There has been a lockdown since Thursday 5th November which lasts until 2nd December.
The government in England is asking people to stay at home if at all possible. Churches are closed except for private prayer and broadcast worship. ‘Group bell ringing’ is specifically not permitted in a Place of Worship during this period.
Bellringers in England have been asked to support the Church of England’s call to prayer during this month of lockdown by ringing a single bell at 6pm each day. The request came directly from Lambeth Palace, and has been repeated by many individual Bishops.
Sunday 4 October was a grey and very wet afternoon made so much more enjoyable by the sound of four bells being rung by South Oxon Branch ringers for the farewell service for Bishop Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester. We are grateful for his support for bells and ringing in the Diocese of Oxford.
It was a damp, grey September evening, not so very different from the 10 Bell Striking Competition day in November 2019, when we were at last able to present the certificates to the winning bands.
Then we were still permitted to meet outside in groups of fewer than 30 and Stuart’s garden and capacious carport provided the ideal venue, despite his home not being included on Dove so that one or two ringers got, just a little bit, off course and had to be guided in.
However, once assembled, there were smiles all round as all the ringers in the winning Reading Branch band, and a good representation from EBSB and Sonning Deanery enjoyed a socially distanced evening together with pizza, chocolate brownies and beer.
Just for a short while it felt comfortingly like normal and it was such a pleasure to see familiar life-sized faces (and bodies)!
A special thank you to Stuart and Naomi Gibson for their hospitality, food beer and sanitising station!
75 years on, in the midst of the pandemic, some ODG ringers were able to mark the courage of the heroic soldiers, sailors and airmen who witnessed so much cruelty and death in Burma.
Several years after my father had died, I turned on the television and caught a few seconds grainy film of marching British soldiers, rifles, shorts, water bottles, slouch hats; the young man at the front was unmistakably my father, smiling and waving at the camera, at me…..and then he was gone.
He would never talk about his experiences, he never permitted me to watch ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ all he would say was that too many of his Sapper friends died there.
So, now that there is a little limited ringing permitted, I felt compelled to acknowledge his courage and asked Long Crendon Tower Captain, Andrew Haseldine, if there was a possibility that we could ring for VJ Day. The vicar was consulted, and careful preparations were made so that we complied with Covid 19 guidance. We are fortunate, the ringing room is large and airy, we have more than one family group and so we were able to ring eight bells for 15 minutes.
For many, VE Day was the most significant acknowledgement that War was over; for me and Kay Bartholomew whose father also served in Burma, VJ day was momentous.
Joseph Conan Snow – Bombay Sapper and Miner
Sydney Mumford – Oxford and Buckinghamshire Regiment
The picture shows the Long Crendon band, suitably attired for the event. It was hot and stuffy ringing but worth the effort to be appreciated by the village:
Thank you all very much for jumping through the various ‘hoops’ and ringing this morning. What a joy to hear the bells again after such a long time. You don’t realise how much you take things like bells for granted, until suddenly, they are not there. The horrible eerie silence at 10.00hrs each Sunday, the silent Thursday evenings …… Here’s hoping ringing is back again, not just for VJ Day.
Four months have passed since lockdown silenced our towers, four months in which much has happened and, simultaneously, very little.
We are making small steps to returning to ringing, but certainly not as before. There are still copious guidelines to be followed including restricting the number of ringers in a tower to comply with social distancing requirements, the length of time we can ring and the need to take many precautions to keep other ringers safe from viral contamination. All the details can be found on the Latest News drop down on our website home page. Please read the information, consult with the priest in charge too, because they may not be familiar with the guidance for bell ringers and it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of church workers.
Enough of the gloom! For, as we expected, ringers are energetic, enthusiastic and inventive. The plethora of handbells and Ringing Room activity has honed skills and continues to develop an eclectic range of entertainment. These are the ringers who will return to church bell ringing with the energy and probably enhanced skills – well done to everyone!
There are also many ringers who, for different reasons have not embarked upon such projects and are waiting, quietly, until they can return to the ringing room to take hold of the sally and be rewarded by that glorious, resonant sound that has summoned worshippers for centuries and cannot ever be confused with handbells or simulation. (Yes, I am putting my hand up and admitting my preferences; this will come as no surprise to those of you reading this who know me well – please do not resort to grumpy emails because I support you all and remain in considerable awe of everyone who can ring two bells at once. And my mobile ring tone is Little Bob 20 in hand, so it can’t all be bad.)
Sadly, and inevitably, there will be bands where ringers will not return; the habit may be broken, interest declined, other activities prioritised. The ODG has an ageing membership and many weeks of inactivity may have an impact on physical abilities and so prohibit further ringing.
The future for the Church and State remains unclear; we have unknown obstacles to overcome, ringing will return to different towers at different rates. I believe some good must come out of these exceptional circumstances; so, let us make sure we provide support, encouragement and guidance to one another as we work together to rebuild our ancient art and historic culture. There will come a time when we can reunite and I am certainly looking forward to that day.
On Tuesday 14th July, a number of changes will be made to the Guild website. No downtime is anticipated, but you may find things look a little different. Please be patient with us while we make these changes. If you have any questions, please contact the webmaster.
Readers of the Ringing World may have read Matthew Higby’s article and the subsequent letter about the Westcroft Park Campanile near Chobham. What you may not have spotted was the connection with the ODG. Back at the end of March, just after the lock-down, I was in the garden admiring a couple of pheasants that happened to be wandering through and I heard the “Nine Tailors” blowing across on the Easterly wind. A quick dash to Shrivenham St Andrew’s found the church locked and the churchyard deserted. What was going on? It was a substantial bell that I heard. After some hasty local research the sound was eventually traced to the local Defence Academy of the United Kingdom in nearby Watchfield. So started a very interesting bit of research which just happened to coincide with the Westcroft Park research and the researchers met each other in the middle of the story! I won’t spoil the story for Ringing World readers who will shortly see the article on “The Mystery Bell”. After it has been published, I shall put up another article here on the ODG website for the benefit of those folks who can’t see a Ringing World while we are locked-down. In the meantime, here is a video of the bell being sounded by the Army Chaplain. (By the way; you can’t see the device inside to ensure it is not “clocked”).
ODD BOB issue 102 is now available, courtesy of Rob Needham. Our young ringers have been as busy as ever. There’s plenty to read about despite the lack of recent ringing. Download now using the link below.