Thinking allowed

Three leads of Kent

Last Sat­urday was the monthly bell­ringers’ dis­trict meet­ing. I’ve not been to one of these before (though I had inten­ded to go to last month’s), but this time it was at Bluntisham, whose bells have only just been rehung so that they can be rung and only a couple of miles down the road. Bluntisham is where Dorothy L Say­ers spent her child­hood, and where her fath­er, the Revd Henry Say­ers, was Rect­or a cen­tury ago. It was here that she watched an earli­er res­tor­a­tion of the Bluntisham bells, though not one that enabled them to be rung. Per­haps this stuck in her memory when she came to write her mas­ter­piece, The Nine Tail­ors. In that book, Lord Peter Wim­sey, super­hero, takes part in a 9 hour peal of Kent Treble Bob Major. And so Kent was to be the ‘spe­cial meth­od’ at this meet­ing. And as I have had a couple of attempts at ringing Kent I thought that I would have anoth­er go.

The bells have been hung lower in the tower than before, in order to reduce the strains in the tower, and ringing is from the ground floor. When I arrive, the bells have just been rung up and are ringing mer­rily. Inside the church they seem very loud — you’d want to wear ear plugs if you were ringing a peal. A lot of people have gathered for the meet­ing, from some of the new begin­ners try­ing to form a band for the Bluntisham tower, through to exper­i­enced ringers. Some people have come from around the coun­try to ring these ‘new’ bells — very few people will have rung them before — from Worcester­shire and oth­er far-flung places. That’s a day trip to spend half an hour ringing at Bluntisham before it’s time to head home!

The ringing altern­ates between Kent and oth­er meth­ods, such as a touch of Bob Major, and sim­pler ringing, includ­ing rounds and call changes. I stand around, listen­ing and watch­ing (and talk­ing to oth­er ringers as I am try­ing to arrange a band to ring on Wed­nes­day). Even­tu­ally, the lead­er looks at me and says, ‘You haven’t rung yet, what do you want to try?’ ‘I’d like to have a go at Kent,’ I reply. ‘In the­ory I can ring it.’

So we ring ‘three leads of Kent’, a shortened form of Kent in which a bob is called at each lead end so that it comes back to rounds after just three leads. I had nev­er rung bobs in Kent, but I had done my home­work before going to the meet­ing. Once again I chose to ring on bell 6, which with hind­sight was per­haps not the most inter­est­ing bell to ring. At each lead end a bob was called and instead of mak­ing Kent places down (4ths then 3rds) I did an extra two dodges in 5–6 down. If I had chosen the 4, then at the first lead end I would have been unaf­fected by the bob and would have gone into the slow (mak­ing 2nds place over each of the oth­er bells in turn), and at the second lead end I would have come out of the slow and, again unaf­fected by the bob, made 3rds and 4ths up, and then at the the third lead end made 3rds and 4ths up again (which is rounds).

I quickly found that the ropes were rather long, and I had to move my hands fur­ther up the rope, so that I had per­haps 15 inches of the tail end below my hands. This is not ideal, as I kept get­ting smacked in the face by it, and I could still have done with tak­ing in a bit more. If I had known this before I star­ted then I could have tied a knot in the rope, or tucked the tail end up on my little fin­ger. But as it was it reduced my con­trol over the bell.

I think the best that could be said was that I didn’t get lost, that I knew exactly what I was meant to be doing, and that I didn’t need the instruc­tions from the expert ringers around me — ‘lead now’, ‘dodge with me now’, and so on, help­ful though such com­ments are. But I clearly need to con­cen­trate on my strik­ing: that is, on mak­ing the bell sound in exactly the right place. Although I didn’t get lost in this meth­od, that doesn’t mean that I was pla­cing my bell just where it should be, and I could tell this from my own hands, and with my ears, listen­ing to the bells as they rung. The oth­er ringers were, of course, much too polite to tell me how bad my ringing was.

1 Comment

Church Times articles

Over the last few years I have writ­ten a num­ber of pieces which have been pub­lished in the Church Times. These have appeared on their monthly com­put­ing / inter­net pages, and have included reviews and sur­veys of web sites on vari­ous topics.

The most recent of these art­icles is now avail­able on the Church Times web­site: a pre­view of Apple’s new Mac mini com­puter. You can read the art­icle here

[Foot­note, 12 April 2005: Apple today announced that the next ver­sion of Mac OS, Mac OS X 10.4, code-named ‘Tiger’, will be avail­able from 29 April. So, now is the time to go and buy that Mac mini, safe in the know­ledge that you will get the latest ver­sion of the OS. I placed my order for a Mac mini this afternoon!]

Some of the earli­er pieces can be found in this list


End of an Era

Today marked the end of an era for ringing in Saint Ives. This after­noon saw the funer­al of Les Fish­er. He was a small child when, in March 1918, the tower of Saint Ives church was hit by an aero­plane.

The pilot was killed, and amongst much oth­er dam­age, the bell wheels and frames were smashed, the bells them­selves fall­ing to the bel­fry floor. It was over 12 years before the bells were ringable again — apart from rebuild­ing the spire and repair­ing all the dam­age to the church, it was decided to place the bells lower in the tower than before, at the level which had pre­vi­ously been the ringing cham­ber, and to ring the bells from the ground floor of the church. In addi­tion the bells were melted down and recast as a some­what light­er set of eight. Not until Septem­ber 1930 was the new ring ded­ic­ated by the Bish­op of Ely.

It was around this time that Les Fish­er learnt to ring, and just a few years later, in 1935, he became a mem­ber of the Ely Dio­ces­an Asso­ci­ation of Church Bell Ringers, remain­ing a mem­ber until his death 70 years later.

Les was for many years the Tower Cap­tain in Saint Ives, main­tain­ing the ringing through the incum­ben­cies of sev­er­al vicars. In 1985 a peal was rung to cel­eb­rate his 50 years mem­ber­ship of the Ely DA, and it had been planned to ring a peal this year to mark the 70th anniversary. Sadly, this peal will instead now be rung to cel­eb­rate his life.

Many ringers were present at today’s funer­al, amongst them George Bon­ham, Chair­man of the Hunt­ing­don Dis­trict of the Ely DA, who cap­tained the ringing before and after the ser­vice. The bells were rung half-muffled, a tra­di­tion­al sym­bol of mourn­ing, and a rather eery sound, in which the hand­strokes sound nor­mally, and the back­strokes as a muffled echo.

Les will be remembered as the back­bone of St Ives ringing over more than half a cen­tury. He will also be remembered as the donor of a mod­el bell, which, with a mod­el frame added by Bob King, enables us to demon­strate how a bell moves when it is rung. At the moment this mod­el is not on dis­play, but we hope to provide a suit­able table and pro­tect­ive case so that it can be left on gen­er­al view, both to encour­age an interest in ringing, and also as a memori­al to Les Fisher.

May he rest in peace!