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There are few who will remember Sir Arthur Pinero and even fewer will be familiar with his “The Gay Lord Quex”, a fellow who manifestly was not but the ever-evolving character of language guarantees that such distortions occasionally will arise. The carefree lord might have passed from my memory had I not developed a liking for Fabian Stedman’s principle, although the connection may not immediately be obvious.
As a peripheral of doubtful relevance, I should mention that a long time ago, I had a student who divided his unusually eclectic musical interests between the correct performance of the North German Barok and playing in a rock band. I set him the task of writing a fully invertible, four part fugue on There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis which I thought might appeal to his dichotomy. He made a brave start but soon realised that such a composition on this thematic material is not possible.
Are the people at the back still paying attention?
Those who have rung the middle-weight twelve of the quirky Waterloo Tower at Quex Park should be on at least nodding terms with John Powell Powell. This interesting man also had a particular fondness for Stedman and he spent much time in seeking to perfect a whole peal of Stedman Triples according to the dictates of the renowned William Shipway. However, after a number of years he concluded that, like my fugue (although as far as I’m aware, he knew nothing of fugal construction and certainly less of Elvis!), the job was impossible. These challenges often can be intellectually stimulating – evidently Mr Powell Powell thought so for he commissioned two editions of his findings but you won’t find any copies. Regardless of the “solvability” or otherwise of the puzzle, Stedman has left us the legacy of a universally loved pattern of changeringing.
I thought I’d just say “thank you.”
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Please note that from Thursday 26th April Cullompton Practices will be on every Thursday 7.30pm – 9pm until further notice.
Steps. Thousands of them. I’m told that there are as few as one hundred but I lose count somewhere around the early seventies due to oxygen deprivation. This is a long way up. The passage down the roof void reveals a plumb-bob reassuringly pointing at its little target, so, apart from hyper-ventilation, all is well so far. The long walk continues towards the North Tower and for me, up into the bell chamber. My arrival coincides with the tenor being put up; below are TWO strappers assisting in bringing this somnolent leviathan to life and from upstairs the process is quite a spectacle, making me wonder, despite the ear defenders, how people survived the noise of the Somme. My grandchildren would think this mega-cool but I can take no more decibels so it’s down to the Ringing Chamber.
Suddenly, a Keatsian moment as I stand "in wild surmise", spellbound at the threshold and look down (with another poetic analogy) into this “cavern measureless to man”. Never mind the quirkiness of Sowton, forget the cozy intimacy of Bishops Hull or Shebbear; this is the Hammersmith Palais with bellropes – fourteen of them! I shan’t be at all surprised if Victor Silvester emerges from the Ellacombe cupboard, coat tails a-swirling to conduct the band in Foxtrot Caters. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, I cross the dance floor, dodging the boxes neatly arranged in ascending heights for the back six and take a seat with other wallflowers. I’ve been invited here to experience something different and different it most certainly is. I haven’t counted the people present but the number must approach forty.
Above the general conversation, Matthew Hilling, Ringing Master commands in stentorian tone, “Take your partners for Cambridge Maximus.” An ad hoc group of mostly visiting ringers quickly assembles, catches hold and off they go. This is thrilling and quite unlike anything I have seen before on this scale; very slowly, the fog clears and I begin to think that I am able to discern individual bells in what seems like a machine gun rat-a-tat. I wonder how the conductor manages without a loud-hailer - not because of the noise of the bells (which is surprisingly subdued, given their weight) but the large space of the Ringing Chamber. Rounds on Twelve evolve into call changes, all arranged with the calm efficiency of a thoroughly professional and well-run establishment.
I’m here to listen, learn and savour what, for me is an unique experience. I have not the remotest intention of ringing but there are those (who should know better), badgering me into taking a rope. Not the least enthusiastic of these encouragers is Roger King and I detect a bristling of newshound instincts in anticipation of the purple prose to appear below the headline “Tintinabular Mayhem at Cathedral”. Never one to resist a challenge – or put more honestly, too cowardly to stand my ground – I reluctantly am propelled towards Number Seven and climb onto the box. This really is “stepping up to the plate” and I am wishing I was somewhere else.
