Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Buoy Bells

Some years ago, in the issue of 24th October 2003, The Ringing World ran a most interesting article by David Kelly of the Keltek Trust about Trinity House bells commissioned from the bellfounders. These bells were fitted to buoys and were required to warn of hazards and mark navigable channels for shipping around our shores, being particularly valuable in mist or fog. It seems they had a special flanged top and four hammers to allow for the varied directional sea swell. Over the years as they were worn or damaged they were recast, but as many became redundant the Trust was able to relocate some to Church use.

More recently my wife and I enjoyed a conducted tour of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The principal object was a trip around the Home Fleet Anchorage and an underwater robotic view of some of the remaining German fleet that had been scuttled after the 1918 Armistice. It was a fascinating visit to a variety of sites occupied during both World Wars: the Royal Oak War Grave, the Kitchener Memorial, old aerodromes, the Italian POW Chapel, Kirkwall Cathedral, the prehistoric village and henge, etc.

(Cast by Taylors in 1960 for Trinity House)

To whet the appetite, here is a photo of one of the many buoys that were in Scapa Flow. It is outside the Royal Naval Museum there.

As a holiday it was a memorable experience, liberally laced with 'Scapa', their own distillation of Scotch – and the beer was enjoyable, too.

I suppose we shall never know the extent to which these buoy bells contributed to maritime safety, but it must have been immense; and still this continues despite modern technology.

Kipling was inspired to compose a poem in tribute to them.

Peter Richardson

(Thank you for this interesting article, Peter. I was unaware of Kipling's poem about buoy bells and looked it up on the internet. It may be accessed at:-    Ed