Bell Notes

So what do you do to become a bellringer – you are asking yourself – well perhaps not as we have very few members of St. John’s who are ringers. We don’t really understand why, perhaps you think it is all done by machine or something digital in today’s world. No! it’s done by people that we call ‘ringers’. Anyone can become a ringer, you don’t have to be musical - we prove that all the time- or even mathematical, or even clever – well look at us lot – most of us are just able to turn up about twice a week and have about 3 hours to spare, on Sunday morning and Monday evening (Oh! as of the above, we are happy to have clever ringers….as well!). Our Medical adviser states: as long as you can walk up a few spiral stairs and put your arms above your own head – you are in the peak of fitness to be a ringer. We do teach people to ring the bells of St. John’s, we have a highly experienced and respected team who can shout loudly at you and blame someone else when you go wrong. t takes about six months or forever (ringers joke !!!) to learn. Just imagine the thrill of pulling 60 ft. of rope – the only bit you see, as it shoots upwards – very quickly. The rope is tied to a wheel with a lump of metal attached to the wheel. The bell can weigh as much as a small car but as it is connected to a wheel, we just need to swing the wheel as the bell is balanced – I sometime wish that the ringers were as well balanced – but the thrill is that we control the bell and strike it in time just with a rope and what you can hear. We can teach you full control of the of the situation, even when your feet leave the ground at great speed! This is when we blame anyone else and shout, we never know why people don’t let go sooner! Once you have learnt to ring a bell you can then go and ring at most places where they have bells that we can ring. When you can manage a rope with a bell on the end of it, you are then told it is the sound that you make that matters, although the people outside just think it is bell ringing …..by a machine! Why not come and join us thrill seekers, join our eclectic team of ringers for an eclectic hobby and have a chance to meet many other…..well, strange people called ringers; look out for those with matching tee shirts – they are the worst.

We’ve done our first outing of the year (see last months mag) and now starting to find a date for the next, later in the year. The biggest surprise was that we had our annual lunch (see other mag) on Sunday 21st. May – a bring and share lunch, which we shared with other ringers and friends. and then finished the rest of the lunch after the Monday evening ringing!! And then we ‘did’ the first ‘tower tour’ of the year for the Christian Aid Fun Afternoon. Tower tours are strange and are fairly popular. We’ve been doing them for a long time and can organise them to fit the circumstances. We know the main reason for it being popular is the view from the top St. John’s tower. Over the years we’ve seen St, Paul’s Cathedral appear and disappear depending on the height of the surrounding new tall buildings. We’ve seen Westfield in Stratford being built and the Olympic Park being constructed on an industrial sight. Because it is London the views are always changing but the big surprise is always how much green we have and so close to us. The children love spotting their school or home or watching our big train set….the Tube. For me it is the changing light over London that makes it look like a theatre.

Because of the situation of the spiral stairs and how narrow they are, it could be dangerous, so we control the numbers, with about 12 at anyone tine, so we take the opportunity to tell them a bit about St. John’s and our girly bells, the history of them and all their girl’s names. We also ring the bells – checking that they haven’t seen ringing before – if not, that is lucky for us – we sometimes even get applause.    We even set it up so that the children can chime a bell and make a big noise….lots of photos when they do it.

Trying not to sound pompous, I think it is good to get people into the church, especially when they find that most of us are friendly and helpful, we like to hope that they go away with a good feeling about St. John’s and might think of coming back. We never charge for our tours, some give us a small donation but we want people to enjoy St. John’s. We would also like to thank Alasdair as for a long time he has looked after all those who go to the top of the tower and he points out all the landmarks to them and not one of them so far has taken the ‘quick’ way down.

SUE ASHDOWN.
1948 to 2017.

Sue came to St. John’s because of her mother Katherine’s funeral. Rev. Dick Field took the funeral and in her words ‘because he was so nice and caring to her’ she wanted to come to St. John’s. After her mother’s death in November 1997 Sue, her daughter Loraine and Sue’s Father Eric moved in together. She told me she became a ringer after a tower tour and I taught her to ring. She became one of our main ringers, turning up almost every Sunday and Monday evenings.    Sue also took the opportunity of ringing on other evenings at all the local ringing churches getting to know many of the ringers. She became the District Secretary of the Essex ringers…so did more ringing and met more ringers. Our friendships with the ringers of St. Margaret’s Barking came from her as she was a regular visitor and helped out ringing for Weddings. I think she rang for many of the Weddings in the area, so some weeks she was ringing every evening practice night and weekends. Sue rang many ¼ Peals, with the first being at St. John’s and a number of peals…..1/4 Peals last about 45 minutes of non stop ringing and a Peal lasts about 3 hours of non stop ringing, both keep to a strict sequence, called a ‘Method’ and have strict rules for both ¼  Peals and full Peals which means they are quite an achievement to complete. Sue loved ringing and all that went with it especially all the friends she made.

During the time we moved to ring at St. Mary’s Leyton while work, which lasted about 11 months, was being carried out on St. John’s tower, Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer, being Sue she just got on with it, she carried on working and she carried on ringing, like everyone she had bad days but got over them as she was not going to be beaten and she wasn’t. During this time, she was looking after her father Eric and as he started to need more help she eventually had to give up ringing. Being Sue she also got into the life of St. John’s. She and Eric were regular church members and she was always ready to help out round the church. She was a member of the P.C.C and became the P.C.C. Secretary and then Deputy Churchwarden but again when Eric found it hard to get out she looked after him.    Sue looked after her mother when she had cancer and also her husband David when he also had cancer so life had its tough side for her but keeping her going was her daughter Lorraine. When Lorraine was younger they spent hours together as Sue took Lorraine all over the country for her dancing competitions.

Like all of us she was not perfect as she supported Arsenal Football Club she had quite a naughty sense of humour and a laugh to go with it. Sue worked as a qualified legal secretary and said she spent many hours in prison and police stations, she ended her time at work with a large legal company and of course made many friends there. The cancer returned late in 2016, as before she just got on with it but this time she lost the battle and died on 3rd. March 2017.  Eric had died on 18th. December 2016 so she had completed her care. Lorraine was with Sue as she had come back from New Zealand, [David her father was from New Zealand] and stayed with her, Sue’s brother Bill and his wife were also with her. Sue told me that we had known each other for twenty years, we had talked about death when she had her first cancer so it was no surprise to me how strong her faith was and that she wanted a quiet death. All the St. John’s ringers who knew her, miss her as do all the ringers she knew from Barking. West Ham, Waltham Abbey, Chigwell and the list goes on to all those in our ringing area.

From Lorraine: Mum, I thank you for the memories. I thank you for your love. I will miss you today and forever more, but I will never forget the time we had and how very special that was.