“Look to!” pipes a pre-adolescent voice. Thinking binoculars might be handy, I squint across to the Treble to see a lad who must be all of twelve years old and evidently not needing grown-up assistance. This doesn’t do a lot for the confidence of a tyro who’s driving licence expires every three years but the Treble’s gone and there’s no turning back. But already I am in trouble. There must be something wrong upstream for whilst I am ringing in my customary fashion (!), the bells in front are constantly holding up on each stroke and as a consequence of my not following properly, I’m racing down to the front faster than Stirling Moss. Ringing Master Hilling, who can spot a dud at fifty paces, is now at my side and patiently explaining the need to allow space for the back bells to breathe, so I must hold up accordingly. I know all this but why haven’t I worked it out? My only previous exposure to a ring of twelve has been Shepton Beauchamp and if I consider that the difference in weight between just the Eleven and Twelve at Exeter is roughly six times greater than that between the Treble and Tenor at Shepton Beauchamp, it is all pretty clear but I marvel at such a discrepancy. On a light ring, the conductor barely has time to gabble “Go, Bristol . . .” before being overtaken by the next stroke but here with so much time at the balance, he can manage a leisurely “Go, London Scholars’ Pleasure Bob Maximus” with time to spare. But by now I’m hopelessly out of place.
I have bumped a few turned-in Tenors but the “chuckability factor” of this bell is appreciably less than other heavier bells of my acquaintance and seems not much above zero. I wonder if the Professor of Physics at Exeter University knows about this example on his doorstep; it is a living demonstration of Newton’s First and Third Laws. Get it up to the balance and it is highly resistant to any notions of descent - I’m ringing wide. Not close enough (I’m spending too much time in the company of call changers!) and it dives with Kamikaze zeal. For some reason I’m thinking 2pi radians and Newton’s Second Law. “Elworthy, for goodness’ sake, get a grip and concentrate!” So between us, the bell and I try and reach some accommodation but to little noticeable advantage.
Mercifully, a shrill “Stand!” saves me from further embarrassment. Funny how the slip of a girl who is now asking me “Is this rope free?” has not the slightest difficulty with this obdurate creature . . . Life can be very unfair.
Avoiding sympathetic glances (or are they of derision?), I shamefacedly shuffle back to my seat. Anyway, in for a penny and all that, so a little later I am having another try – this time on the Six which goes only notionally better. Perhaps these bells are trying to tell me something. If so, I wish they would do it more discreetly but by now Master Hilling has deserted me for the 72cwt Tenor upon which he performs aerial feats of great daring and without a safety net. I am awed by the obvious degree of control Matthew has over this beast as he whips in a yard and a half of tail for a quick dodge down. A couple more touches and now it’s time for the last waltz, “Go Plain Hunt on Eleven”. Oh dear! This is sensory overload in spades.
A magical evening for which I am very grateful to my Cathedral hosts but it is proving altogether too much for a simple lad up from the country. I’m back down the thousand steps; I need a drink.
Occasionally, one may fancifully indulge in the pretence that one has entered uncharted territory, that no man has set foot there before. An opportunity for such whimsy presented itself on Saturday, 11 March when the Halberton band, augmented with a handful of invited guests, launched an expedition to the interior of darkest Devonshire
In this Diamond Jubilee year and in the best traditions of Empire, tintinabular assaults were made on Shebbear, Peters Marland, Langtree and Sheepwash; the natives being quelled with a surfeit of call changes as the intrepid ringers hacked their way through the labyrinthine network of local roads. Solar topees (although there was a distinct paucity of solar on the day) were raised in salute to Jim Vellacott, Captain at Morebath, who lost half a leg some while ago and has been unable to ring for many months. Saturday saw his return to the ropes – we are delighted to have him back and wish him well in his continued recovery.
The six-bell towers provided some interesting rings; this is undisputed Association territory so we had the choice of ringing with coils or being slapped around the face with the excess of tail characteristic of their ringing so far off the stay. The day’s toil was rewarded by an excellent dinner at the Green Dragon, Langtree. Expedition members are pictured below and are grateful to Cathy and Graham for organising an enterprising day out; in the writer's view, it made an unusual contrast with the metropolitan sophistication of Tiverton!
On a less frivolous note, St Lawrence, Sheepwash is worth a visit. The church was built in 1880 on the site of two earlier buildings and is a good example of later Victorian decoration ackowledging its debt to earlier Arts and Crafts inspiration. The Chancel’s pseudo-hammer beam angels are fun and the reredos paintngs, hinting at Holman Hunt and his chums, certainly are different.
Again, Ken Wannell came up trumps with his organising of the North East Branch mid-week outing on Wednesday, 14 March. It was an “-ish” sort of day - all the towers visited were ground floor, lightish rings of six, the first being at Sandford where we re-acquainted ourselves with the behavioural characteristics of longish draft, skinnyish ropes. Nothing “ish” about lunch at The Lamb however; this was a fine pub meal.
