Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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L-R: Pauline Banton, Michael Cummings, Godfrey Farmer, Rev Fred Rothery, Peter Banton, Stuart Cummings.

St Thomas's Day ringing at Ebrington

On the morning of 21st December, St Thomas's Day, seven ringers rang the bells of St Eadburgha's Church, Ebrington, from 5.45am-7.00am as a continuation of a tradition of a signal that it was alms-giving day.

From Ebrington we could also hear the bells of St James' Church, Chipping Campden, ringing out for the same reason.

A few years ago I can remember my mother-in-law receiving a loaf of bread on St Thomas's Day.

In a myths and legends book I have there is a reference that if an unmarried lady wanted to see an apparition of her future husband, she would peel a large onion at bedtime and stick nine pins in it on St Thomas's Eve. She would then chant "Good St Thomas do me right, send me my true love this night".

After ringing we were again treated to a full English breakfast given by Mrs Stanley.

L-R: Godfrey Farmer, Pauline Banton, Stuart Cummings, Fred Rothery, Allen Turner, Michael Cummings.

A book in my possession gives information about St Thomas. It reads:-


Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles. Nothing is recorded about him in the New Testament, except by St John. When the disciples were trying to deter Jesus from taking the risk of going to Bethany where Lazarus lay dead, Thomas burst out, "Let us also go, that we may die with him",1 and he is mentioned as putting a question to Jesus at the Last Supper2. But he is also remembered chiefly for his refusal to credit the other disciples with having seen the Risen Lord that led to the reappearance of Jesus in order to persuade him to be 'not faithless but believing'.3 The Acts of Thomas, composed in the third century, record that the Apostle was taken to India to act as a carpenter for King 'Gundaphorus'. He preferred, however, to spend his time in mission preaching, alms-giving, and curing disease, and the fame of his miraculous achievements caused such a disturbance that he was arrested and run through with spears. St Thomas therefore bears a spear as his emblem.

1 St John xi, 16. 2 xiv, 4. 3 xx, 24-9

Because of his spiritual blindness, he became the Patron Saint of those with poor eyesight.

Allen Turner

(Ringing early on St Thomas's Day was a fairly widely recognised tradition in the North Cotswolds. The last time I rang for it, I overslept and arrived late amid various ribald remarks....

Very sadly, December 21st is no longer St Thomas's Day, as a few years ago 'The Church', in its wisdom, decided to move his day to July 3rd. The following piece taken from Wikipedia on the internet describes the current position and what happened:-

'When the feast of Saint Thomas was inserted in the Roman calendar in the 9th century, it was assigned to 21 December, although the Martyrology of St Jerome had a mention of the Apostle on 3 July, the date to which the Roman celebration was transferred in 1969, so that it would no longer interfere with the major ferial days of Advent. 3 July was the day on which his relics were translated from Mylapore, a place along the coast of the Marina Beach, Chennai in India to the city of Edessa in Mesopotamia. Roman Catholics who follow a pre-1970 calendar and many Anglicans (including members of the Episcopal Church as well as members of the Church of England who worship according to the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer) still celebrate his feast day on 21 December'.

An internet trawl for a listing of Saints' days shows St Thomas no longer appears on December 21st, but on 3rd July. It is true he heads the list of other Saints on that day, so his seniority appears intact.

Perhaps it's more accurate to refer to ringing on St Thomas's Day as 'Old St Thomas's Day' - unless of course we do as Wikipedia suggests, ie, we can celebrate St Thomas's Day on December 21st if we 'worship according to the 1662 edition of the Book of Common prayer', which may be quite truthful for some.

Let's hope the tradition of ringing on December 21st continues. It wouldn't be quite the same ringing at 6.00am on July 3rd - even though the getting up would be massively easier!!

Perhaps the Guild's Chaplain, Rev Patrick Wooster, can add something to this?

PS: good to see you're keeping well, Fred, and still able to do the bizz on a bell. It is now 38 years since you officiated at a certain wedding at Campden.... !! Chris)