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Bell Notes - Page 1
Who therefore doth Damn Curse or Swear
Or strike in quarrel tho no Blood appear
Who wears a Hat or Spur O’er turns a Bell
On by unskilful handling spoils a peal
Shall sixpence pay for every single crime
I will make him careful against another time.
Similar versions of this are found on boards in other old churches where bells are rung, this one comes from St. Endelion in Cornwall. Imagine you are a bell ringer (at St. John’s, you could be one at any time), you have this lump of metal called a bell and it has a wheel, so the bell swings to ring. You then – how’s your imagination - try to control this lump of swinging metal, with a length of rope.
To stop the bell (we call it ‘stand’, for some reason) we have to rest –sometimes hit- a piece of wood (we call it a ‘stay’, for some reason) fitted on the bell against another bit of wood called a ‘slider’ (I know this one – the bit of wood slides!). Now if you continue to imagine you are a bell ringer (and you could be one at any time), the command ‘stand’ can leave you with some dread, as your only control is a quick moving rope. Did I say it was very quick? And you are in the dark, in many ways, as all this happens above you and you can’t see any of it except this very quick moving rope that is whipping in front of you. Well you hope that it is in front of you, as you have to catch it – the rope that is - by the woolly bit (the ‘woolly bit’ of the rope is called a ‘sally’ for some reason) and rest one piece of wood on to the other. So if you continue to imagine you are a ringer (for some reason, we often leave off the word ‘bell’) we sometimes cannot ‘stand’, the bell that is, we are already standing as it is not easy to ring a bell sitting down. If we do not ‘stand’ the bell, it means we are still ringing!
Bell Notes - Page 2
Now for many years during Lent, the St. John’s ringers –fine themselves- when they cannot ‘stand’ – no that’s the bell – it’s not when they have been to the pub! The fine could be a sixpence if we had one but now days it is a bit more and we donate it to a charity. It’s a surprise that we get so much as over Lent we seem to get better at ‘standing’ our bells. For a number of years we have given the ‘sixpences’ to a local children’s Hospice but this year we are sending it to St. Francis Hospice. A ringer friend of ours, Kevin, who rang at Barking, died there just before Christmas. You must remind me to tell you sometime about his Funeral, it was amazing.
Now John Betjeman apparently used part of his poem, that was to celebrate Prince Charles and Diana’s Wedding from the ‘Who therefore’ lines and some of the last lines of his poem were:
Let’s all in love and friendship hither come
Whilst the still treble calls the Thundering Tom
And still bells are for modest recreation
Lets rise and ring and fall to Admiration.
The treble is the lightest bell and Tom is the heaviest bell at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Now we don’t wear Hats and Spurs when we are ringing anymore
and we don’t think bell ringing is modest – it’s mega – so why don’t you use your imagination to think that you could ring a bell with us on one of our Ringing Outings on May 2nd. or October 3rd. or as we ring to bring people to worship on Easter Sunday – now that is mega!
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for 180 years