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Established January 17 1881

Guild Master's Blog

Hilarie Rogers, the Guild Master writes:

31st May 2015

As most of you will have heard, we did not have enough at the AGM a couple of weeks ago to transact any business. So I am still in office as Master – as are all of the other officers – until 4th July when you have another opportunity to elect those you want as your officers for the coming year (which will only be 45 weeks in reality).

Approaching this my first AGM as Master, there were a few nerves and possible things to go wrong &ndashl; but an inquorate meeting did not cross my mind! However, we were able to present Striking Competition certificates and some Distinguished Membership awards; and pay our respects to those who had died.

Since my last blog, which was just after Easter, I have attended 2 more AGMs (Banbury Branch at Adderbury and EBSB Branch at Burnham), and finally managed to get to Chipping Norton Branch for one of their branch practices at Burford on 1st May. Thanks again to everyone who has made me welcome – and I did manage to get to every branch during my first year!

Last week I was invited to a surprise (in the literal sense) gathering at Hinton Waldrist on their practice night, to celebrate the 85th birthday of Norman Leslie, who learned to ring there in 1952. Norman and Doreen had no idea that this was to be more than the usual people – and their faces were a picture as more and more people came in during the evening. We were treated to a lovely spread and toasted the birthday boy in fine style. A shame we didn't have an agenda lined up as we would probably have had enough to hold the Guild AGM!

The April practice for the Young Ringers was at St Thomas', Oxford – the competition venue – and those who were able to attend had the opportunity to become a bit more familiar with this lovely light ring. Daphne's dedication to duty this time involved bringing her mobile tea and cake trolley on the bus. May's practice was at Drayton and Susan's carrot cake didn't last long!

What else? My diary shows the Radley Course in mid April, where I helped with the Bob Minor and Bob Doubles Group tutored by Bob Partridge (see a pattern emerging??). Also the guild 8-bell competition at Winslow on May Day Bank Holiday, at which I was a spectator and tea-consumer. And the Education subcommittee meeting at the end of April, which I chaired as we were between chairs.

Although I had intended to blog for my first year only, this may not be the last you have heard!

8th April 2015

The Branch AGM season continues – during March I went to Hungerford (Newbury Branch) and Faringdon (Vale of White Horse Branch) for meetings, ringing and chatting to people. Oh and teas! At Hungerford we arrived early enough for a stroll along the canal on a sunny afternoon; and at Faringdon we had our tea and meeting in their splendid new “room” (which is probably bigger than my own church!).

The banner was in use for 2 funerals – Geoff Holden at North Leigh and Glenys Gray at Chalgrove. I also attended the funeral of Bill Simon at Berrick Salome. We learned of all the other things that these people did during their full lives, of which ringing was only a part. How many of us know much about the other interests of those we ring with??

Guild General Committee also took place in March – in the lovely warm church at Adderbury. We heard feedback from branches to a couple of questions that had been posed regarding recruitment and retention of ringers, and a summary of the main points is now on the Guild website. I hope to repeat this in the autumn but will give more time for discussion to take place within branches next time. The Young Ringers' practice in March was on the simulator at Shiplake and once again the ringers came with enthusiasm and concentration.

What else??? Usual ringing in my own tower and others in my branch; and the Guild Handbell Day last Saturday which is always a highlight for me. I came relatively late to handbell ringing (only 3 or 4 years ago) and it is a big challenge. Helps me sympathise with my tower bell learners though!

1st March 2015

Over the past couple of weeks, I have attended AGMs in 5 branches, and have enjoyed mixing with people around the Guild, to say nothing of ringing and tea! Valentine's Day was spent at Chearsley – my second visit and the bells are still as good – where it was encouraging to see a good number of less-experienced ringers ringing before the service.

