Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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350th anniversary, Book of Common Prayer

Peter Richardson sent me details on an event that probably passed many people by: the Book of Common Prayer is 350 years old this year. It is a significant publication, having had a profound effect on the lives of the inhabitants of this country during that time: an exceedingly profound effect in earlier centuries. The Coventry Branch of the Prayer Book Society invited ringers within the Coventry Diocese to mark the anniversary by dedicating some special ringing between 23rd April and 4th May. A number of towers within the Diocese did this, many ringing quarter peals. Although some Guild members took part, I do not intend listing the quarters, as, rightly in this case, they were attributed to the Coventry DG. However, one attempt on 26th April deserves special mention here, as for one of the ringers it was something of a special occasion for her, too.

The attempt, which unfortunately wasn't successful, was at Welford-on-Avon, and the lady ringer for whom it was special was Freda Cleaver. Why was it special? The attempt was of Superlative Surprise Major. Freda's very first peal was Superlative SM. That was in 1952, ie 60 years ago! Some might well say Freda hardly looks old enough to have rung a peal that long ago, and at best she must have been a 'slip-of-a-girl'. Indeed she was: still in her teens. First peals in one's teens weren't massively unusual 60 years ago; and certainly they aren't now. However, Superlative S Major as a first peal 60 years ago (and yes, Freda rang inside: not the treble) was, I suggest, quite unusual — and I suggest it is not so normal even now.

Apparently Freda is to stand in another quarter attempt of Superlative, to mark the occasion properly. We all wish her success in that aim. (A peal 60 years ago? I've not even been ringing that long. What a remarkable - and quite lovely - lady!)