Tuesday 25th February 2020
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It was a day that started with sadness but ended with laughter.
The death of BBC Radio Suffolk’s Simon Warr this morning has very little to do with ringing, bar tenuously as a familiar voice on the radio as we have travelled the county ringing on Saturday afternoons over recent years and an employee of an organisation that has given the art much invaluable support and publicity locally, but it was a subdued way to start the day as I listened to the station as I usually do.
We finished it rolling in the aisles though, as we used a pair of tickets that mother-in-law Kate very kindly got us at Christmas and went to see Ardal O’Hanlon at The Corn Exchange in Ipswich, performing on his The Showing Off Must Go On tour. He is best known to many as Dougal in Father Ted, the hilarious sitcom of the late 1990s, but he is also an incredibly funny comedian and we thoroughly enjoyed an evening preceded with a drink in the Swan & Hedgehog opposite the venue and followed by a return home to relieve Ruthie’s sister Clare who had very kindly looked after the boys whilst we were out.
In between the start and end of our day, we spent a pretty mundane though pleasant and productive day pottering around the house doing some much needed jobs and giving the car a spring-clean ahead of it being pencilled in as a taxi service tomorrow. We even found some time to play in the garden with Alfie and Joshua before the weekly wind drove us indoors.
However, elsewhere ringers within our borders were more active in the exercise as Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020 picked up again after a couple of barren days. Well done to Robert Scase on ringing his most methods to a peal in the 5040 of seven Minor methods at Monewden today. And Happy sixtieth Birthday Tuesday Robert!
It is a happy note to end a day of sadness and laughter.
When I used to do regular early shifts for the international campaigns at work, quite apart from fulfilling their main purpose of me being able to contact schools on the far side of the world whose working day is drawing to a close as many of us here in the UK are only just stirring, they had the added benefit of having time in the afternoon to do other things, including ringing.
I have stopped doing those shifts now, mainly because my body couldn’t cope with the constant one-week-early-one-week-late shift pattern for months on end, but also because it is not really necessary these days with much of my work now done by email anyway. However, it does limit opportunities for ringing, which would’ve come in particularly handy with Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020!
This morning though, I did go in for a slightly early shift at John Catt Educational. Nothing drastic mind. No pre-dawn start as I have done previously, but early enough to reach some of those schools a few hours ahead of us. And early enough on this occasion to take in a bit of parenting.
During this half-term, Alfie has been going to holiday club on the days when both Ruthie has been at work and this afternoon it climaxed with a performance with his chums. This mainly consisted of some pretty nifty robot dancing that myself and his Granny Kate enjoyed immensely.
There wasn’t any time for peal-ringing though and indeed that may have been the case on a wider basis across the county on another blank day for SGRPW20, although elsewhere others found the time for a handbell quarter-peal in Ipswich as Amanda Richmond continues her recovery. Well done to Colin Salter on ringing his first of Oxford Treble Bob Major in the 1312.
No such opportunities for me though. There wasn’t enough time left after work and parenting.
Thus far on Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020 seven peals have been rung in a pretty decent start, but it had its first blank since Saturday, although a quarter-peal of six Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Tostock is worthy of mention.
However, more was happening beyond our borders on the peal-ringing front, most particularly in London where the same band rang a brace of peals of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced – one at St James Garlickhythe of Chandler’s composition and one at Spitalfields of Smith’s composition. Primarily they appear to centre around the former being Alan Regin’s fiftieth of the composition and the latter his one hundredth of that composition, but even taking into account the familiarity that those partaking must have with the compositions and the methods, it is still a staggering achievement to ring both in a day, featuring forty-one different methods across the 10304 changes and precisely six hours of ringing over the two peals. Nice to see Past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd ringing and indeed conducting Norman Smith’s composition, in amongst a band that also featured the likes of David Brown, Central Council President Simon Linford (a reminder to catch his blog on the CCCBR website to see how such a thing should really be written!) and Paul Mounsey, who of course was one of the judges at Saturday’s George W Pipe Striking Competition in Ipswich. Impressive stuff.
No such exertions for us unfortunately (a peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods remains one of my ringing ambitions) as instead Ruthie went to choir practice, whilst I looked after the boys as I eagerly awaited news of the next SGRPW20 peal!
Ringing at The Wolery does draw some disparaging remarks from time to time, albeit often in jest, but I’ve always maintained that when the ringing goes well there, it is probably the very best ringing that I partake in currently. Brisk, flowing and hypnotic, you can easily drift away floating on a cloud of effortless striking, although that can be dangerous of course!
We may have all struggled to remember the name of it beforehand, but Elmore Surprise Major – the method for this evening’s 5056 – was a musical construction and rung to a musical composition it certainly induced some of the dreamy ringing described above, although as also alluded to, a near handling malfunction close to the end of our 2hrs3mins of ringing caused everyone to wake up from their trance and led to a slightly unsettled finish! It wasn’t enough to spoil what was an extremely enjoyable performance to ring in, all topped off by cake, tea and news of Colin Salter’s plans now he has a job!
And our success meant that I have contributed to Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020, even if it is only a little bit. With my decision to mainly work regular daytime hours at John Catt for our latest international campaign, busy weekends either end of the ‘week’ and the usual logistical challenges when trying to arrange peals around parenthood, this was going to be my one and only shot at helping out on SGPW20, so I am delighted to have scored this!
Two members of tonight’s band – Mary Dunbavin and SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase – were earlier in another success for this event that I am so glad I reintroduced in 2007 and has since given opportunities to many ringers, much to my pleasure. That includes Louis Suggett who called today’s 5120 of Superlative Surprise Major at Ixworth and Barry Dixon, for whom this was his first in the method. Interestingly, the 5186 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Dalham during SGRPW07 an incredible thirteen years ago also featured Mary Dunbavin, as well as Barry ringing his first in the method and a young(er) Louis ringing his first of Surprise Major altogether. Fair to say he’s done a fair bit since! Well done to Barry on his most recent achievement!
Sadly someone who isn’t going to be partaking in peal-ringing or indeed any ringing anytime soon is Ipswich Deanery representative and immediate Past South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson whose pursuit of a shoplifter at his business Wines of Interest on Monday saw him rupture an Achillies tendon. Impressively he made it out to St Mary-le-Tower practice on Monday night, but after his diagnosis yesterday and subsequent plastering of his foot, it looks like we will be missing his ringing skills for the time being and following injuries to Amanda Richmond and Nigel Newton in recent months has prompted conspiracy theories that one of our rivals at Walsall on 28th March is trying to nobble Ipswich’s entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest!
God willing there doesn’t appear to be such bad luck at Pettistree, where the practice was preceded by a quarter-peal, maintaining a 100% record on Wednesdays before the sessions thus far this year.
Whilst her mother Kate rang in that, there was no opportunity for Ruthie to do any ringing as instead she found herself looking after four children as the boys’ cousins came round for the day during this half-term. I think she quite enjoyed it, but I can imagine there may have been moments where she imagined herself floating on a cloud of effortless striking...
Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020 had its best day thus far, with a brace of peals rung for it today. Both were of Surprise Major, with a 5088 of Cornwall rung at Bardwell and 5280 of Lincolnshire rung at Henley. Well done to Nikki Thomas, Ruth Suggett and Mark Ogden on ringing their first of the method in the former and to David Everett on ringing his first of the method in the latter.
They weren’t the only performances in the county recorded on BellBoard today. Indeed, they weren’t the only peals as a 5152 of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced was rung at Ixworth for the Ely Diocesan Association.
Meanwhile, there were also three quarter-peals rung within our borders, as a 1312 of Glasgow Surprise Major was rung at Gislingham, a 1250 of Ealing Surprise Major was rung at Hopton and before the weekly practice at Offton, a 1296 of Oxford Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor was successfully rung on the back six.
No such activity for us though, with the extent of the excitement for us being Ruthie’s sudden urge to make a banana cake!
Thank goodness the SGPW20 is more active!
I have commented before that the National Twelve-Bell Contest is the closest that ringing comes to professional sport. Expansive PR, its own website, Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube channel and its live broadcast at the final, a set of guidelines for hosting an eliminator or final, the extensive history and stats that are almost akin to Sky Sports, all following some incredible ringing excellence.
However, this evening there was a pleasant reminder that it is still a friendly ringing competition though, as at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly session we were joined by Jonathan Spencer, part of Southwark’s squad in the contest and therefore due to be in direct competition with us at Walsall on 28th March.
Of course he was made more than welcome in the ringing chamber – even helping us practice the test piece of Cambridge Surprise Maximus – and then afterwards in The Cricketers.
Quite apart from this demonstration of the close ringing family in action, it was nice to get out tonight after a day cooped up in the house with a poorly Joshua as I had to take a day off work to look after him. It was quite nice to spend some unexpected extra time with him, even making it to the garage at one point for something minor on the car to be fixed, which enthralled the three-year-old, but it was lovely to make it out later!
Meanwhile, Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020 notched up another success, this
time with Hilary Stearn ringing her first peal on eight in
the 5152 of Plain
Bob Major at Grundisburgh – well done Hilary! Another reminder of what a
friendly family ringing is!
Yesterday’s George W Pipe Striking Competition done and dusted and now reflected upon with much satisfaction, focus returns to Ipswich’s planned participation in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at Walsall on Saturday 28th March.
Therefore, twenty-four hours after the GWP ended for this year, Ruthie and I were back at St Mary-le-Tower for our latest practice for next month’s event, switching from the Kent Treble Bob Maximus that was the test piece for the East Anglian competition to Cambridge Surprise Maximus, which is the test piece for forty days time (according to the competition’s website’s countdown clock) in the West Midlands. For the first time for such a session on our own bells, we were able to refer to Hawkear for three of the four half-courses we rang this afternoon (it only failed to record our final piece!) and we tried to use it to maximum effect. There can be a tendency to take on too much information from the abundance of data the system gives and of course the intricacies of our own 35cwt twelve bares little resemblance to the completely different intricacies we are due to face with the 25cwt twelve we are planning to compete upon, but Hawkear is growing on me more and more, offering useful guidance and even motivation, as we push ourselves to better each performance by the results that the computer gives us. And there is much confidence gained when there is definitive evidence that we are improving, as was the case on this occasion.
It all seems to be getting very real now and any practice we can get of the test piece is invaluable, but arguably the most important practice will be the one we are pencilled in to have at Walsall itself next week and this afternoon arrangements for car-sharing and even ringing at an additional tower were being made for our trip out there. God willing we have a more productive trip than our friends from Norwich did this afternoon, as they made the 300miles+ roundtrip to Aston – where they are due to compete on 28th March – to the twelve there in an area already heaving with over 40,000 Villa fans watching their team lose to Spurs at the football stadium just a few yards away, only to have the tenor rope break on them! Earlier the Guildford band had also been there to practice and apparently questioned how long the offending rope was going to last, but it seems odd that a tower selected for ringing’s most prestigious contest should suffer a malfunction such as this which should be so easily avoided. There will be much nervousness that such an occurrence won’t happen on competition day, but for now it must be most galling for our chums north of the Waveney that their invaluable practice has been lost and an entire afternoon and much travelling wasted.
Our travelling was less expansive today, as apart from our relatively short journey into Suffolk’s county town after lunch, we merely travelled into Woodbridge, where we again rang all eight before a service that Ruthie sang for, the boys and I joined and the Revd Canon Kevan McCormack’s successor as rector at St Mary-the-Virgin was announced as Nigel Prior. Nigel is currently at Mayfield in East Sussex, whose ringers - by their own admission - struggle to man their 19cwt eight for method-ringing in a situation not too dissimilar to where he is due to take charge in later this year, so hopefully he will be familiar with the needs of the ringers amongst everything else. Indeed, when I spoke with him at the ‘meet-and-greet’ a few weeks ago he seemed very amenable to bells and ringers. We pray for a rector-ringers relationship as successful as that of the last twenty years here!
