Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers

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Bell ringing in Adelaide
(a little off the Saturday night practice circuit!)

In January husband Brian and I went to visit my son in Australia. Unfortunately there are no bells in Newcastle where he lives. We were seeing friends in Adelaide, known as the City of Churches. An old genealogy friend, Kingsley Ireland, made contact with Anne, the bell tower Captain of St. Andrews. We were aiming for the practice night at St Cuthbert's on Friday evening. But when the forecast is over 35 C this is cancelled, which it duly was! Feeling thwarted, I perked up when I learnt that all four towers are rung by the same group of ringers on Sunday mornings.

We went to locate St. Andrew's at Walkerville on Friday morning, as it was the first Church service on Sunday morning at 9.00 am. We visited the Church office and learnt that the bells were being sent back to Whitechapel Foundry this year. The bells are a ring of 6 in the key of F#, and were shipped out from Mears & Stainbank of Whitechapel in 1886. They are replacing the wooden frame, so some lucky chaps are having a visit to Oz to supervise the installation of the metal frame. The bells are being removed via the roof of the Tower. What a sight that will be!

Sunday morning was bright and sunny. We were the first to arrive. A ringer from Leicester has family in Adelaide and rings three months at a time with them. A couple from Hereford, who have been in Oz for 10 years, also arrived. So we started to feel at home. There was a long ladder, straight up to the Ringing Chamber. One or two were raising the bells, but we were able to come down in peal, as I made the 6th person. I felt chuffed to be useful!

Adelaide is one square mile, streets in grid design surrounded on all sides by Parks, therefore quite easy to race off to the next Tower. One of the ringers came and guided us in the car. Straight off to St Cuthbert's. A ground floor ringing chamber in a separate Tower (you'd be used to that, then, Christina! Ed): 8 bells; quite light. The tower is nick-named The Tin Can! They needed me to treble to Grandsire Triples. Not my best performance! Left early to be shown the Ringing Centre at St Peter's Cathedral.

The Cathedral has two large towers, one accommodating the bells and the other a Teaching Ringing Centre. The Bell Tower Captain had been to Worcester Cathedral to gain this idea, and it is exactly the same as Worcester Cathedral Teaching Ringing Centre. We then walked across the gallery of the Church to the Ringing Chamber, which was a large area.

The bells here were cast by John Taylor of Loughborough in 1946. They are the second heaviest ring of 8 in the world. (Which is the 1st Chris? (Sherborne Abbey in Dorset: 46cwt tenor. Ed). The 41cwt tenor cwt takes 3 people to raise; consequently the bells are left up at all times. With me being used to heavy bells at the Bell Tower I felt comfortable.

We seemed to collect more ringers as the morning moved on, which was just as well, because the Cathedral Church of St.Francis Xavier had 12 bells. We rang 10 bells, the number I am used to ringing regularly on a Sunday morning. But then I heard the tower captain's voice say “Christina! Closer on the backstroke!” Their discipline of ringing is very good. This place was huge. In the excitement of it all I can't remember the bells being rung down. We had to leave very quietly walking down the gallery in the Church. What a grandiose place.

Sadly, I did not have the experience of ringing the Town Hall bells. The Town Hall bells are not rung on Sunday mornings, but are rung on special occasions. It seems odd to have bells in a non religious place. The 8 bells here were cast by John Warner in 1865.

We all went for coffee and breakfast, their usual routine. I found out that one of the ringers had been Warden of the College Youths ten years previously in London. So I asked if he had been to visit the Bell Tower. He had been to the Bell Tower twice, remembered Chris and the water-colour painting. He had also visited Pershore, taking two extra ringers in case any freaked on their way up to the Chamber. As Brian, Kingsley and I were leaving, the English ringers were promising to visit the Evesham Bell Tower on their return home.

I must thank the Adelaide bellringers for giving us such a warm welcome and so helpful too. It is amazing that all the church bells in Oz were cast over here and shipped out. So was the Sydney Harbour Bridge!!

Christina Ireland