Next on the itinerary was Down St Mary, a venue to which I was particularly looking forward to visiting. This is the heartland of Sixty on Thirds country (Zeal Monachorum is but a stone’s throw away) and for many years Down St Mary has fielded one of the finest bands in the county so I felt a singular weight of responsibility in seeking to uphold the traditions of methodology in such a place. Hopes dashed, spirits raised – dashed when in the middle of St Simon’s, “Dermot, do keep the tenor up!” but raised a little when afterwards, talking to a fellow mending his car outside the church and suggesting that the standard of ringing was, perhaps, not quite up to the standard usually heard here, he said “Oh, I enjoyed it very much indeed.” Ho hum. But lovely bells.
Last stop was Nymet Tracey where I discovered that the Tracey bit comes from Sir William de Tracy, one of them geezers what did for the “turbulent” Thomas Becket and in remorse for his foul deed, built the church. The bells went well to end an enjoyable social occasion for which thanks go to Ken for his arranging things so well.
Following the well-attended 10-bell practice at Cullompton last year, the North East Branch entered a team in the John Scott 10-bell Call Change Competition. We held a number of practices at Cullompton which are a similar weight to Tavistock. The team enjoyed ringing together and grew more confident with practice; we are grateful for the helpful comments given by our Association friends, Cath Thorpe and Steve Ford.
The competition was held this year at Tavistock Parish Church on 18 February, 2012 and the team rang to the best of its abilities, putting in a commendable performance by coming 5th with 39 faults.
1. Charlotte Boyce (C), Tiverton St Peter
2. Sandie Reader, Cullompton
3. Matthew Webb, Cullompton
4. Steve Ford, South Molton
5. Tony Lane, Uffculme
6. Gordon Milne, Uffculme
7. Martin Turner, Cullompton
8. Philip Moss, Cullompton
9. Matthew Weighell, Tiverton St Peter
10. Dave Farrant, Cullompton
Next year the competition is coming to Cullompton so we shall have a home advantage!
Spring has brought a flurry of quarter peals in North East Branch as well as a carpet of snowdrops to Huntsham churchyard.
Sheila has been busy at work cajoling us into ringing some quarter peals which we duly took part in. They resulted in a number of goals and achievements to celebrate.
Jenny Jones scored her first quarter in over 25 years in an exceptionally well struck quarter of Bob Minor;
With the help of Tim Bayton, we scored a quarter of Yorkshire Surprise Major (this time with Sheila ringing inside - well done Sheila).
Jack Ward rang his first quarter inside and Chris Bolt rang his first quarter inside to Reverse Canterbury.
Well done to everyone and a big thank you to Sheila for doing all the organising.
Oh – and happy birthday to Les!
Thursday 9th February 2012
Plain Bob Minor
1. Catherine Thorpe
2. Jenny Jones
3. Matthew Webb
4. Richard Shere
5. Matthew Weighell
6. Charlotte Boyce (C)
Birthday Congratulations to Les Boyce on the day of his 60th birthday
Saturday 11th February 2012
Plain Bob Doubles
1. Pat Hatchett
2. Jack Ward
3. Sheila Scofield
4. Brian Samuels
5. Micheal Hatchett (C)
6. Tony Trigg
Jack’s 1st inside
Sunday 12th February 2012
Tiverton St Peter
Yorkshire Surprise Major
1. Charlotte Boyce
2. Sheila Scofield
3. Les Boyce
4. Richard Shere
5. Matthew Webb
6. Matthew Weighell
7. Richard Johnston
8. Tim Bayton (C)
Wednesday 15th February 2012
Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles
1. Pat Hatchett
2. Chris Bolt
3. Sheila Scofield
4. Charlotte Boyce
5. Michael Hatchett (C)
6. Tony Trigg
Chris’s 1st inside to the method
Last year, because of the date falling within Holy Week, it was not generally possible to observe St George's Day with a celebratory ring as would be fitting to mark the occasion. However, this year there is no such impediment to our bringing a little joy into the world. Monday, 23 April is the date. The venue? A tower near you.