Elsewhere in the county he will be gearing himself up to move to, it was a busy day of ringing beyond our own exploits. As is the norm, the monthly peal at Aldeburgh was a first in the method for the band and the Guild, which was a Cambridge/Yorkshire-above-the-treble construction called Dylan Surprise Major. On this occasion though, it was moved from its usual second-Sunday slot to this third Sunday of the month to kick-off Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2020. Hopefully the next few days will see firsts of all sorts, as well as the number-crunching that also maintains interest amongst peal-ringers and ultimately – directly or indirectly – helps to progress the art.
That said, quarter-peal ringing is also a very important component of pushing the exercise forward and offering ringing opportunities and today there was plenty of that too, with the 1260s of Tillington Bob Minor and Number Of The Beast Bob Minor rung at Buxhall and Great Barton respectively being the first blows in the methods for all those taking part. Well done to them all!
Meanwhile, mother-in-law Kate was ringing a QP of Plain Bob Minor on the back six at Hollesley as a farewell to the departing Reverends Ruth and the Michael Hatchett, with the former also being a ringer. Happy Birthday to Jenny Lloyd too!
Mrs Eagle then returned to her abode where we met her after our own ringing and where Grandad Ron had prepared a roast dinner for our consumption whilst also keeping an eye on the boys as I rang at SMLT – thank you Ron and Kate! It was a lovely way to end the day as we took a break from striking competitions.
Last week it was Storm Ciara, this weekend Storm Dennis is visiting the UK. Cue much disruption, with the Orwell Bridge closed again, public transport timetables out of the window and various events cancelled or postponed.
Other things did go ahead though, including Ipswich Town’s match against Burton Albion, which they won 4-1, an incredible result by recent standards. And about a mile across the town centre at St Mary-le-Tower, the third annual George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition was already underway, as a record turnout of six teams partook for the increasingly sought-after shield. When Ian Culham – who devised the contest and has magnificently organised it since – first set this up in 2018, its main purpose was to encourage teams and ringers who didn’t feel able to commit to the National Twelve-Bell Contest and so he sensibly initially restricted entry to teams from Essex and Suffolk who may have been put off by entries from Cambridge and Norwich who are well-established entrants to the contest for the Taylor Trophy nationally. Such has been its success though, that the ringers of St Peter Mancroft were keen to get involved and with the likes of Chelmsford, The Norman Tower, Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey now confidently producing superb ringing over the last two contests, the time seemed right to introduce our friends in Great Yarmouth and Norwich in Norfolk, with the latter accepting.
Thus we gathered for the draw in the church at 10am and half an hour later our team photo had been taken and we were in this famous ringing chamber ready to ring. Having taken the plunge by putting an entry into the national competition, we felt that we shouldn’t be asking all the squad planning to ring in that (and thus due to be making two trips to Walsall in the next few weeks amongst other practices) to also commit to this, although some of us are ringing in both. Besides, it was also a good opportunity to give some of the lesser experienced twelve-bell ringers such as Sue Williamson and Abby Antrobus and it felt in the spirit of the contest.
However, there were a few worried looks as we struggled through the practice piece. Being on our own bells, we were keen to put on a good show, but a lot of nerves were on display. Often, doing well in striking competitions is getting nerves under control as much as the actual striking itself.
We needn’t have worried. The metaphorical butterflies were got under control, a pep talk given by conductor David Potts and the test piece of 288 changes of Kent Treble Bob Maximus – six leads with a bob at each lead-end apart from at half-way and the end where a single is made by five and six in 5-6 – was completed in a very decent fashion, with Sue and Abby coming out of it with much credit.
From there, we turned from participants to hosts. Ruthie and I were at the ready to help if needed to serve tea, coffee and cake in the church and we aided in money collection and moving furniture, but frankly our meagre efforts were dwarfed by those of others, especially Tessa Earey and Claire Potts on the aforementioned tea and cake table, the still-injured Amanda Richmond and band-member Abby on the sausage and bacon butty counter in Church House, Tessa’s husband Ralph on providing the invaluable signage, Peter Davies on taking team photos, whilst Stephen Cheek, David Potts and Jonathan Williamson did much directing of proceedings in the lead-up to, during and after.
As for the ringing itself, I was impressed by what I heard and the general opinion seemed to be that all the bands acquitted themselves splendidly. Ultimately it was The Norman Tower – the band can be found on BellBoard - who won in a close result, the first team to win the shield twice, but everyone can be pleased with the standard produced.
Pretty much everything about the day was a success, with a huge attendance enjoying each other’s company, the refreshments from beer to butties were just plentiful enough as the numbers were estimated perfectly and there were lots of smiles on a day that we were very grateful to the church for the use of the facilities.
Well done Ian on his continued organising of what has become a real highlight of the ringing calendar in these parts. To get judges of the quality of Alban Forster (who along with his father Chris also judged the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy competitions at Hasketon in 2010) and Past College Youths Ringing Master (1981) Paul Mounsey was a masterstroke and due to work commitments he already has a couple of superb judges lined up for next year, which is due to be held at Waltham Abbey. However, generally the feedback from everyone I spoke with was that this has been a marvellous innovation.
The only downside to the occasion was that George W Pipe himself couldn’t be present. Indeed, he isn’t very well at all, even by the standards of ill-health he has suffered over the last decade or so. He is now back in hospital, struggling to swallow and apparently unable to talk, a dreadful thing for someone who even in his frailty of recent years has held entire halls and churches captivated with his speeches. It was wonderful that his wife Diana could be there today, but it was sobering news on this day of celebration of East Anglian twelve-bell ringing which he has done more than anyone to progress. We all hope for a recovery that enables George to return home soon and maybe even out and about.
Still, I am sure that he will be pleased to hear of how well today went and that it put one over Storm Dennis!
Valentine’s Day. The fourteenth 14th February that Ruthie and I have spent together and we’ve never gone particularly overboard on celebrating it. No grand gestures, although occasionally we have got each other presents. Indeed, we have rarely gone out for the occasion, especially in recent years with children to look after and with lots of child-sitting credits being used up currently for peals, quarter-peals and twelve-bell practices tonight was never going to be one where we bucked that trend!
Still, we enjoyed ourselves with a three course meal at home in between getting the children to bed and my wife baking a cake for consumption at tomorrow’s George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Striking Competition at St Mary-le-Tower.
Talking of which, there was a great bit of PR for local ringing on BBC Radio Suffolk over my lunchbreak as Ipswich Deanery Representative Jonathan Williamson spoke to friend-of-ringing Lesley Dolphin about the competition. It is nearly ten minutes of glorious publicity just over half-an-hour into her show and also touches upon the technicalities of ringing itself and an appeal for more ringers across Suffolk.
Meanwhile, ringing also features in a video about the project to refurbish St Peter’s church in Sudbury, home of a 20cwt ten that are a big part of the plans. The ringing that appears on the video is from last Friday which George Reynolds had asked for ringers for and although brief it is nice that the efforts of those who could help out has contributed to a professional looking video.
Beyond our borders, congratulations to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on ringing her one hundredth peal in the 5100 Valentine’s Day Surprise Major – appropriate in both length and method name -rung at Toppesfield for the SGR in Essex. Not bad at all considering she took a twenty-five year gap in the medium between 1991 and 2016!
What a lovely way to spend Valentine’s Day.
It is a big week for the Revd Canon Kevan McCormack as his time as Rector at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge – and indeed his life as a priest – draws to a close.
On Sunday he presided over his final morning service, followed by a farewell meal. On Monday, a quarter-peal was rung on the 25cwt eight at the church where he has spent the last twenty years in charge. On Tuesday there was an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website about him. And tonight, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday – and therefore his very last day before his retirement – eight of us rang another QP for him. As with our efforts three days ago, we again rang Yorkshire Surprise Major as a nod to his county of birth, but this time we were at Ufford ringing an appropriate length of 1270 changes which required a different start to usual. This initially caught us out and we had to restart immediately, but after that a very decent performance was produced and having only replaced a tired Ruthie just beforehand, I was delighted to have been able to take part, especially for Kev the Rev’s big week.
Ruthie was out at Pettistree this evening, ringing Chester Surprise Minor, Wells Surprise Minor, spliced and much else after singing at a funeral at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge earlier in the day, but for me it was a quiet night in.
The practice that was attended by my wife was preceded by a 1296 of London Surprise Minor and was dedicated to the ninetieth birthday on 9th February of Don Price. Sadly family circumstances and ill-health mean that many of us haven’t seen Don much for a couple of years or so, but up until then he had travelled the considerable distance from his home in Reydon to Grundisburgh twice-weekly to support the ringing there on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights and was often willing to come out to support ringing miles from home as well as in the Southwold area. It wasn’t just his dedication and loyalty that we appreciated though. He brought with himself his considerable ringing skills (his peal history and lengthy membership of the College Youths over many decades is very impressive!) and occasionally his carpentry skills too. Happy Birthday for Sunday Don – we all hope to see you again soon!
That quarter-peal wasn’t the only ringing success on bells in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard today, with a peal of twenty-three Treble Dodging Minor methods rung on handbells in Bacton, as others were enjoying time out ringing!
Following our busy evening of ringing last night, neither of us touched a bellrope today, with the main focus post-work being Alfie’s parents’ evening at school, where he seems to be doing well on writing, words and – encouragingly for any potential ringing ambitions – numbers, although as one would expect at this stage of his education with room for improvement. I imagine his academic skills come from his mother, although I can’t think where his “little bit of cheekiness” that sometimes threatens to go too far comes from...
Elsewhere in Suffolk, other ringers were ringing, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton successful – on this occasion with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six – whilst we returned home to another ringer as we showed our gratitude to Ruthie’s mater Kate with a cuppa and took our time with no ringing to get to.
Like Coca-Cola with Lemon, tonight was familiar but with a twist.
Joshua was collected from nursery, but in darkness as they suffered a power-cut (mercifully at the end of the day!) and then we returned home where we were met by Ruthie’s gran for an evening of child-sitting of the boys as their parents were unusually going out ringing together.
From here our evening was in two parts.
First up, a quarter-peal at Woodbridge to mark the Revd. Canon Kevan McCormack’s retirement this week. Sadly, due to complaints over the 5040 of Grandsire Triples in June, we are unable to ring a peal for the occasion, which would have been most appropriate. Personally I believe it would’ve been perfectly fine to ring a peal at this time of year, with windows shut and the sound of bells drowned out by wind, rain and the indoor noises of TV and radio sets, as opposed to last summer’s efforts where windows would’ve been open, residents in their gardens and the sound of the bells audible across the town in the stiller conditions. However, Kevan was understandably wary of causing upset to the church’s neighbours before he left and we must always be considerate of those who live and work within earshot of the bells. Hopefully this won’t be a permanent situation as this tower has a tremendous history of peal-ringing, but clearly if peal-ringing is to resume – as it should – then timing will be all-important, as will informing local residents well in advance and in the long-term sound control needs considering.
For now though, I am pleased we were able to ring something for ‘Kev the Rev’s’ twenty years here and his support of the bells and to ring it so well, as we did. Although Yorkshire Surprise Major was appropriately requested in honour of where the retiring rector was born and bred, this band could have rung something much more complicated and so the high standard is to be expected, but on a heavy eight it isn’t as straightforward as it might appear. The emphasis on ringing at the back bells’ pace is even greater and whilst the temptation is to hold the little bells up and ring very slowly, on a personal level I find it immeasurably easier when I’m ringing a big bell if everything is moved on so that I haven’t got to heave it right up over the balance each and every stroke. It really needs the whole band to go along with you and I was delighted that everyone did on this occasion, especially Ruthie on the seventh, which isn’t easy!