The following week I managed to pack in 2, as Bicester Branch held their AGM at Launton in the morning and Sonning Deanery at Twyford in the afternoon. At Launton, we learnt it would have been Fred Sharpe's 110th birthday the following day, so I was more especially pleased to be able to ring in the tower of a previous Master. The tower is tiny, with wood panelled walls, and a special niche in which hang a couple of clothes brushes with a mirror over. Twyford has everything in the one building – church, tower, meeting room and a very fine array of spring bulbs in the churchyard. We were treated to a presentation on recruiting from the point of view of the recruit – too often we look at it from the point of view of needing ringers.

Yesterday I managed to fit in 2 again, as my own branch held an afternoon meeting at Chalgrove and the Witney and Woodstock branch held theirs in the evening at Woodstock. At Chalgrove we were reminded to check out potential escape routes should anyone be taken ill in the tower – Chalgrove had occasion to use Fire and Rescue last year and have some helpful tips. They are now to be used as part of the Fire Service's training. At Woodstock, it was mentioned that 20 ringers received Certificates after their Firsts Fortnight last year – a good way to encourage people to try something new.

I have heard 5 very interesting and encouraging sermons, and have sung a variety of ringers' hymns!

This afternoon I rang a quarter peal of St Peter's Doubles (a variation of St Martin's) at St Peter's Church, Great Haseley, one of the churches at which I look after the ringing. This was to wish the Rector well in his retirement. He has been a great encouragement to the ringers, both in person and in what he writes in the village magazine.

Finally, the young ringers' practice was at Goring at the end of February, another enjoyable ringing session!

8th February 2015

Already in February and the afternoons are staying light for longer. Luckily the weather hasn't prevented me getting anywhere – unlike last year when, for several days, the only way I could get out of the village was through the water on a bicycle! I did however encounter snow and slippery roads when I ventured to Great Tew in January to attempt a quarter peal one evening.

So – I have looked after the usual monthly practices in my branch – Plain Bob Doubles and Surprise Major in January – encouraging to see people make progress from one practice to another. Under 18, though, is definitely the age to learn, as we are seeing at the young ringers' practice, which was at Cuddington in January.

I have rung a handbell quarter and a handbell peal this year! Both were Plain Bob Major – the quarter was Mary Friskney's first away from tenors, and was on her newly refurbished set of bells; the peal was Chris Tuckett's first handbell peal for 47 years.

What else? Finance and General Purposes subcommittee meeting, and the Dedication at Chearsley. What lovely bells and what a lovely feel to the service which seemed to include the whole village – and a spectacular cake to follow!

Outside the Guild, I managed a ring at Ramsey (in Cambridgeshire) when I happened to be there one practice night – I went to school next to the church there but the bells were not ringable in those days, and it has taken me very many years to make it up the tower!

The two people from this branch who went to the Guild's Training Meeting yesterday have come back fired with enthusiasm, so I expect our practices will have renewed energy for the next little while!

5th January 2015

Happy New Year!

Much of my ringing has been local in the run-up to Christmas, with extra services to ring for at my 3 regular towers. I haven't yet worked out how to ring in 2 places at once! This would be a help in the next few weeks as 14 of the 15 branches hold their AGMs in the span of a few short weeks, with some days having more than one meeting.

In mid December, I was delighted to be invited to ring in young Joseph White's first quarter peal, at Woodstock. He just got on with it in a relaxed, competent way – I think the rest of us were more concerned!

I also went to that part of the world at the end of November, when I was invited to a Minor practice at North Leigh and had the opportunity to ring a variety of methods. Thank you for the invitation!

Last weekend, I arranged a practice at High Wycombe for my own branch, to give us the opportunity to ring methods on 10 and 12 (we have no towers in our branch with more than 8 bells). We were fortunate that many ringers from other branches were willing to come along and help, so we were able to ring something for everyone. 2 of us were able to dust off our Bristol max for the occasion!

More to come as the year unfolds.