To date, Hemyock, Cruwys Morchard, Silverton, Uffculme, Bampton and possibly Cullompton have indicated participation. Out of a total of sixteen towers active within the Branch, 25% to mark this festival is hardly dramatic. I hope that as many ringers as possible will make an effort to turn out on Monday. The bells are a quintessential sound of England and it is up to us as guardians of this rich and unique heritage to maintain its traditions and support the beleaguered saint of a beleaguered culture. I shall be ringing a quarter and I urge fellow rope-pullers to turn out on the day to provide a touch or three. Although it is a bit late for Harry, we can still hear it for England and Saint George!
Further to my St George's Ap-Peal, I have two local rings of six available for those whose own towers do not have the capacity or other band members do not wish to ring. If any would like to make up or join a band for that day, please let me know as soon as possible. See "Officers" section for contact details.
The annual dinner for ringers and friends of the Troyte fraternity was held on Friday 10th February 2012 in the Bampton Community Hall with members of the band all contributing parts to the meal. Jack and Pat's soup was up to it's usual standard with rolls made by Carla.
Maincourse of beef stew, lasagne and a chicken dish, roast potatoes, rice, swede & carrots, roast parsnips, cauliflower cheese and carrots. All colours of wine! Sweets of pavlovas, trifle, apple tarts and moose were followed by coffee and chocolates.
Those attending are pictured.
31 January witnessed some local firsts at Huntsham. Sadly, Chris Bolt's Reverse Canterbury attempt during Quarter Peal Week last year failed but at the end of January, he scored a personal triumph with his first successful peal of 5040 changes of Grandsire Major. Coincidentally, this was the first whole peal rung in more than 50 years by a Huntsham resident so the occasion had added significance for Chris. Furthermore, the method originally chosen for the peal is another first, a new composition to be entitled Morrell's Valley (where Chris lives) but unfortunately, after a couple of brief attempts, this failed so the tried and tested Grandsire was pressed into service. There should be another go at Morrell's Valley later this month.
Those making up the band on this occasion were:
1 Mervyn Way
2 Lesley Knipe
3 Michael Hatchett
4 Richard Johnston
5 Christopher Field
6 Robert Brown
7 Jeffery Knipe (C)
8 Christopher Bolt
And the peal represented yet another first - this time the "first 400th" rung together by Mike Hatchett and Jeff Knipe.
In memory of the late Colin Davey and to celebrate the previous day’s birthday anniversary of his widow, Shirley, six friends gathered at Halberton on Monday, 30 January to ring a quarter peal of spliced Doubles. Colin, when Tower Captain, usually bumped the tenor, generally regarded in the ringing chamber as “Colin’s Bell”; it is easy-going and well-mannered. Nevertheless, 17 cwt and 50 minutes of rock-solid tenor behind left Cathy Thorpe, who is no Amazon, drained but contented from participating in the tribute to the man who taught her to ring.
The band ringing 1260 changes comprising Stedman (60), Reverse Canterbury (240), Plain Bob (480) and Grandsire (480) was made up by:
1 Terry Hargreaves
2 Paul Mainwaring
3 Sheila Scofield
4 Leslie Boyce
5 Matthew Weighell (C)
6 Cathy Thorpe
The Ringing World has a new website which is a searchable database of ringing records and is also way of submitting new records to the Ringing World.
To quote from their website:
BellBoard is currently under development but invites you to browse or search our ringing records and share details of your recent peal and quarter peal performances instantly . . .
The Ringing World has launched this initial version of BellBoard so that we can all submit our ringing performances to The Ringing World whilst sharing them with each other online. Please do start using BellBoard now to help to keep the Ringing World and each other up to date.
There will be much more to come from BellBoard which we hope that many change ringers will enjoy so please keep visiting us to track our progress!
To visit the website Click Here.
Preliminary to my recent incarceration in the Royal Devon and Exeter, I was obliged to make several visits as an outpatient and as is customary in such circumstances, there was much sitting around waiting for something to happen. In one of the waiting rooms I noticed a board displaying graphs of various areas of hospital performance charted over the preceding year or so. After a while, seeming to have been forgotten and becoming soporific in the heat and hum of subdued conversation, my head began to tilt so that the graphs assumed a perceived verticality. One in particular was looking familiar.
Good heavens! Starting in January, things are going out quick so that by May/June, they are sort of double dodging up. After the coat-hanger (which has a slightly drooping shoulder but the Physio Department should be able cure that), the end of the year sees a couple of dodges down before going in quick after Christmas. Of course, I’m not keen to spend any more time here than is clinically necessary but in my dozy state I'm half hoping that I might still be around to see how they get on with the slow work.