Just under half an hour after Mike Whitby called stand on the 1250 changes and the rounds at the end, my wife and I were sat in the ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower listening to a course of Little Bob Maximus being rung, having already been greeted by Stephen Cheek and David Potts outside as they looked to consolidate their thoughts on where best to sit the judges at Saturday’s George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Striking Competition being held here.
I really would encourage people to come along and take in the atmosphere and ringing at this contest which is really settling down into a tremendous event. There will be beer and other refreshments, good ringing and plenty of ringers with a record entry of six teams as teams from Norfolk have been invited to join their counterparts from Essex and Suffolk for the first time.
It is as preparation for ringing at this which brought Mrs Munnings out with me to a practice night that is familiar to me, but not usually with my better half accompanying. Most particularly we were there to run through the test piece of six leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus, but of course we also partook in other ringing there, including some Grandsire Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus, on a night where the attendance was boosted by the visit of Alex Tatlow.
Elsewhere in the county meanwhile, I was sorry to see they were short on numbers at Hopton for their practice night, although pleased that they used the occasion to ring a QP as a 1260 of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles was rung with the only six ringers who made it to this eight in the north of the Guild.
Perhaps they went for a drink afterwards, but we didn’t, as we returned home to relieve my wife’s grandmother of her duties of looking after her great-grandsons for which we were most grateful, as my familiar Monday night ended with an unfamiliar twist.
There was a real end of an era today. The Revd Canon Kevan McCormack – affectionately known as ‘Kev the Rev’ – isn’t officially retiring until his seventieth birthday on Thursday and even has a funeral to take before that, but today was his final Sunday morning service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge after twenty years as rector at this landmark of the town and indeed area. And it was marked in style.
Including by the bellringers, with all eight rung and rung well, although a mishearing did lead to an amusing conversation mid-ringing.
Conductor to ringer of the third; “Are you happy to ring
Third ringer; “Yes.”
Seventh ringer; “I’ve never rung Grandsire Triples.”
Conductor; “Go Grandsire.”
Cue lots of crashing (although said seventh ringer gave it a decent go with some guidance from me on the tenor!), before order was restored and the good ringing continued!
Downstairs afterwards, we were met by a packed church for a service tinged with sadness but upbeat, with applause for the retiring priest after his final sermon and as he walked down the aisle at the end of the service. And following the usual post-service tea and biscuits two hundred people headed over to The Abbey School next door (a place that holds fond memories as it was the location of our wedding reception) where a tremendous meal was held with a free bar and a ‘guess the wine’ competition on the ‘Red Wines of the World’ table (one of many tables themed on aspects from Kevan’s life, with us being on a table called ‘The King’s Head’!), all followed by speeches, including from the star of the show recounting an amusing anecdote of a conversation with the Queen during his time as one of her chaplains!
I have already said on here about how special Kevan has been to us in marrying us and Christening Alfie and Joshua and although he made a quip in the service about not being woken by the bells in the future, he has been a big supporter of the ringers, a photo hangs prominently on the wall of the ringing chamber of him with the band from early on in his time here and there were many ringers present, including Ringing Master Bruce Wakefield and his wife Gillian and mother-in-law Kate. He will definitely be missed by the ringers.
Having walked into Storm Ciara on the way to church, we were grateful to Ruthie’s mother, to Ron and to her grandmother for collectively returning us home where we rewarded them with a warming cuppa, but elsewhere, other ringers were also braving the blustery conditions, with a quarter-peal of Erin Caters rung at The Norman Tower for Evensong at the cathedral.
Back home out of the wind meanwhile, we were warmed by a video of a four leads of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung at St Mary-le-Bow in London yesterday, rung not only for the wedding of Jemma and Ben Meyer, but featuring them side-by-side in their finery. In a wider context though, it is an excellent example of how twelve-bell ringing should be done, with all ringing at the same pace, the little bells tucked in at the back, the speed brisk but not racing away, all led by the tenors. We are getting better at St Mary-le-Tower, but I hope it is a video that all in the Ipswich band for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest take the time to watch to inspire us to make our entry at the Walsall eliminator on 28th March the start of an era for SMLT in the competition.
This morning I should’ve been ringing in a peal of Maximus at Chelmsford Cathedral, primarily as part of preparations for Ipswich’s entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. However, earlier this week it was understandably cancelled due to injury and dropouts, highlighting the difficulty I spoke of a few days ago of getting bands together for twelve-bell peals locally. I don’t get many opportunities for peal-ringing on twelve these days and so I had been looking forward to this.
It was disappointing, but it did at least have the massive upside of allowing me to spend the morning with the family and particularly to join them at Messy Church in Melton and although numbers were down it was still a highly enjoyable alternative to peal-ringing in Essex.
Afterwards we were shifting churches to St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge where we helped set up tables and decorations in The Abbey School ahead of a meal tomorrow to mark the Revd Canon Kevan ‘Kev the Rev’ McCormack’s final Sunday service. It looked stunning with themed tables and dozens there helping.
For this evening though, we had another meal to attend as we went to The Greyhound in Pettistree for the annual ringers’ dinner. This is truly a celebration of a successful tower, home to the current holders of The Mitson Shield, where – despite a relatively poor 2019 on this front – more quarter-peals are rung than anywhere else in Suffolk and all held together by a tremendous social side. It is appropriate that it is now standard for this occasion to be held in the hub of the regular social activity of the band.
Thirty gathered in the ancient inn – reputedly the oldest in the county – for an evening of good food, good drink, good company and good (and short!) speeches as Mark Ogden was awarded Mary’s ‘Monthly’ Plate ,which has long been awarded annually at this event! As was said by Mrs Garner and Ringing Master Mike Whitby, Mark’s return to ringing a few years ago with his considerable abilities has been a great benefit to ringing at this ground-floor six, but also to the South-East District which he is currently Chairman of, the Guild and peal-ringing here and beyond our borders. A well-deserved award.
Elsewhere within our borders meanwhile, it appears to have been a successful North-West District Practice at Great Barton with twenty-eight present and a QP of St Simon’s Bob Doubles rung. Well done to Sally Veal and Serena Steggles on ringing their first in the method!
It wasn’t the only success in the county either, with a peal of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at the 21cwt six of St Mary-the-Virgin in Newmarket for the Cambridge University Guild and featuring local ringer Maximillian Drinkwater and new Ringing World editor Will Bosworth.
Back beyond our borders I was also delighted to see that the wedding of Jemma Mills and Ben Meyer went well down in the capital today. Although we hadn’t seen her for a few years until she and Ben joined us for a day in Norfolk on last year’s tour I’ve known Jemma all her life, since she was brought on her first Rambling Ringers tour as a baby by her parents Andrew – well known throughout the exercise for his tenor ringing exploits and considerable ringing skills - and Sharon and it has been a delight to see her grow up into a lovely young lady who stands out in her own right for her ringing abilities, having become a member of St Paul’s Cathedral Guild. Unsurprisingly, much ringing has been done for the occasion, including a family touch of Grandsire Cinques after the ceremony (some post-nuptial ringing is on YouTube) and an impressive peal of six Maximus methods spliced this morning (including two new methods named in honour of the bride and groom), both at St Mary-le-Bow where the marriage took place.
Congratulations to Ben and Jemma and also to the peal band on getting a peal of Maximus today!
It has been interesting following the application of the ringers at Haxey in the north of Lincolnshire to augment their 18cwt six to a ten. Not because of any particular affiliation, tenuous link or memory. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to the place, let alone rung there. Indeed, it is an area I haven’t really ever explored. However, it may be a useful benchmark by which to ensure any future projects in Suffolk are successful. Or indeed not worth pushing.
The general gist is that they would like to augment to ten to allow them to have a more manageable, lighter six. I’ve often thought Woodbridge would benefit from something similar, whilst I imagine there is a similar thinking in augmenting Stowmarket to ten. I can therefore appreciate the benefits, although I’m slightly uncomfortable at their suggestion that the bells are unmanageable for anyone other than a man and on the face of it the application seems reasonable.
There are those who have advised against it though. Barring the apparent local politics which it has been suggested has coloured the opinion of a particularly prominent character of this episode, that includes the now sadly defunct Whitechapel Bell Foundry and those who are on this side of the debate suggest that a rehanging of the six would be better as ten bells would be too much for the tower and would involve seemingly unacceptable meddling with a carillon.
Ultimately it went to the Ecclesiastical Law Association who decided against granting a faculty and whether right or wrong it was their report on it that I spent much of my spare time digesting this evening, whilst elsewhere other ringers in the county were ringing a 1307 of St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Earl Stonham and a 5094 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ixworth. The latter was rung in thanksgiving for the life of Ernie Bishop who recently died aged ninety-four and who learnt to ring here and seems a very fitting tribute to a man who joined the Suffolk Guild in 1949. And congratulations to Rowan Wilson on ring her fiftieth peal for the organisation she is the Chairman of.
No such interesting activity for us on this sunny Friday though, as you can probably work out from my choice of reading this evening!
No sooner had ringing dodged a metaphorical PR bullet over ‘Bells for Brexit’ and all that, then another publicity pothole has come into view as today a story appeared about the plan for the bells at Westminster Abbey to be rung for the sixtieth anniversary of Prince Andrew’s birthday on 19th February. There isn’t anything unusual about ringing for special Royal occasions at this Royal Peculiar and indeed the art has been viewed in a very positive light from previous peals on this 30cwt ten, but with the Duke of York having stepped back from official duties recently and rightly or wrongly being viewed in a very negative light for reasons that pretty much everyone will be aware of, this story was set to a backdrop of councils refusing to fly the Union Flag for the occasion and in a tone that suggested that the bells maybe shouldn’t be ringing this time.
Of course the Queen’s second son hasn’t been formally accused of anything and denies everything that he has been informally accused of and it has to be noted that the ringers would only be doing as they have been instructed to do by the Abbey who in turn will have been requested to ring by the powers-that-be above them, but such is the strength of feeling amongst many – including some ringers – that this has the potential to put the exercise in a very bad light. Hopefully it won’t and it’ll be interesting to see what – if anything - happens next.
There was no potentially controversial ringing in Suffolk today as far as I know though and indeed nothing recorded within our borders at all.
Nor did we do any ringing personally. Instead we kept our heads down and tried to stay out of the news!
When I was a resident of the Black Country, twelve-bell ringing was pretty easy to come across, even without a car. I was within a bus, train and/or tram journey of seven twelves and a sixteen within the West Midlands alone. I partook in most Monday night peals of Cinques and/or Maximus at St Philip’s Cathedral for a few years and enjoyed fairly regularly trips out on Saturdays with my Midland peers to places like Bolton, Exeter, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Peterborough, South Petherton and Leeds (although I never made it to there due to oversleeping, thus causing much asking around for the organiser to make up for my absence on the way up there!) for twelve-bell peal attempts. So it is for those in and around London and there is a large network of incredibly good ringers nationwide who meet up at twelves around the country for twelve-bell peals, most of them very complex. The likes of Louis Suggett and the Salter brothers Colin and George have successfully infiltrated that network from within our borders, but it takes an amount of time and confidence that many in Suffolk don’t have and/or talent that only relative few in the country have.