25th November 2014

Overcame a personal hurdle at the weekend, and one which had been on the horizon since being elected in May – chairing a meeting of the Guild's General Committee. This meets twice a year – March and November – and comprises the Guild Officers (around 30), Branch Secretaries (15), Branch Representatives (1,2 or 3 from each branch, depending on membership), Vice Presidents, and elected members. In reality not everyone is able to attend every meeting but there are still a lot of faces looking at you! Various questions had popped into my mind – would I remember people's names if they put up their hand to speak? (Mostly). Do I bang the gavel at the start as well as the end? (End definitely and start if people are still engaged in conversation). Would I be able to make myself heard at the back? (Apparently so). Anyhow, the meeting went smoothly as much of the information had been circulated in advance, thus leaving only questions and discussion at the meeting. My hope is that at future meetings we will be able to get through the “business” items fairly efficiently, thus leaving time to discuss previously-notified items of interest and concern, to enable branch representatives to bring to the meeting contributions from their branch, and to take back to their branches ideas and experiences of others.

The same day, I was able to listen to some of the 10-bell ringing at Long Crendon by bands participating in the Guild 10-bell Competition. For the teams, there was the competition itself, but chatting to people there it was clear that just as important was the meeting together ahead of the contest to practise, to make mistakes together, to laugh and to improve. And on the day, the social side of meeting ringers from other towers played a big part.

Earlier that week, I had travelled to Quainton for the funeral of Mary Lee, President of the Central Bucks Branch. The Guild banner stood at the front, and we learned of all that Mary had done, in her ringing and in all the other aspects of her life. It is often surprising to hear of the many different interests that ringers have apart from ringing.

What else have I done?? Attended the City Branch AGM at St Aldate's – once again, made welcome and enjoyed a good spread for tea; chatted with people I knew and those I hadn't met before; and won a prize in the raffle. Was conscious of how peaceful the church is amidst the busy-ness of Oxford, as I left at the end and was straight into the hubbub of Saturday early-evening Oxford. We had November's meeting of the young ringers – again, lovely to see them together, both ringing and relaxing with each other during the break for refreshments.

Not quite so much to report this time, but my regular ringing is continuing so no need to worry that I am slacking!

1st November 2014

Last weekend, I tutored a group on the Steeple Aston Course. As I arrived at the Village Hall, I was reminded of how brave the students were – to come along to try something new, with people they didn't know and at unfamiliar towers. How many of us would do that without a slight feeling of trepidation? At the end of the day, many new skills had been learned and friendships forged. I met someone who had been a student on a course I had run previously (doing something different this time though!). The helpers in my group were from other branches, and it was good to get to know them – and the students were very friendly and keen to learn. A near-lockout at the first tower (key had been dropped in the leaves on the way!); excellent service at lunch; and very nice bells all day. Welcome meal at the end.

These courses don't just happen – there is a lot of organising of towers, helpers, lunch venues, food, administering fees and tower donations..... We are very lucky in this Guild to have people with the expertise to make these arrangements and people willing to give their time to help others along. Numbers applying have fallen – “use it or lose it” they say.

Earlier today I popped along to the start of a Tower Maintenance Course – again organised and run by experienced members of the Guild and attended by 16 students. I left them looking forward to spending the best part of the day up amongst the bells with only a brief respite for lunch. What could be better???

Since the last blog, we have held another Young Ringers' practice – this time at High Wycombe. Attendance was down due to half term, but 8 young ringers had a good practice, mainly on 8 but all of them rang plain hunt on 9 and call changes on 12 with some helpers (these were called by one of the young people – what can I say??). As the final touch, just the 8 of them rang and they were not at all confused when the bells were called into Queens and then they rang plain hunt on 7. How many of our towers would do that right first time??

On the first Saturday of October, the Guild 6-bell competition was held, and my tower rang in the heat at Cholsey. The day was chilly after a mild week. It was good to see people from around the Guild ringing their best on bells that were unfamiliar, and with not very long to get used to them. This was definitely the case for the final at Aston Tirrold – the excellent tea supplied by the Old North Berks ringers was a highlight that fortified us for the walk to the church and the experience there! Even High Wycombe (the eventual winners) took a good few rounds to achieve perfection!