A tap on the shoulder - "Are you alright, Sir?" says this pretty descendant of Florence Nightingale.
"Uh? Oh, yes, thank you. By the way, Nurse, did you know that the graph you have on the board displaying 'Percentage of Emergency Re-Admissions' is, in fact, the blue line for Stedman Doubles?"
I get a look suggesting that this is a surgical ward; psychiatric stuff is elsewhere.
The year’s first meeting of the North East Branch was well attended with 30 members joining in the ringing and subsequent service held at Tiverton, St Paul’s on Saturday, 7th January. Ringing before the service included Call Changes on Six, Plain Hunt, Plain Bob - Minor and Doubles, Stedman Doubles and Cambridge Minor. Members from 7 different towers attended an enjoyable service celebrating Epiphany and taken by Lay Readers from St George’s. This was followed by tea with notices. (I suspect the former tasted better! Ed). The Branch display boards were on show; a presentation of the new Branch demonstration bell was a main topic of interest. Branch towers are to be canvassed over the next two months to determine the bell’s future placement and use.
Committee members will be visiting all Guild affiliated towers to discuss with members their training wants and needs.
The evening was completed with an excellent curry at the “Gate of India” where 16 members and partners had a very enjoyable time.
Our thanks to Charlotte for an excellent choice for a social evening.
The Branch has kindly been donated the old school bell from Burlescombe. Troyte Ringing Centre has kindly donated considerable funds to mount the bell in a frame so that it is fully functional, but a further support structure would needed in order to ring it. The work has been carried out by Richard Newman and is now complete. The bell is still currently housed in Richard’s workshop near Bridgwater so we are now looking for a secure, permanent home within the Branch suitable for the bell.
The photos attached show the bell and frame standing on a trolley in Richard’s workshop. The bell weighs 60lbs and with the frame, total weight is 1cwt. The dimensions are: 39” long, 24” wide and 35 “ from the bottom of the frame to the top of the wheel.
A sub-committee of Branch Officers met to discuss potential uses for the bell and three suggestions were made:
1 To mount the frame on a structure which can be easily erected and dismantled so that it can be used at shows or tower open days to demonstrate full circle ringing
This suggestion has a number of further hurdles listed below and once these had been overcome the bell will require storage and continued management. It would also be duplicating existing structures that can easily be borrowed or hired.
A portable structure will need to be designed and constructed. Given the weight of the bell and the forces at work when the bell swings this would need to be very sturdy and heavy and as a consequence costly.
A solution would need to be found in order to lift the bell and frame into position well above head height.
Insurance and health and safety would need to be considered.
A secure home for the bell, frame and support structure would need to be found.
Transportation and a number of volunteers would be needed to facilitate any display.
In order to progress this project: a project manager will need to be found; funds will need to be raised; a person will need to be found to design a structure and lifting mechanism for the bell to sit on; and the Branch needs to be committed to undertaking this project and making regular use of the bell once the project is completed, with someone prepared to take responsibility for this for the long term.
The sub-committee were divided about whether this would be a suitable use of the Branch’s resources and whether benefits from the bell would outweigh the time, effort and cost involved.
2 To mount the bell at a suitable permanent location with a simulator so that it can be used to teach novice ringers methods.
There will be costs concerned with installation and permissions will need to be sought. Given the comparatively small weight of the bell at 60lbs consideration should be given as to whether more benefit would be gained by using a simulator with existing tower bells. Once installed, the bell’s visual appeal would be lost.
3 To put the bell in its frame on display in a tower as it currently stands.
The bell mounted in its frame is aesthetically pleasing to look at and would be an attractive addition to a permanent display within a ringing chamber, or inside a Church, though the location needs to be secure against metal theft. This could be a valuable asset to a tower that wants to develop its training facilities or promote bell ringing within its Church. It can be placed on any table that is large enough, and strong enough to be sat upon. The Branch would like to retain an interest in the bell and have the right to borrow it back should we wish to use it at an event.
The immediate need is to find a permanent home for the bell. If we are unsuccessful, the bell will have to be sold.
Please could Branch members and towers consider whether they could house the bell as a static display or whether they would like to house the bell in their tower as a teaching aid.
Obviously, we appreciate this is a decision which cannot be made quickly and will also need to be made in conjunction with your PCC. We would like to set an initial deadline of notices of intention by 28 February 2012. Please contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would also appreciate any views on whether a project to design and build a tall stand so the bell could be hung and circular ringing demonstrated is feasible and whether anyone would like to be involved.
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