Although once SGR bands travelled to ring twelve-bell peals, these days, the opportunities for twelve-bell ringing are more restricted and sporadic, with only three twelves across 1,466 square miles, a vast rural area that twelve-bell ringers – especially youngsters and those without cars – can struggle to negotiate to ring regularly on twelve. A peal of Maximus planned for Saturday at Chelmsford Cathedral has this week been cancelled, highlighting the difficulty of getting twelve peal-ringers together and in addition arranging twelve-bell peals at our twelves isn’t easy. The Norman Tower is booked up for its monthly attempts some time ahead, St Mary-le-Tower’s typically have to be on Saturday afternoons (which can be psychically hard and logistically difficult to get people for as it cuts right across the day) and Grundisburgh are... Well Grundisburgh are there. Although not always easy to ring on twelve, especially for inexperienced twelve-bell ringers.
The long and short of this is that the only place in Suffolk currently to regularly ring Stedman Cinques and Surprise Maximus tends to be SMLT on a Monday night. The augmentation at The Norman Tower in 2012 has helped generate more opportunities on twelve for ringers in the west of the county, but with their practice being on a Tuesday it has prevented a number of skilled and potentially skilled twelve-bell ringers at places like Debenham and Offton – who also practice on Tuesdays – from joining to help and be helped on higher numbers.
Last night’s decision to move their weekly sessions to Thursdays – starting from 7th May at the start of the Bank Holiday weekend – should therefore have a beneficial effect on twelve-bell ringing in Bury St Edmunds and beyond. If this shift now enables you to go along to the 27cwt twelve when before you couldn’t, then please do go along and support them.
One place where the practice is not planning on changing (as far as I know anyway!) is Pettistree and so this evening I popped along to there for a fantastic evening of ringing, from the pre-session quarter-peal of Fryerning Surprise Minor that was superbly struck and with minimal and immediately-rectified errors to the pieces afterwards ranging from Grandsire Doubles for Sam Shannon to treble to and Elaine Townsend to call to Stedman Doubles to various Surprise Minor methods such as Beverley, Cambridge, Ipswich, London and Westminster to a touch of spliced Doubles and Minor all rung really well and carried out in a jovial atmosphere in the presence of a sizeable attendance. And of course all topped off with refreshment and much catching up in The Greyhound afterwards, where we heard about the encouraging growth and progress of the Hollesley’s band.
Across the evening, various topics came up and not just The Norman Tower’s change of practice night. Such as Saturday night’s planned ringers’ dinner which as always is much anticipated, George Reynolds’ request for ringers at St Peter’s in Sudbury at 2pm on Friday for some filming about the £2.5m regeneration project there (which includes a new ringing gallery) and Hollesley and Ufford ringer Jenny Lloyd’s attempts to learn Cambridge Surprise Minor when she was actually learning the much harder Cabmirdge Surprise Minor! It was an amusing night out.
On the basis of today, I’d say the opportunities for six and eight-bell ringing in Suffolk are plentiful!
Following our St Mary-le-Tower practice at The Norman Tower on Sunday in preparation of next month’s planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator at Walsall, the analysis from HawkEar of our ringing was emailed through. We did take much time looking at it in between pieces at the time, but all twelve of us were sharing a screen on the ancient walls and we did want to do some ringing too! Therefore tonight was our first opportunity to look really in depth at the results.
The point of these are certainly not to show up people’s mistakes, but rather to help pinpoint areas where improvement could be made that might not have been so obvious in the actual ringing and although the intricacies of the second heaviest twelve in Suffolk will be different to those of the similarly weighted twelve of St Matthew in the West Midlands, it should highlight ringing habits to work on and points in the half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus that is the test piece where issues occur, such as the places or leading.
Ruthie and I weren’t putting our discoveries to the test today though as there was no ringing for us, but others were, some beyond our borders, such as Louis Suggett who – along with Past SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd – was ringing in a peal of Bristol Surprise Major at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire. Meanwhile back here, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced.
I’m sure if they had analysis reports afterwards they would’ve made very good reading!
There was a mixed bag at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening. With quite a few absent due to injury, holidays and work, we were stretched, with Yorkshire Surprise Maximus a step too far on this occasion and yet we also rang some decent Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced and a faultless touch of eight spliced Surprise Major methods on the front eight was coming to its conclusion on the front eight as I arrived.
Despite a smaller crowd than usual, a sizeable crowd still retired to The Cricketers for post-ringing refreshments and discussion on arrangements for the forthcoming George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Striking Competition just twelve days away. Please do come along and see what’s going on at this increasing popular contest with six teams from across Essex, Suffolk and – for the first time – Norfolk.
Meanwhile, Amanda Richmond did her first ringing since her accident in the Pyrenees over Christmas – albeit on handbells – as she rang a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major with friends, before lunch at The Swan in Westerfield.
God wiling we’ll have her back on tower bells helping us at SMLT soon!
Mason’s sudden handling progress continued this morning at Grundisburgh, as he again rang both strokes. He needed to pull a bit more and it was very kindly pointed out to me that he needed to stretch more at backstroke (all advice gratefully received!), but taking his time with just backstrokes and taking it all in from the sidelines over the last few years has given him a good grounding.
God willing he will take to it and benefit from even just a fraction of the joy and experiences that ringing has given me and places it has taken me to. Having taken me to the beautiful rural isolation of Monewden yesterday, over the next few weeks the art is due to take me to Walsall, part of the huge industrial, urban sprawl of the West Midlands to practice for and then take part in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest for Ipswich.
Part of our preparations included this afternoon’s session at The Norman Tower where the 27cwt twelve are much more similar in weight to the 25cwt location where we are pencilled in to compete at on Saturday 28th March. In addition, we had use of a fully established HawkEar that enabled us to get a more technical appraisal of our ringing and generally speaking we were pleased with our efforts, which improved as we went along and provided much interest in between pieces! We were grateful to my brother Chris and his wife Becky for looking after their nephews and making muffins with them whilst we were ringing in town and we enjoyed having a cuppa and a chat with them afterwards, with ringing naturally coming up in the conversation!
Of course, previous entries into the competition have been considerably enhanced by the presence and indeed leadership of George Pipe, but sadly his poor health has prevented him from doing any ringing for several years now. However, his contribution to ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, in Ipswich, across Suffolk, throughout the UK and beyond these shores remains legendary and not unsurprisingly John ‘Jake’ Loveless - himself a giant of the exercise – has written a biography of GWP. Ever since Jake mentioned this at last year’s Twelve-Bell Striking Competition at Saffron Walden named after George, I have been eagerly awaiting its release and all being well I don’t have long to wait, for on Saturday 30th May at 3pm in St Mary-le-Tower, it will be launched. I hope lots of people can come along to celebrate this great man and hopefully see him in full flow!
He wasn’t well enough to join us at the county’s heaviest twelve this morning as some of us carried out service ringing, nor at Costa Coffee afterwards, but we were joined by another Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond as she continues her recovery from her horrific accident at Christmas with her usual cheery disposition. Although she was horrified by my calorie-laden hot chocolate!
Elsewhere across the county, it was a busy – and significant – day of quarter-pealing.
Well done to Tony Mason on ringing his first of
Single Oxford Bob Minor in
the success at Great
Finborough, whilst there were also quarters of Doubles and Minor
However, the headline act of the day was at Stowmarket where the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on the back six was the last QP to be rung on the bells before their removal. This is a big, exciting year for the ringers of what is currently the 20cwt eight of St Peter and St Mary with the bells due to be augmented to ten in the next few months, whilst the word is that the hanging of another ring of ten just outside the town at Combs is apparently back on.
According to a bizarre article on The Times’ website today though, they will both be electronically rung and we shall all be out of a hobby! An embarrassingly lazy bit of writing gives the impression that the fitting of an electronic chiming system – hardly a new development – in a Roman Catholic cathedral is a signal that all change-ringing by human beings is about to cease due to a lack of numbers. I’m looking forward to their story about the invention of the car seeing an end to horse-riding...
There is no doubt that there is a decline in numbers taking up the art, but there is much positivity, as the numerous reports of peals rung by youthful bands and university societies testifies. As indeed does Mason’s newfound enthusiasm for the art.
This morning’s South-East District Practice at Monewden was everything that one of these events should be. There were plenty of learners – encouragingly from various locations, such as nearby Cretingham, but also far off Holbrook – getting the opportunity to ring call-changes, Plain Hunt, trebling to things and inside to Plain Bob Doubles, but also lots of experienced ringers, such as James Smith, David Stanford and Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, enabling us to ring Surprise Minor, including some superbly rung London to round the ringing off at this lovely little gallery-ring six.
That wasn’t the end of the fun though, as most of us retired to the neighbouring village hall to do some biscuit tasting for this year’s SE District Bake-Off. And what a treat! Thirteen plates of scrumptious biscuits were tested and although my white chocolate and raspberry offering – with our household’s star baker Ruthie at work today - didn’t seem to go down as well as I hoped, the contest was deservedly won by one of the learners from the Shotley Peninsula and we certainly enjoyed trying as many as possible!
Although we were ringing on one of the days we had been controversially and quite wrongly asked to ring on to celebrate Brexit, as previously mentioned our efforts had absolutely nothing to do with the event that occurred at 11pm last night and nationwide there appeared to be refreshingly little ringing even mentioning it, including the 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus rung at The Norman Tower by the Yorkshire Association.
Just as it should be.
Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, today was a significant day in the UK’s history. At 11pm we ceased to be members of the European Union after forty-seven years. At one extreme it is a point for much celebration, at the other extreme a time for much sorrow, even to grieve. For others such as ourselves, it was a time of much ambivalence though with some curiosity.
Mercifully, ringing doesn’t appear to have become part of the divided narrative as was threatened recently. Big Ben didn’t bong (at least not in reality) and despite fearing a flurry of political footnotes from both sides of the debate, there was nothing rung today stating either support or opposition to detachment from the EU on BellBoard as far as I could see.
Personally I thought it was wrong and even cruel that Leave.eu thrust the art onto any particular side, with ringers as divided on the subject as society generally and I think much planned ringing has actually been cancelled today and tomorrow at the bequest of understandably jittery incumbents keen not to let their bells and therefore their church be dragged into the debate.
That’s not to say there wasn’t ringing in Suffolk today. A 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Mendham following the funeral of Michael Allen who led the project to restore this lovely gallery-ring 10cwt six in 2002. RIP Michael.
For Ruthie and me there was no ringing as instead I attempted to make biscuits in anticipation of tomorrow’s Bake-Off at Monewden for the South-East District Practice. Where the ringing is definitely not for or against Brexit.
In just a couple of weeks time, The Revd Canon Kevan McCormack – or Kev the Rev as he is affectionately known – is due to retire as Rector of St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge after twenty years in the role. In that time he has married Ruthie and me, Christened Alfie and Joshua, has been a big reason behind us become regulars at the church and been extremely supportive of the bellringers. We are sad at the thought of him leaving.
However, his departure leaves an opening for someone new and this evening I – and many other parishioners from here and Great Bealings with the two churches having recently linked up – had the opportunity to meet the three candidates hoping to take up the post in the summer. It was very interesting too, with a relatively diverse selection of experienced, young and/or female and frankly any of them would do a good job judging by the brief conversations we were allowed to have with them over a buffet and glass of wine in something akin to speed dating!
Earlier they had met the tower captain of the 25cwt eight here Bruce Wakefield as they had more in-depth chats with people representing various elements of the church, but I was keen to also chat ringing with them. This I managed to varying degrees, but at least none of them seem to violently disagree with bells, with two of them currently at churches with bells, so that is encouraging!
