 7000 trips up and down the tower in his contributions to ringing in Bingley. It seemed fitting that we received this news together on a practice night.
David was a skilled, knowledgeable, steady, reliable, ever present ringer, who was always supportive to other ringers, particularly learners. He also had a mischievous character, a dry sense of humour and unfortunately a memory for the corniest of jokes! These characteristics always ensured that ringing and practice sessions were enjoyable and that things never got too tense in the tower.
It was with great sadness that ringers past and present gathered for David’s funeral at All Saints on 4th February 2015. Over the preceding week some 20 + ringers, joined in some aspect of ringing for David. A quarter peal was rung for him on the Sunday, the church bells were rung before and after the funeral itself and following tradition, the longest standing member of the tower tolled the 7th bell for 75 blows, once for each year of David’s life, as his coffin was brought into the church. We were pleased to be allowed to present a floral tribute to him in the form of a bell-shaped wreath in the Bingley colours of red, white and green.
As one of the longest standing members of Bingley tower we will all miss David tremendously. David’s role in ensuring the pleasures of bell ringing and the pleasures of hearing bells ring, continues in Bingley, will not be forgotten.
January / February - Try a new Skill for 2015 and help keep a 247 year long tradition going.
After a very busy Christmas Ringing Season we have had a chance to get back to a normal pattern of ringing with practices on Tuesday evenings and weekly service ringing plus ringing for weddings and other special occasions. The list of weddings requesting bells in 2015 has already reached nine. The end of the Christmas season, anticipation of the wedding season and the fact that time is not making any of us any younger, always makes us reflect on encouraging new ringers in every way possible. We continue to take recruitment and planning for succession seriously, promoting ringing whenever possible, in order to keep our well attended tower ringing into the future.
After 246 years we are now encouraging recruitment through electronic media including Twitter and the church website. So this year our recruitment plea, both electronic and here, is to think about giving it a go – no need to be musical or physically strong just be over ten years old, be able to count, have a sense of rhythm and a willingness to practice. Why not make a no obligations visit to us on a practice night to get an idea of what is involved? We would love to hear from you, your family members, friends or colleagues and to meet you in 2015. Our website for more information about the ringing tradition in Bingley is http://bingleybells.btck.co.uk.