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Blog: June 2024 - Call to Worship

Learning to ring the Big Bells of the Tower, can be a mind-boggling thing hour after hour. There are so many explanations of how best to do, that it’s not very long before there’s confusion too!

You see, when I first learnt to ring, I thought, Oh! That’s it then! Job done! I’ve control of the bell - I have definitely won!

Oh, but no! You can’t stop there! There are METHODS to learn and CALL-CHANGES too. There’s a BLUE LINE to follow and someone to lead - then it's go up to the back and down to the front and then there’s a dodge or two in between. Changing the tune and perfecting the timing, don’t forget there is always the chiming.

There’s a special way to tie up the rope - when all ringing is done and that’s a trick in itself! It took me a while to sort it out. The ‘up and down’ knots proved to be quite difficult!

Showing off in red, white and blue is the SALLY - and it’s rather nice to grip as it’s soft and fluffy! Known as hand-stroke when this is pulled. Then DONG! It takes the bell up to the balance. Next, arms at full stretch and holding the TAIL - now is the time to pull it straight down to the floor. DONG! it goes and the SALLY is caught.

If the stay breaks (which has happened to me), the rope is snatched from your grasp and the bell will ring down, furiously! A replacement stay is then required - a piece of wood shaped from Ash and that’s all it takes to reinstate the safety of those Big Bells.

In 17th century England, a change was taking place. An intricate, numbered grid developed and a formula gathered pace. It is by this method of ringing, in such an orderly manner, that offers up quite a challenge for the keen bell-ringer!

It’s a skill that’s passed down and it’s one that I’ve learnt. It’s good for the body as well as the mind and friends are made time after time. So many Churches to visit and ring - we really must keep this tradition going.

If when you next pass by the Tower, take a peek at the bell-ringers there. It’s all very quiet - apart from the ringing and their serious faces don’t give away ANYTHING!

I used to wonder - Why? How can this be? Why do they look so unhappy?

At the very beginning of learning to ring, I soon had the answer! And thirty years on, nothing has changed - in fact the concentration gets harder!

Carolyn Walker

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