Also encouraging is the considerable amount of ringing done on Suffolk’s
bells today, with
four quarter-peals rung in the county. A 1280 of
Cassiobury Surprise Major was rung
and the same number of changes of Superlative Surprise Major and Double Norwich
Bob Major were successfully negotiated
at Hopton and
whilst some of them also rang a 1296 of
Alnwick Surprise Minor (London
below the treble,
There are no signs of ringing retirement from this band!
It was a day of mild illness in our household, at least amongst the children. After having a cough for the last few days and then coming home from school yesterday looking utterly drained, Alfie forsook a day of his education to recover, whilst his younger brother Joshua was taken to the doctor’s with what we thought may have been an ear infection but proved to be nothing as bad as that.
Ruthie was well enough to go out this evening though, first to choir practice – moved due to an event pencilled in at St Mary’s Church Centre tomorrow – and then to Pettistree’s weekly practice and afterwards to The Greyhound next door for the first time since it reopened this week. A session that included Allendale and Fryerning Surprise Minor and homemade chocolate cake for Chris McArthur’s birthday was preceded by a quarter-peal of spliced Plain Minor which was – amongst birthday felicitations to Joan Peck, the one and only Robert Beavis and the aforementioned Chris McArthur – very kindly dedicated to Mason’s recent thirteenth birthday. Thank you guys!
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the county a handbell peal was rung in Bacton in fourteen Surprise Minor methods, whilst there was also some great PR for the art locally on friend-of-ringing Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon as she interviewed Nicola Currie who is learning to ring in readiness to help man the new bells at Hitcham, which are due to be ready to ring in June. Nicola was talking about the ringing sequence that was discovered when knocking through the old doorway to what is planned to be the ringing gallery. Most of us experienced ringers almost instantly recognised it as Double Court Bob Minor, but I think it is wonderful how the locals have used it to generate extra interest in the project to a wider audience.
Just the ticket to overcome any mild illnesses.
January is due to come to an end in three days, unusually with almost as much fanfare as it started, although in much more controversial circumstances. As far as I am aware there is no definitive list of those ringing for or against Brexit or indeed not ringing, but it was noticeable from a Facebook thread on the subject that a peal that Brian Whiting was booked in for on 1st February has been cancelled and Paul Sharples appeared to suggest that Rushmere St Andrew’s weekly Friday night practice won’t be happening, though I would check with Paul before you do or don’t go!
However, there is much ringing planned for next month, including on Saturday where the South-East District Practice is (unless something else unforeseen occurs in the meantime) going ahead at Monewden between 10am and noon and is not being rung for or against Brexit, but is planned to feature a Bake-Off along similar lines to that held last year at Coddenham, only with biscuits this time!
This is due then to be followed by the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice from 7.30-9pm on Wednesday next week, the North-West District Practice at Great Barton precisely one week on from proceedings at Monewden, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday 10th, Second Tuesday Ringing at Debenham & Cretingham the following day, the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Striking Competition at St Mary-le-Tower on Saturday 15th, Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday 21st on the night before the South-West District Practice at Glemsford from 3-4.30 the following afternoon. And don’t forget the Guild Peal Week from 15th-23rd where if you can help or would like to be helped, SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase is sure to be pleased to hear from you.
For us though it was a typically quiet Tuesday night in, but elsewhere in Suffolk there was a quarter-peal of Single Oxford Bob Triples rung before the practice at Offton. And not – it would appear – rung for or against what is due to happen at the end of the week.
When people talk of their life going in a blink of an eye, it can have negative connotations and is a little exaggerated, but I can understand where they are coming from on days like today. For today, I became the father of a teenager as Mason turned thirteen. I can vividly recall being that age and my mind is clearly taken back to those days and the typical weekly routine of English, Geography, History and Science lessons interspersed with trips out to ringing on Monday nights at St Mary-le-Tower, every other Tuesday night at Offton, Wednesdays at Sproughton and then alternate Thursdays (in weeks when we didn’t go to Offton) at Grundisburgh, as well as monthly trips to Thrapston in Northamptonshire to visit mine and my brother Chris’ maternal grandfather where more ringing was carried out, often with the Peterborough Diocesan Guild on the Saturday and always on Sunday mornings at the town’s 14cwt eight.
Much has of course happened in the intervening near-thirty years. Lots of growing up, mistakes made and learned from (on and off the end of bellropes) and I’m happy to report many more happy memories than sad and yet in the blink of an eye I went from my teenage self to pater of a teenager. It comes as quite a shock when I look at it that way!
Hopefully those terrible teenage years aren’t as bad as they are (rightly or wrongly) perceived as my eldest son has thus far grown into a kind and considerate young man, now ringing both strokes and always keen to please. He’s not perfect, but who is? He probably spends far too much time on his phone and computer and winds his younger brothers up in infuriating fashion, but we’re glad to have him in our lives.
Of course we did celebrating over the weekend with that 5013 of Bristol Surprise Major, a trip to the Turks Head in Hasketon and family gathering yesterday, but we didn’t actually see him today, though I did speak with him on the phone to learn that apart from having to go to school he’d had a good day with more presents and more pizza!
I had a pint for him (his claim that he will never drink beer is God willing still a few years off being tested) at The Cricketers after attending the weekly practice at SMLT in a rare bit of continuity between my thirteen-year-old and forty-one-year-old lifestyles. It was interesting to note that there were actually only a handful present tonight that would’ve been regularly ringing in this famous ringing chamber back in the early 1990s, such as my Mum and Dad (now grandparents to a teenager of course!) and Diana Pipe, but whilst that is partly a positive sign of regeneration at the county’s heaviest twelve, there were some away for a session that was quite low on attendance generally, with only fourteen there on this occasion due to injury, illness and holiday.
Nonetheless, as is usually the case in such circumstances that gives opportunities to our learners and so it was this time as Sue Williamson got some concerted focus on Stedman Caters and Cinques, whilst Karina Wiseman rang some Plain Hunt on Eleven and trebled to some more ‘Bisto’, this week of the Caters variety. We also rang some Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight (with singles in fourths and fifths to get some 8765s for a change), Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Kent Treble Bob Maximus as preparations for the George W Pipe Trophy Striking Competition next month continue.
Elsewhere in Suffolk, 180 changes of Plain Bob Doubles marked Holocaust Memorial Day seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a reminder of some incomprehensible horrors that should never be forgotten.
There was also a sad note – though in a celebratory tone – to the quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples at Lowestoft involving various resident SGR members as June Leach – mother-in-law to Diana and grandmother to Andrew and Craig, talented local ringers – was remembered following her passing a couple of months ago.
It certainly seems to have been a day for reflecting and remembering, for both bad and good reasons.
Happy Birthday Mason!
It has always been slightly difficult celebrating Mason’s birthday. As we don’t have him during the week when he goes to his mother’s, most years it doesn’t fall when we have him. Also, unlike his younger brothers Alfie and Joshua, he hasn’t had any peers amongst our friendship circles and so we’ve never really been able to hold parties for him and his friends, although we have jointly held celebrations with his mother some years.
However, we have always tried to do something, typically round our house and involving his relatives – which he includes Ruthie’s family amongst – and Godparents and this afternoon we did similar. Of course he has got too old for jelly and ice cream and feels a bit too cool for parties at this point, but we still had a convivial few hours as my parents, mother-in-law Kate and Grandad Ron joined us at ours for present and card opening (thank you to the Pettistree ringers for their card!) and a steady supply of cups of tea. Importantly, the star of the show enjoyed it.
Whilst we were enjoying that, other ringers were ringing, with a trio of quarter-peals on Suffolk’s bells recorded on BellBoard today, as the same band rang 1260s of Plain Bob and Grandsire Triples at Bardwell and Ixworth and six others partook in a 1320 of Bourne Surprise Minor at Chediston.
Earlier I had rung at Woodbridge ahead of attending the 10am service where a crowd of ten prompted jocular calls for augmentation, but at least enabled us to ring all eight of the current bells to a couple of pieces of call-changes.
It was a nice way to start a nice day of celebration.
It is that time of year again when my efforts to arrange a peal to celebrate the anniversary of Mason’s birth on 27th January, typically with a composition of a suitable length and/or methods depending on his age. Such as the 5003 changes of Yorkshire Surprise Royal we rang for his third birthday a decade ago or the eight Surprise Major methods spliced we rang for his eighth birthday in 2015.
This year, with my eldest son due to become a teenager on Monday and aiming for an eight-bell peal, I thought thirteen-spliced might be a stretch to find a band for, especially as I didn’t get round to starting to organise it until over Christmas. Therefore, I plumped for a 5013 of Bristol Surprise Major.
Finding ringers became even harder when I discovered that a simultaneous attempt was already arranged at St Margaret in Ipswich, but eventually an octet gathered this morning at Grundisburgh (once one member – not me for once – had made it after oversleeping!) and set about a very decent 2hrs 44mins of ringing. Thank you to all the band for coming out for the occasion!
Likewise in Suffolk’s county town they were successful with a 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in ten minutes more than we completed our peal. Many thanks to them for their footnote – Mason was beaming from ear-to-ear when he saw that on BellBoard!
I imagine their efforts were rewarded with a trip to a pub afterwards and so was ours, as I picked up the star of the show, his brothers and Ruthie for refreshment in The Turks Head, before settling down for a relaxing evening – with takeaway pizza as a birthday treat - without having to stress about organising a peal in the near future!
The ongoing saga over the future of Whitechapel Bell Foundry looks set to rumble on with news that a public inquiry into what happens next is now to take place. This famous site seemed earmarked to become a bell-themed ‘boutique’ hotel, but this appears to reintroduce the possibility of casting returning to this corner of the capital. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Meanwhile, the FNQPC were successful with a 1260 of five Doubles methods at the isolated ground-floor six of Ashbocking whose future is currently assured. Long may it continue.
There were two heart-warming ringing tales that caught my attention today.
One was the chance discovery by a ringer of Geoff Dodds’ ringing records – which seem to feature a peal he called of Plain Bob Caters at Mildenhall in 1949 and is recorded in that year’s SGR Annual Report (No. 1676, p28. Also rang a handbell peal - No. 1697, p33) - on a Facebook ‘re-use’ site. A vast and meticulously made recording of a well-known ringer could’ve ended up in the hands of someone not exactly realising what they had or worse still perished, but instead will be going to the St Albans Cathedral Society with whom he rang. I didn’t really know Geoff – who sadly passed away in 2011 – but I know his daughter Fran well from my days ringing with her in Birmingham and along with Andrew Ellis she very kindly came and judged the Guild Striking Competitions at Sweffling and Rendham in 2008, so I am delighted that these important records are going to a safe place as suggested by Fran.
Also catching my eye though was the entry on BellBoard recording Matthew Atkinson’s first rounds rung unassisted at Benfieldside in County Durham. Matthew has Down’s syndrome with additional learning difficulties and so this is a tremendous achievement quite rightly rising up through the BellBoard leaderboard. Hopefully it will get very far up there amongst the performances of young ringers, foreign change-ringing exploits, four-in-hand handbell ringing and long lengths.
There was no ringing for us though. Instead we were warmed by many heart-warming ringing tales!
The Greyhound in Pettistree is due to be open again by this time next week and so anyone whose ringing doesn’t feel complete without a trip to a nearby tavern should be able to follow a session at the neighbouring ground-floor six with a tipple alcoholic or otherwise next Wednesday. For tonight though, Ruthie was back not long after I got the boys to bed and attended to my various household chores, following a practice night that included a range of methods, including of the Surprise Minor variety in the forms of Surfleet and Caithness (Bourne with a different frontwork) and was preceded by a successful quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise, St Clement’s College Bob and Plain Bob Minor spliced.