What else have I done?? Attended the Education sub-committee meeting, but couldn't make the Towers and Belfries meeting due to a prior engagement. Went on the Witney and Woodstock branch outing by coach to Hampshire – some very nice towers and good company, including a ringing bus driver. Not too keen on the bee which stung me just before lunch, but managed to get to a chemist at our lunch stop (first aid kits only seem to stock massive bandages....). Rang a quarter peal at Woodstock the following Friday just prior to the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough – the church was full and people had the service relayed to them in the street outside.

Usual ringing has continued – sweeping up loads of flies at the moment in my own tower, as I have come to expect at this time of year.

30th September 2014

A couple of days ago we held the first of our young ringers' practices. What can I say? Had to keep reminding myself that the band was all under 18! We had 12 youngsters and they rang triples and major on the light 8 at Headington. Our support crew supplied chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake and brownies for the half-time break (thank you Daphne!). The idea is to give the youngsters the chance to ring together and to get used to helping each other out. Can't wait for the next one! Have been to the North Bucks Autumn Meeting (at Newport Pagnell – a fair trek up north) where the tea was magnificent and the welcome warm. Also to the Finance and General Purposes subcommittee where we got through a packed agenda pretty efficiently.

Arranged a quarter at St Thomas', Oxford, to mark the retirement of the Bishop of Oxford. The band comprised 5 previous Masters of the Guild, a previous Deputy Master and 3 current officers. With such a good band, lot of pressure not to clip or hesitate! The lower on all 10 was worth listening to....

I promised to talk about my regular ringing.......each week I run a practice at my own tower (6 bells although we only ring 5 in the summer – will leave that one for the next blog!) and one at another tower in the branch which has no ringers just regular visitors! I also share running practices at another tower where we are teaching a band to ring. Each month, for my branch, I run a doubles practice (alternates between Grandsire and Plain Bob); a surprise practice (alternates between minor and major) an 8-bell practice and a branch practice. I also ring handbells with 3 or 4 other people about once a month (nothing fancy) and am an occasional visitor to 3 or 4 other towers.

26th August 2014

Becoming more confident in using the webmail program for the generic “Master” email address, and have set up folders to file emails away and retrieve when needed. Have explored all 3 possible webmails and think I have settled on a preference. Have imported address books and set up a signature. Should be able to put up an away message.

Went to the Central Bucks Branch Practice earlier this month at Bierton, a lovely ring of 6 with a central tower, rung from the chancel crossing. Some good striking, and an enjoyable evening.

Have also been to the Reading Branch Surprise Practice (apologies to all when London Major seemed to have left my brain); Appleton's Friday night practice (where I nearly circled the tower); and a Surprise Royal Practice just outside the Guild at Leighton Buzzard (thankfully London Royal had remained in my brain). Arranged a meeting to talk about young ringers' practices leading to the RWNYC next July, and decided to arrange these monthly at different locations. A small group of us is looking after the organisation, from arranging venues and refreshments (must have cake I was told!) to communicating with the young people.

My regular ringing continues – perhaps I can talk about that next time!

6th August 2014

Welcome to the first posting on the Master's Blog – an attempt to share some of what I am doing in my first year as Master.

Like many new jobs, there was an unusual calm at first, which gave me time to get used to the idea, and to set up the all-important email forwarding so that I could receive messages. One of the first messages was an invitation to the dedication at Horley near Banbury, which I was delighted to attend at the very beginning of June –ringing the bells and meeting the new band there.

Now just over 2 months in, I have visited 5 further towers in 4 different branches for practices or service ringing (including ringing for a wedding). I hope to get to all branches in the first year!

One of the highlights (apart from the subcommittee meetings of course!) was accompanying the Guild's young ringers to Worcester for the RWNYC, and chatting to them during the day. I am in the process of setting up regular practices for them over the coming year – more later.

I plan to email Branch Secretaries when I have items to pass on – the first “Over to You” went out last week, and again identified some hiccups in my use of the Guild mailing lists which are now sorted.

Other things have included attending the dedication of a blue plaque at the Greyhound in Besselsleigh to Alfred White, founder of White's of Appleton; arranging farewell ringing for our Patron, Bishop John; and corresponding with both him and the new Archdeacon of Dorchester.