Ringing Remembers for peace – Armistice 100

At 12.30pm on Sunday 11 November 2018 the Bellringers from St George’s will take part in the open ringing of our bells as part of the national drive – Ringing Remembers for Peace – This is David’s story –

Ringing the bells

When you hear the peal of bells on a Sunday morning, do you ever wonder what’s involved in learning to ring? I’m learning to ring and this is my story.

Last year I saw a TV news article about a group called Ringing Remembers. Their goal was to recruit 1,400 new bell ringers to replace the 1,400 ringers lost in the Great War, ready to ring for the Armistice Day centenary.

I contacted Ringing Remembers and, having moved to Beckenham in January, was put in touch with Jim Hardy. He invited me along to a Thursday evening practice session to find out what bell ringing was all about. The next week I started taking lessons with Jim.

We started off with back strokes, just getting used to pulling the bell rope. Then we progressed to hand strokes which entails pulling the sally part of the bell rope. Next came catching the sally as it starts its way back up.

The bell rope runs around a wheel attached to the head stock on the bell. As you pull the rope it causes the wheel to rotate which makes the bell swing through a full rotation and the clapper follows, striking the bell and making it ring. As the bell swings, the wheel continues to turn and the bell rope is taken up with it.

Eventually, we put all the individual parts together and went through the four parts of the ringing cycle, hand stroke down on the sally, both hands on the rope as it goes up, back stroke down and then catch the sally and repeat the cycle. Easy ……….if, only!!!!

It all happens so fast! It feels like no sooner have you pulled the hand stroke when the rope is going up, you hang on for dear life and try to pull it back down and then suddenly the sally is flying past your nose and you try to grab it and start all over again. You’re very aware that it can easily go wrong!

Jim calmly says, “Just a little more tension in the rope” and, “try to keep the rope straight”. He has an easy hand on the sally and I suspect that he is doing most of the work and is completely in control. I make a correction and I hear Jim’s favourite words, “I said a LITTLE bit!”. As usual I have over-corrected, but he is as calm as ever and I soon get back in control of the bell again.

Weeks more practice lay ahead, but Jim was always there, encouraging, teaching and calming. He never lost his temper or even had a cross word.

Now, after a lot of hard work, I am ready to ring on my own and join in the full Thursday evening practice sessions. Each of the other ringers has also always supported me through the whole learning process, with a helpful remark or correcting comment.

David Self