However, I did find time to have a read of Simon Linford’s first blog entry as President of the Central Council of Church Bellringers. Although I can’t say I know Simon very well, we have rung and socialised together and I am in awe of what he and his peers on the national ringing scene achieve on what seems an almost weekly basis and so it is interesting to hear his thoughts at length, especially in light of this week’s press for ringing!
Meanwhile, the 5152 of eight Surprise Major methods spliced on the front octave at St Mary-le-Tower was Michael Cowling’s one hundredth peal. Since his return to ringing four years ago, Mike has been a Godsend to ringing in the county. Social and intelligent, a very good ringer and enthusiastically contributing to the art here, from supporting practices and Sunday ringing at various places, to taking on roles in the North-East District to helping out in quarters and peals, always saying yes if he is able! Congratulations Mike!
I can’t say if he did, but it is an achievement certainly worthy of a drink in a nearby pub afterwards!
On the day when the ten-ton bell called Little John at Nottingham’s Council House made the news for keeping many of the city’s residents awake due to the clock mechanism malfunctioning, I’m hoping that the impressive quarter-peal of eight Surprise Major methods – Malpas, Chertsey, Lessness, Chesterfield, Ashtead and Essex added to London and Bristol from the ‘standard’ eight – rung on the 17cwt eight of the isolated detached tower at Elveden didn’t cause the same kind of discord. Indeed, it was hopefully quite a pleasant backdrop to anyone who may have found themselves walking in and around the grounds of the nearby Hall.
There will have been no complaints or plaudits for mine and Ruthie’s ringing today, mainly because we didn’t do any! Instead, it was a quiet evening in, hoping that the local clock chime doesn’t go crazy overnight!
There was positive PR for ringing in the local media today.
Such as the delightful story on the Eastern Daily Press website of 80-year-old Pauline Peters learning to ring in Norwich and how much good it has been for her mentally and physically. It is the type of angle that I wish ringing would make more of, especially these days with mental well-being and healthy lifestyles quite rightly becoming increasingly important.
Meanwhile here in Suffolk, the work being done to restore and rehang the bells at Hitcham after more than a century’s silence saw an old doorway reopened to the old musicians’ gallery which is due to be reinstated as the floor to the new ringing chamber. In the process they revealed a “bell ringing sequence”, which as Past Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod comments below the article is Double Court Bob Minor. Although just after the second half-lead end they appear to splice it in with Quarr Bob Minor (which incidentally was quartered for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week in 2011) in an innovative touch for rural nineteenth century ringing.
We were also being relatively innovative at a St Mary-le-Tower practice again supported by Molly Waterson on her latest return to the county, as we rang some ‘Bisto’ Cinques – which sees the treble lead and then make seconds whilst the four pairs of bells above dodge and the final one makes four blows in elevenths – and we started using HawkEar to record a touch of Grandsire Cinques and then analyse the stats in The Cricketers afterwards as Stephen Cheek gave us the lowdown. It provided much interest as a novelty over a pint, but ultimately this will hopefully prove a useful tool to improve our ringing.
It was a positive evening overall, with some Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus rung in the company of a lovely couple of non-ringers who took a great interest in what we were doing and even joined us in the pub post-ringing!
Of course it wasn’t the only ringing within our borders today with other practices across the county, but there was a special bit of ringing at Halesworth for what must have been an emotional occasion as they rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples before a Requiem Mass for Revd Edward Rennard who recently passed away unexpectedly.
Although for a sad occasion, it is lovely to see ringing being used in such a positive way, as well as making positive news in the media.
If all goes well, the next few weeks should be a busy time for those of us who ring at St Mary-le-Tower as we aim to partake in two twelve-bell striking competitions before the first quarter of 2020 ends, with the George W Pipe Competition pencilled in for Saturday 15th February on home soil and our presence expected in Walsall for the National Twelve-Bell Contest eliminator on Saturday 28th March. In preparation a lot of the next few Sundays are booked up with practices for both contests, with sessions at The Norman Tower and at the 25cwt twelve of St Matthew in the West Midlands lined up alongside those at SMLT itself.
With a squad of around twenty collectively involved in the competitions and so many practices it is taking quite some organising between Amanda Richmond and David Potts and with the former’s accident in the Pyrenees disrupting plans it perhaps wasn’t surprising that there was a little confusion when we gathered at Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells this afternoon. Initially for Ruthie and myself as having misheard the meeting time I was responsible for the pair of us being stood in the cold with no one else in sight, the boys already dropped off at my parents’ abode with them very kindly looking after the trio of brothers.
Eventually Nigel Newton arrived and gradually others came in dribs and drabs as it became apparent we had got there half-an-hour early! However, as the actual start time came and went, only eleven were gathered and Ralph Earey was heard to comment that if he wasn’t the last to arrive then it was a bad sign... David seemed unsure looking back through the email thread - which had been disrupted by Amanda’s accident – who was supposed to be there and so we launched into six leads of Kent Treble Bob Royal, with six leads of the Maximus with a single made in 56 the planned touch for the GWP Trophy in just under a month.
Just after that, Diana Pipe saved the day with her arrival and we began what turned into a surprisingly – given the circumstances – productive and useful hour and a bit of concerted focus on Kent TB Max as the team for the first competition picked itself through circumstance and some extremely good ringing.
Earlier in the day the boys and I had been to service ringing at the same tower where I initially stood behind Karina whilst she trebled to some Little Bob Maximus (and then rang in the rerun after it collapsed – though not due to our learner on the treble) and rang in some Grandsire Cinques before we retired to Costa Coffee for refreshment and to meet up with the aforementioned Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda for the first time – for most of us – since her accident. She was in a wheelchair, but considering the severity of her fall less than a month ago she seemed in remarkably good shape and was her usual bubbly self. It was great to see her. Although at the same time we were sorry to hear that one of our learners Sonia is now in hospital with a virus. Get well soon Sonia!
We then continued on our way – the sound of St Margaret’s bells being rung up for morning ringing at this gallery-ring serenading us as we returned to the car – to Grundisburgh where the ringing included a brief handling malfunction amongst the reasonable ringing on five, six and (yuck!) seven. Not from Mason though as he had a very decent go ringing both strokes.
Meanwhile, there was a good bit of ringing PR at a national level as Central Council President (and driving force behind PPE) Simon Linford was interviewed in regards to bells ringing for Brexit. Or not ringing as the case may be. I thought a very conciliatory note was struck on an issue that has divided bellringers as much as any section of society. If there are views either way associated with any ringing on 31st January or 1st February in footnotes, I am hoping they are expressed with the permission of all the band and the incumbent of the church/owner of the bells and it may be safest to steer clear of associating any ringing for the event.
Today though, the footnotes were mercifully uncontroversial, with a quarter-peal of Doubles rung at Buxhall for Evensong, whilst the 1260 of Hall Road Bob Minor at Great Barton was a first in the method for Andrea Alderton, Ben Keating and Neal Dodge and the same number of changes of Double Ashford Chart Leacon Bob Minor at Pakenham was also a first in that line for the latter pairing. Well done Andrea, Ben and Neal!
We aren’t the only busy bellringers in the county!
Personally there was nothing of a ringing interest to note today, at least from a personal perspective, although it was a perfectly pleasant day. Indeed, bar a brief shopping trip in Woodbridge we were completely holed up at home, with a rare lay-in and relaxed evening with a glass or two of red wine bookending some necessary domestic chores and finding out that playing Harry Potter Cluedo with a five-year-old whilst also trying to cook a roast dinner and listening to the commentary of an Ipswich Town match isn’t very easy.
Other Suffolk ringers were more active in the art, albeit not within our borders, as a band from the county rang (a) quarter-peal(s) at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire for the village’s forty-first Straw Bear Festival, thus repeating a performance there from last year, whilst ironically a visiting band representing the Cumberland Youths was ringing a peal of Stedman Cinques in the county at St Mary-le-Tower.
At least they have something of ringing interest to note today!
Really not much to report from today in any respect, ringing or otherwise, unless you count the continued rumblings about ringing for Brexit in a fortnight and – linked to that – getting Big Ben chiming for the occasion despite it currently being out of action during extensive, meticulously planned and already expensive works.
Thus I found myself in a quiet moment doing my usual thing of flicking through the ‘Random’ section of BellBoard and in the first performance I came across on this occasion I found a 5184 of Grandsire Caters featuring former Suffolk ringer Molly Waterson.
It instantly brought back memories of my trips to this atmospheric three mile long lump of rock in the Bristol Channel, all primarily due to ringing as four peals and numerous quarter-peals testify. Much drink was involved, especially when I went with Messrs Wilby Andrew and Michael et al. – including another former Suffolk ringer Barrie Hendry - in 1999 when the clock ticked over to my twenty-first birthday whilst we sat in the Marisco Tavern. Unsurprisingly a peal attempt of Belfast Surprise Major actually on my birthday before we departed the island that required an early start following that early morning drinking was unsuccessful....
I also enjoyed our brace of trips taken with Suffolk ringers in the summers of 2007 and 2008, even though the ringing was equally unsuccessful! Even without the ringing it is a wonderful place to visit and I’d love to go back when the boys are old enough to hopefully appreciate it (or at least look after themselves whilst we go!), especially as I’m still keen – especially as following our last trip – to ring a peal on the ten.
It all seemed a long way from the rather mundane – albeit relaxed, eventually – evening we had.
We’re used to group meals with ringing, from the informal annual Pettistree
and St Mary-le-Tower dinners to the more formal five-yearly Suffolk Guild Dinner
(I imagine the big showpiece centenary dinner in just three years time will
be upon us before we can raise a glass) and – although not for a while now –
the posh College Youths Anniversary Dinner. Tonight though, Ruthie and I – thanks
to her mother Kate generously looking after the boys at ours – took in a very
enjoyable meal with my wife’s choral colleagues at the
Coach & Horses
round the corner from us in Melton.
Its main purpose was to use some of the surplus funds the choir have accrued, but it also served as a farewell from the church’s singers to the Revd. Canon Kevan McCormack – or ‘Kev the Rev’ as many who know him affectionately refer to him – who next month is due to retire after twenty years as Rector at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge.
And it was a nice opportunity to catch-up with people we don’t always get the chance to chat with on a Sunday morning. A bit like a ringers’ dinner.
I am not going to lie and say the prospect of a peal attempt of Kent Treble Bob Major excited me today. It may sound snobbish – and I suppose it is – but with all the exciting stuff being rung around the country currently, the boredom threshold was likely to be pushed to its limit and therefore raise the possibility of mistakes.
However, there were a number of reasons I was more than happy to partake at The Wolery tonight. One being that opportunities to ring 147 Treble Dodging Minor methods, 23 spliced Surprise Major methods or David Pipe’s cyclic compositions of Maximus are limited round here, but also because this was useful prolonged practice for Neal Dodge in particular at a method that is a stepping stone for many to more complicated treble-dodging lines.
And it was good to get my peal-ringing for the month, year and decade up and running and especially here after the delayed start to our peal-ringing here in 2019. Indeed, it’s good for the Suffolk Guild too as after our two hours of ringing our host and conductor David Salter pointed out that in recent years fees from peals in the little blue shed in Old Stoke have contributed more than £3,000 to SGR coffers.
In the end I rang the treble, which kept me out of trouble and hopefully offered a reassuring presence, although at first we struggled to settle to the extent that we had a very early restart. However, the band grew into it and at times there was some really smart ringing and I think we earned our post-peal refreshments!
Ours wasn’t the only ringing success within our borders either as elsewhere a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung on the simulator at The Norman Tower, a 1260 of the Minor variation of the same method was rung at Redgrave and the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was the third Wednesday score in a row at the this ground-floor six already this year! Meanwhile, well done to Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre Manager Nikki Thomas on ringing her most methods as conductor in the Doubles at Euston.
