St James the Least of All
Editor: The Rev Dr Gary Bowness continues his tongue-in-cheek letters from ‘Uncle Eustace’…
On the art of ringing in the New Year
The Rectory, St James the Least of All
My dear Nephew Darren
I am sure I had warned you about church bells. They are simply not to everyone’s taste. And the idea of switching on your recorded bells – no matter how digitally enhanced – at midnight for an hour, in order to welcome in the New Year, may have seemed inspired at the time, but considering that most of your inner city parish is of other faiths, that you are surrounded on one side by a hospital and another by a care home for the elderly, it is not too surprising that the joyful sound was not well received.
But to be fair, we too had a small misjudgement on New Year’s Eve. Our bell-ringers, who practise the art of campanology, and don’t use electronic equipment, have always been something of a trial. They ring with great enthusiasm for half an hour before our services each week, but then as we are singing the first hymn, they emerge from the church tower, putting on hats and coats while loudly discussing who made the error in the middle of that morning’s grandsire triples.
This New Year’s Eve they met in the bell tower at 11pm to have some champagne, and then a period of ringing before further refreshment became necessary. By midnight, the champagne had so refreshed them that they somewhat exceeded their accuracy, and the village heard the New Year being joyfully welcomed by a set of eight bells being rung in an entirely random order.
I still managed to drift off to sleep, only to be woken three hours later by one bell being mournfully but persistently tolled. Finally, I felt obliged to go and find out why. I discovered Colonel Bradshaw alone in the bell tower. When the party had ended and the ringers trooped out, the Colonel had dashed back in to retrieve his hat. The others, ignorant of his absence, then locked the church and went home to their beds. That lone bell was his way of announcing his predicament.
At least I was able to reassure him that his six-hour vigil in the church tower partially made up for his absence from Mattins for the previous 12 months.
Your loving uncle,