I learnt to ring church bells a few years ago and I love it. Not just big events like ringing at a wedding or on Remembrance Sunday, but on a miserable February morning when there are sometimes more bells than ringers… and that’s the problem – often it can be difficult getting enough ringers to make up a band every week. What we need are a few more people who would like to learn and would be able to ring before the 9:30 service most Sundays. People are not always sure what bell-ringing is about, however. Is it difficult? Do you need to be strong? Will I forget to let go of the rope and be smashed to death against the church roof?
In October 1895, ‘The Girl’s Own Paper’ ran an article on ‘Bell-Ringing for Girls’. Clearly things don’t change too quickly in the bell-ringing world since many of the questions people ask about ringing are covered beautifully in this article, and I have included some quotes below.
Is it good exercise?
‘Now here is an opportunity for exercise, which in these days it is agreed on all hands, is so very necessary for our girls. Of course there is a very general opinion among the uninitiated that bell-ringing requires great strength, but this is not necessarily the case at all’.
What kind of people ring?
‘The ringers in a country parish are often drawn from quite the rough, happy-go-lucky lads of the village, and not infrequently are a source of great trouble, or at least anxiety to those responsible for the religious tone of the parish’.
However, if a woman rings, ‘her presence in the belfry will tend to humanise and civilise the lads in a way which nothing else can do; it will suppress all coarse words and idle jesting’ (I have often thought that the ladies who ring at Binfield have a great civilising influence amongst the male bell-ringers).
Is it difficult?
‘It is quite possible that a good deal of practice will be necessary, with the instructor by the learner’s side , before she fully masters the point, but once confidence is gained we believe it is never lost’.
Is it dangerous?
‘A mistake might very easily result in even the death of the ringer, the bell rope coming down, if it got in any way twisted, might drop round the neck of the ringer, and on its return journey perform the office of hangman’. (Perhaps not an ideal quote to put in here – and there’s never been a hanging at Binfield – bell-ringing is not an extreme sport.)
Is it a good thing to do?
Apart from the civilising of rough lads, bell-ringing can be taken up as part of a Duke of Edinburgh award, it keeps your body and mind active, it helps people celebrate and commemorate and – last words to the ‘Girl’s Own Paper’ – ‘Bell-ringing has a peculiar fascination of its own, which is well-nigh irresistible’.
If you would like to learn to ring – or to try it out – please call me
Liz Harris – 07842165456