Hopefully they all enjoyed their ringing as much as I ended up enjoying mine, whatever their preconceptions beforehand!
The weather was causing considerable disruption across the country, including with Ipswich Town’s match in Oxford which was stopped for a quarter of an hour whilst waiting for a monsoon to die down, in Slough as a roof was blown off a block of flats and here in Suffolk the Orwell Bridge was closed for the second day running.
Not that it disrupted our modest plans with Ruthie’s best friend Fergie popping round on a visit to the town she grew up in, bringing with her Harry Potter sweets and tales of mushroom ice cream whilst she was on holiday, as being a Tuesday we had no plans for ringing anyway.
Whether the conditions were the reason behind the lack of ringing from within our borders recorded on BellBoard I can’t say, although it would be understandable if they did with trees down and roads closed due to the high winds.
Therefore it was uplifting to read the report on the appeal to “repair and regenerate” St Peter’s church in Sudbury that includes plans to introduce a new, wheelchair accessible ringing platform from which to ring the 20cwt ten. Sometimes bells can be an afterthought (if thought about at all) in such circumstances, so it is lovely to see them included in the original ambitions of this project, especially in such a ground-breaking fashion!
God willing the weather shouldn’t overly disrupt it either!
It may be old age, perhaps my largely sedentary position for hours a day in my office desk job or it could be the amount of picking up and carrying around of the rapidly growing Alfie and Joshua, but over the weekend I experienced considerable twinges in my lower back. Not painful so much as uncomfortable and not all the time. Nor particularly restrictive. I can walk and run as normal and as I discovered this evening at St Mary-le-Tower, I seem to be able to ring as normal too, whether you consider that a good or a bad thing! Not that I asked to be tested – indeed I didn’t raise it nor did I intend to unless it became prohibitive – but I put my back through ringing the 35cwt tenor to some Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus, the 25cwt eleventh to Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and then the 4cwt treble to a touch of Stedman Cinques on a pretty pain-free and productive session.
My mind was also taken off the discomfort by the laptop in the corner that was taking samples and recordings in preparation for a Hawkear – or similar – system to be installed and our efforts culminated in all thirteen bells being rung individually for two whole pulls to get some recordings of each bell at the end of a lively practice.
There was also good news about Amanda Richmond following her recent accident in the Pyrenees, as we were told that the blood transfusion she had needed had been done and she was now back in Ipswich and happy to receive visits, providing you give her prior warning!
With that news and a decent night of ringing, another big crowd retired to The Cricketers in high spirits, including myself. It’ll take more than a spot of back trouble to stop me enjoying my post-ringing refreshment!
With George Campling this afternoon becoming the twenty-fifth to ring his 4000th peal (congratulations to George on his success at Skipton!), it got me having a quick look at the wonderful Pealbase’s ‘Crystal Ball’ section to see who – based on how many peals they have rung in the past twelve months – from Suffolk is due to reach a significant landmark in their totals next. As it happens, it appears that Alan Mayle is due to reach his two thousandth peal on 25th February of this year, although I am not due to reach that total until another ninety-eight years tomorrow to get that number under my belt at current rates! Interesting also to note that Robert Crocker and Peter Ellis are due to reach the once extraordinary (but still incredible) total of five thousands peals before the year is out, Peter Randall his six thousandth ahead of 2021 and even at his reduced rate of the last couple of years, Colin Turner is on course to reach a staggering eight thousand peals in about eighteen months. Which incidentally I am on course to reach on 12th August 2546, if I’m not too hung over from celebrating mine and Ruthie’s 534th wedding anniversary the day before!
Others were adding to their totals today and in impressive style on another bumper day of twelve-bell peal-ringing, with three peals on that number, this time featuring between them eight different Maximus methods and Stedman Cinques and more connections from our county, with another David Pipe composition and one-time Ipswich ringer George Salter partaking in the 5040 at St Martin’s in Birmingham. Meanwhile, here in Suffolk his father David was ringing in the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh where Alan was taking his total to 1994 and the entire band were ringing their first of Dingley Delight Major, which was also rung in the Guild’s name for the first time. Well done to them all.
And well done to Worlingham ringer Rona Sporle on ringing her first quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal in the 1282 rung over the Norfolk border at Loddon which featured a number of ringers from south of the Waveney.
There was no adding to any ringing totals for us though as neither of us did any ringing at all. Not unusual for my wife who typically spends the Sabbath morn singing in the choir at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, but even though I was present at said place of worship I was unable to join those upstairs on this occasion as I was on hand to help Mason, Alfie and (briefly before he again decided against it) Joshua in rehearsing for the Junior Church Epiphany play which was essentially a delightful rehash of the Nativity play of three weeks ago, just without a real baby playing Jesus as they were busy being baptised in a busy service!
That all preceded an afternoon that saw a chance meeting with Kettleburgh ringer Persephone Booth whilst shopping for ingredients for homebrew but still no ringing.
I’m not sure I’m going to be catching George Campling up somehow. Or indeed Alan Mayle for that matter!
It was an impressive day of peal-ringing on twelve, with six peals on a dozen bells involving fourteen Maximus methods and Stedman Cinques and some Suffolk connections, with one-time Reydon ringer Philip Moyse trebling to the 5090 of Zanussi and Bristol Surprise Maximus spliced at Kidderminster in Worcestershire and a couple of the successes composed by nephew of George and Diana Pipe, David.
Back within our borders the ringing was perhaps less exciting but still notable with Alex Brett-Holt’s first quarter-peal of St Simon’s Bob Doubles rung at Woolpit. Well done Alex!
And it was more significant than our ringing efforts today, which amounted to nothing as instead we spent the morning learning about baptism at Messy Church in Melton followed by lunch. Enjoyable and even educational, but not as impressive as the efforts of other ringers today!
On 31st January at 11pm, the UK is due to leave the European Union. Much has been said on Brexit, but not much on ringing’s reaction to it. Until today, when an invitation was sent out to ringers to celebrate the occasion. Of course for some this is something to celebrate, for others something to mourn. Whatever the point of view though, it would be prudent that if anyone attaches political messages to ringing in relation to this – or indeed anything – from either perspective that they check that those responsible for the bells (which in most cases will be the church of course) are happy for that. Indeed, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has said as much, having received enquiries about it.
A more traditional ringing subject is tips for knowing whether you are going in quick or slow in Stedman and that was reignited tonight with mention online from Simon Linford of a method. To quote:
Finish your 4-5 dodges down, still oblivious as to how you are going in. When you put your handstroke in 3rds place, watch the person who is doing a handstroke lead. If that person starts to look up as they pull their handstroke, or if they pull the handstroke with the amount of effort that looks like they are going up, then they are going to put their backstroke in 2nds place, which means it is a Slow six, so you make thirds and go in Slow. If the person leading doesn’t look up, then they are going to lead full, which means it is a Quick six, so you need to get your backstroke in sharpish and lead after them, i.e. in Quick.
Many will be familiar with this and many of the other ways that people suggested in the ensuing thread!
Meanwhile, there was some reassuringly straightforward ringing for straightforward reasons on Suffolk’s bells, as a peal of London Surprise Major was rung at Henley in memory of Stephen Ivin and a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor at Tannington was rung for the FNQPC.
No ringing for us again, but it sounds like some will be doing some ringing In precisely three weeks time.
Added to a decent haul of ringing successes in Suffolk reported yesterday, well done to the band who rang a quarter-peal of eight Surprise Major methods (and not entirely the ‘standard’ eight, with Rutland replaced by Cassiobury) at Elveden, whilst today on the county’s bells a quarter-peal of York Surprise Minor was rung at Worlingham and a peal of eleven Doubles was rung at Great Livermere. Well done to Kate Gill, Chrissie Pickup and Sarah Plummer on ringing their first in the method in the former. And Happy 339th Birthday to the ladder at the latter...
Meanwhile, I was sad to learn of the death of Stutton ringer Eric Bull, who was Guild Treasurer between 2000 and 2005, rang three peals for the SGR and was ringing at least up until November 2018 when he was recorded on BellBoard as participating in the Ringing for Peace: Armistice 100 at his home tower, where his funeral is due to take place on Saturday at 1pm. Rest In Peace Eric.
Today though, there was no ringing for either of us, with the second-Thursday Surprise Major Practice at Ufford cancelled.
Still, it was another decent haul of ringing successes in Suffolk nonetheless.
Kudos to Ruthie, who after a day of supervising – remarkably successful – potty training for Joshua, managed to partake in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree this evening. The boys and I dropped her off for it, with her busy reciting the intended method Morpeth Surprise Minor, my favourite of the forty-one. Sadly, that was lost, but a QP of Cambridge was rung instead to celebrate the multitude of birthdays of this time of year.
With The Greyhound closed for its customary New Year break, my wife was kindly brought back by her mother Kate earlier than she usually is, but it was an apparently useful and enjoyable session.
As I’m sure the quarter of Bristol Surprise Major at Horringer and peal of twenty-six Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton were on a decent day of ringing in Suffolk.
Meanwhile, having happened across the second-Sunday January 2005 peal at Aldeburgh that celebrated the ninth birthday of a certain George Salter, it is a sign of time marching on that almost precisely fifteen years later he impressively celebrated tomorrow’s twenty-fourth anniversary of his birth with a 5760 of one hundred and forty-seven Treble Dodging Minor methods at St John on the Wall in what is now his city of residence, Bristol.
Happy Birthday for tomorrow George and good work on the 3hrs 13mins of top-class ringing, but I imagine your preparation wasn’t quite as trying – though delightful – as Ruthie’s!
More Lincolnshire for some of those who rang the Royal and Maximus variants at St Mary-le-Tower last night, as a proportion partook in the pre-practice quarter-peal of the Major version at Offton tonight.
That should go into the 2020 figures for QPs in Suffolk that God willing we’ll get to view in about a year, but for now I enjoyed having a look at the 2019 stats produced by Neal Dodge and released this evening. I hadn’t really noticed until I read this that I had rung seventeen quarters in the county during the year, which despite not starting until April was more than my totals of the previous two years combined, but still only as many as fellow Rambling Ringer Richard Shere from Devon had rung in our beautiful county in 2019!
Despite a lower total than usual, Pettistree was still well ahead of the second place tower, which this year was The Norman Tower where the medium seems in very good health. For at least the fifth year running, husband and wife team Lesley and David Steed occupied the top two spots of those who rang the most quarters within our borders across the twelve months (and interestingly have alternated between first and second each year!), whilst for the first time across that period, Mike Whitby was knocked off top spot of the conductor’s leaderboard by Brian Whiting.
Encouragingly there were more QPs rung last year in Suffolk than for four years, with roughly the same number of ringers taking part as over the last few years, including ten who were ringing their first which was up on 2018 and with more conductors than the previous year too. Nice also to see a return to the QP columns of a number of towers, especially Stoke by Clare and Stoke by Nayland seventeen and fifteen years respectively after their previous entries. All very positive and thank you and well done to Guild PR Officer Neal on putting it together and sharing it with us all.
Meanwhile, I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who smiled as the infamous Stephen Ivin “clock incident” was brought up again in regards to a peal rung at St Thomas the-Martyr in Oxford today a decade to the day since he passed away.
London Surprise was very much associated with him, but I don’t know what his thoughts on Lincolnshire were!
At the start of the first full working week of 2020, the short, cold, dark days no longer offset by bright lights and the anticipation of Christmas and New Year celebrations, midsummer seems an extremely long way away. However, this morning Mark Murphy on our local BBC radio station launched this year’s Suffolk Day. For those not aware of this annual day of celebrating the county since it was first marked three years ago, it is held on 21st June and of course offers a chance for good PR for local ringing. With it being on a Sunday and therefore the occasion being turned into a weekend of celebration, the opportunities for peals, quarters and open ringing – especially at towers not regularly rung are plentiful. If you are in a position to arrange something, then please do and let’s make sure that bells are a big part of the proceedings.
They were a big part of proceedings this evening at St Mary-le-Tower where the first practice of the 2020s wasn’t quite as well attended as the last of the 2010s a week ago, but still saw nineteen there and a method repertoire of spliced Surprise Royal and Lincolnshire Maximus (reverting between the latter and its ten-bell variation was a bit testing and I don’t think I passed!) during a session run superbly by Stephen Cheek in the absence of our poorly Ringing Master David Potts – get well soon David!
An incident at Great St Mary in Cambridge that saw a ringer taken ill (though ultimately not seriously) at service ringing yesterday morning brought conversation in The Cricketers post ringing at SMLT tonight turned to the increasingly popular What3Words. Although initially brought up as a useful point of reference for emergencies in – particularly rural – ringing chambers, it soon turned into a search for the codes of familiar locations. We’re hoping that ‘slick.clips.shirt’ which hovers you over the back two bells of the county’s heaviest twelve isn’t a comment on our output, we wondered if ‘rope.grabs.bared’ might start a trend of naked ringing at St Lawrence (‘edges.gentle.ears’ in the north-east corner of this ancient five might be a more appropriate one if one was guiding people here!), whilst we were amused that ‘passing.thousands.pavilions’ sits on the entrance to the facilities at Offton church. And for those who know where the bells of The Wolery are may be amused by the name on the square there! One member of the household was...
Otherwise though, there was no ringing recorded from within our borders on BellBoard today. God willing there will be more over midsummer.
Just over a fortnight ago, we watched a very interesting documentary titled A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley that explored how the Tudors fully celebrated the twelve days of the festival, culminating in a lavish feast, dancing and performing following on from nearly two weeks of downing tools and drinking. Although the same period these days is still a more relaxed time than during most of the rest of the year, it isn’t quite the same as back in the sixteenth century. Indeed, many seem to get their decorations up closer to October than December and then decree Christmas over and pull them down on Boxing Day! The majority of us will have returned to work already too.
However, tonight was Twelfth Night, traditionally when the tinsel and tree come down and thus it was in our household, albeit this afternoon, along with the removal of the seasonal songs CD in the car which had been popular with the boys for the last month. As usual on this occasion, the living room looks very bare all of a sudden.
It was also Epiphany Sunday and hence I found myself accompanied by Joshua taking a sizeable model of a camel down the aisle at church for the beginning of a service where former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich – and therefore Past President of the Suffolk Guild – the Right Reverend John Waine was licensing six Lay Elders.
Beforehand I was upstairs where the crowds weren’t quite as big as at the South-East District Practice in the same tower yesterday, but there were still enough to ring all eight with others sitting out in a pleasing start to this year’s Sabbath ringing.
Later in the day elsewhere in the county, a peal was rung at Kettleburgh, whilst across in the west a quarter-peal of Corse Bob Minor at Great Finborough was a first in the method for North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner and SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge – well done Maureen and Neal!
And a very Merry Christmas. Or what is left of it.
The South-East District started its ringing in the 2010s with a practice at Woodbridge. This afternoon it started its ringing in the 2020s at exactly the same venue and if the SE’s events continue in a similar vein then God willing we’re in for a good year and fantastic decade! Forty to fifty members climbed the many stairs to ring on the 25cwt, including new faces (encouraging to see learners from Holbrook there for example), ringing things from call-changes to Plain Bob Major to Stedman Triples to Yorkshire Surprise Major, all under the guidance of Jenny Scase who was running things as District Ringing Master for the first time following her election at last month’s ADM. She did superbly with an eclectic range of abilities from across the District and beyond, such as the visits of David and Lesley Steed.
Our participation followed on immediately from attending the sixth birthday party of my Goddaughter Maddie at 4 Fun Play Centre in Saxmundham with the boys, but other ringers in the county were peal-ringing with a 5030 of Plain Bob Major specially arranged for the forthcoming thirtieth anniversary of the birth of Robert Beavis and starring himself at the tower he learnt to ring at, Debenham.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country, other Suffolk ringers past and present were also peal-ringing. Most impressively of all were – not for the first time – the Salter brothers Colin and George, who were ringing in – and in the case of the latter, calling it – six Maximus methods spliced in the 5016 at St Magnus the Martyr in London, whilst across the capital, another ringer from within our borders was also conducting as Exning youngster Jimmy Yeoman led a band featuring Simon Rudd and Louis Suggett in a 5152 of eight Surprise Major methods (and not the ‘standard’ ones at that) at St Lawrence Jewry. Further south and Maggie Ross was partaking in a 5082 of Sgurr A’Chaorachain Surprise Royal at Basingstoke in Hampshire and then to the west Barrie Hendry was ringing in a 5088 of Kenninghall Surprise Major at Shepton Beauchamp in Somerset.
If they all continue their ringing in a similar vein, they should have a good decade of ringing!
The logistics of what to do with Alfie over the school holidays on days when we are working today took us to Ruthie’s sister’s this morning, then took my wife to her Gran’s after work and ultimately saw our nieces come to ours before their mother picked them up.
It didn’t allow any time for us to ring, but there was ringing in Suffolk as a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor was rung at Earl Stonham. Ten years to the day since I partook in the Guild’s first peal of the 2010s though, we still appear to be awaiting the SGR’s first peal of the 2020s.
Perhaps the first Saturday of the decade tomorrow will see us get underway. Logistics allowing.
There was some interest in a social media photo from Matthew Higby of what is due to be the first complete ring of Italian-cast bells in the UK, bound – once Matthew has tuned them – for Stoke St Milborough in Shropshire and weighing in at about 12cwt. They seem to have been cast by Fonderia Allanconi who appear to have a good reputation and indeed Matthew says that he already has orders for another octave in this mould, the front six of the ten going in at Dordrecht and possibly another smaller eight. How soon before we see Italian cast bells in Suffolk?
The eight of Halesworth were all cast in the UK and most of them very locally and I always enjoy having a ring on them, but sadly they were ringing mournfully today in memory of the Rector of Blyth Valley Team Benefice Edward Rennard, who very suddenly and sadly passed away on Monday. Whenever I met him and spoke with him he was very polite and extremely supportive of the active ringing scene on his doorstep and so it was entirely appropriate that at a time when most bells are ringing out joyfully for a new year that the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples was rung half-muffled to mourn his passing. May he Rest In Peace.
This sobering news came to my attention on what was already a sobering day as I and many others returned to work after the break for Christmas and the New Year. I am blessed to have a short walk to work rather than a lengthy and contrived commute that would make it even more depressing and fortunately in my role in sales dealing with independent schools who are still largely on holiday, I was reintroduced to my workload gently, so I can’t complain! However, it felt very dark waking up this morning to begin the return of the daily routine of getting the boys ready before we go to work and the Christmas CD in the car that Alfred insists on listening to at every opportunity at the moment is slightly dispiriting as Mariah Carey warbles All I Want For Christmas Is You for what is a multiple of the umpteenth time in the last month when – despite it still only being the ninth day of Christmas – the festivities are pretty much over for another year! We were grateful to our friends Charlotte and Gregory for looking after AJM as his education continues its festive break though, before Ruthie’s return to choir practice and a shopping trip for the youngest sons and me in pursuit of presents, tea and returns.
Meanwhile, well done to all bar the treble ringer – including Blaxhall ringer Mike Cowling – on ringing their first peal of Glasgow Surprise Major in yesterday’s 5021 at Loddon in Norfolk. Of which none of the eight were cast in Italy.
The new year and decade began with some extremely bad news and some extremely good news.
On the former, it was a shock to hear that our St Mary-le-Tower ringing colleague and Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond has suffered a fall whilst in the Pyrenees and although she is lucky it wasn’t more serious, she has still come away with multiple fractures of the femur and badly bruised hand and face. Having recovered so quickly from the car accident she had a couple of years ago, we pray that her recovery from this is equally swift.
However, balancing that out was word that Claire Roe – once Claire Monk, a ringer at Walsham-le-Willows and along with her sister Sarah the driving force behind the very successful Young Ringers Practices at Tostock which were running when I became SGR RM in 2006 – gave birth to her and her husband Tom’s second child yesterday, a daughter named Bethany and an event already marked by a 5000 of Bristol Surprise Royal in Sheffield. Congratulations Claire and Tom!
I imagine the hopes of Amanda for 2020 will be to recover as soon as possible from her injuries, whilst for the Roes it will be the good health of their children, especially Bethany (and I expect pretty soon, to be able to get some sleep!), but for most of us – apart from the good health of loved ones – our hopes for the year ahead are rather more straightforward. Personally we hope for the boys’ education to continue on a positive trajectory, especially Joshua as we hope he takes to school when he is due to start in September. We hope for a lovely Rambling Ringers Tour which this year is due to cover unusually new ground in Leicestershire. I hope that Ipswich Town start winning again soon (their 1-1 draw at Wycombe Wanderers today means that they haven’t been victorious in a league match for two months) and gain promotion to make up for the relegation of last year. And we hope for an enjoyable and progressive year of ringing.
God willing that will take in a successful Guild AGM at Woolpit and Drinkstone on Saturday 18th April and the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions on Saturday 16th May. Although you may notice that the Eight-Bell Competition for the Rose Trophy is included in the details on What’s On as plans are – I believe – afoot to hold that on a separate date in the hope that this will get a bigger entry and reduce the length of the striking competition day, which can be hard work, especially for the judges!
There are other striking competitions that I am keenly anticipating. The third annual George W Pipe Striking Competition is due to take place at SMLT on Saturday 15th February as the hosts look to retain the trophy we won in Saffron Walden last year and we are hoping that we can put in a good showing for our first entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest since 2007 in the eliminator at Walsall on 28th March. Although Amanda’s injuries are a blow to that as she is an integral part of our team.
Our hopes for the decade as a whole are vaguer of course, although dreams of the Tractor Boys winning the Champions League and us being millionaires by 2030 may figure in my fantasy decade! And one wonders what impact the proposed plans for bells at Combs, Higham and Stowmarket will have on Suffolk ringing and if Colin Turner will reach his 10,000th peal. Seriously though, all I pray for is good health and contentment for myself and more importantly loved ones.
Certainly the contentment aspect has been fulfilled thus far on the first day. I awoke at Kate’s – who had very kindly put us up for the night – with a thumping hangover but Ruthie and the boys with me, a cuppa and a couple of croissants and some lunch kept me sustained and we then went along to the weekly practice at Pettistree that on this occasion was being held this afternoon as my ringing in the 2020s began unspectacularly with some rounds on the third, but was generally a nice way to blow away some cobwebs after the excesses of last night! It was obviously a view shared by many as a big crowd turned up!
Although held earlier in the day, the session was still preceded by a quarter-peal, with a 1365 of Bourne Surprise Minor, but with the boys flagging after a late night last night and an afternoon dashing about the church, we passed on the kind offer of a cuppa at the Garners’ afterwards.
Elsewhere in the county, there was also a 2020 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton to welcome in the New Year and further afield traditional peals were rung at the cathedrals of St Paul’s, Liverpool and Winchester as well as the annual 1st January quarter-peal rung at Westminster Abbey by a ‘provincial’ band, which this year was from Guildford Cathedral.
It is a good start to a new year and a new decade. For most of us anyway. We all hope it gets better fast for Amanda Richmond.