late summer 2015 a new person appeared, without announcement, at a Tuesday
night practice. Little did we know then how significant a part of the ringing
teams John Nixon would become, nor did we foresee how fond we would all become
of him or how soon we would be saying our sad farewells following his death in
early July this year. John was a very experienced ringer and brought over 63
years of ringing experience with him. John came that evening to ring tower
bells, but by the end of the evening, and after a visit to the pub, we also
found out he rang hand bells. So the very next evening, there he was at his
first hand bell practice! We were very grateful for his experience and
commitment both as a tower bell ringer and as a hand bell ringer.
just short of two years John supported the teams ringing for Sunday Services,
weddings and other community events. One of his greatest pleasures was
conducting the “Firing of the Bells” in October 2016 to celebrate the 200th
Anniversary of the opening of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This enabled John to
combine two of his greatest interests; bell ringing and Canal and River Trust
involvement. John’s retirement meant he was no longer involved in active church
ministry and so he was also able to be a great support to the Hand Bell Team as
they often rang during weekday afternoons to entertain people at various local retirement
and care homes.
had a confident and very pleasant character and was never backward in
encouraging ringers to push the boundaries of what they were capable of in bell
ringing terms. He also very quickly became involved in the social side of bell
ringing life, be that tower or hand bells. John’s interests often matched that
of other retired male ringers in the tower and their anecdotes of older men
misbehaving on various “Industrial Archaeology” jaunts, often entertained us in
the pub after ringing practice.
felt it very fitting that not only did John’s funeral include a fulfilment of
his wish for the tenor bell to be rung 79 times as his coffin was brought into
All Saints; that is once for each year of his life, but it also included the
theme tune from “Last of the Summer Wine”, enabling us to smile and remember the
lighter side of our too brief relationship with him. He will be missed and remembered
by both the tower and hand bell teams at All Saints.
At the end of May we attended the regional Spring Rally in
Grassington. This was a particularly well attended event as it involved the
celebration of 40 years of modern handbell ringing in the North East. The
region was formed following a rally in Selby in 1977 and many of the original
participants were at the celebration.
There were so many people there that we had to share our
bells with some ladies from Market Weighton for the massed ringing when everyone
rings together. One of these pieces was conducted by our musical director Clair
who is fast becoming a regional superstar.
Our performances of our own pieces also went well and
congratulations to Renee on her first public outing. She did so well having
only been with us for just over a month.
It clearly did not put her off and she performed again with
us at the beginning of June when we played for the Silsden friendship group.
This is a new club which meets monthly in the building next to the Catholic
Church in Silsden. Although many of their members come from the church it is
not exclusivly Catholicand there were other people from the locality some of
whom were attending their first meeting of the group. I have noticed over the
years how many groups there are that meet on an afternoon for a cuppa, chat and
some entertainment. There is no excuse for any retired person to say there is
nothing for them to do!
Our performance went well with Roger’s compering that he has
got down to a fine art. If we need extra time for bell or music changes he has
no problem talking on longer! Afterwards a number of the audience joined us to
have a go and a very creditable performance of Grandfather’s Clock followed.
Don’t forget anyone who is interested is welcome to visit one
of our Monday or Wednesday evening rehearsals in the vestry to see what handbell
ringing is all about.
We have spent April and May preparing for one of the main
events of the year – the regional Spring Rally in Grassington.
This event has been hald in the same venue for many years and
gives us an opportunity to ring bells together with other groups in what is
called massed ringing.
We also prepare and ring two or three pieces on our own which
we have practiced over the preceeding weeks. This would all be relatively
simple if the whole band intending to attend Grassington were available every
However due to holidays, illnesses, work and other
unavoidable events this has not been possible and other people have had to
stand in at each rehearsal. However slowly it is all coming together and as I
write this we are preparing for a final practice.
We have acquired another new member since my last notes,
Renee, and she has (as often seems to be the way in our group) been thrown in
the deep end. She will be taking part in the rally only a month or so after
joining the group! We are still looking for new members – anyone is welcome to
visit one of our Monday or Wednesday evening rehearsals in the vestry to see
what it is all about.
The hand bell ringers have had a
busy spring season, with three small concerts using the 2 octave set of bells.
As these events often take place during the working day we are very lucky to
find at least eight members able to give their time to perform.
Firstly, made a return visit to
Crossflatts Over 50’s Club at St Aiden’s Court at the beginning of March. It is
always nice to be asked back to a venue, and Crossflatts is a regular
engagement for us now.Then a visit to Aire Valley Court on St Patrick’s Day,
this was a new venue for us and we were very well received by a large group of
residents who were in good voice, and joined the sing along to some of our
tunes, appropriately including Oh Danny Boy…..! This was followed by
refreshments and a chance for the audience to have a go on the bells.
Finally, another new venue on 4th
April when we visited Riddlesden Rest Home and entertained the residents and
staff. This was the first performance for Hilary, our most recent recruit. No
doubt she was nervous, but it didn’t show and she rang very well after just a
handful of practice sessions with us.
Looking ahead we are now
preparing for two Handbell Ringers of Great Britain events, at Grassington in
May, and Headingley in June. HRGB is 50 years old in 2017 so some special
pieces of music have been written for the occasion, we will now concentrate on
these pieces at our practice sessions and hopefully perform them later in the
As always if anyone is interested
in joining the team please contact me for further information.
Yesterday we were given a copy of the book of this name
written by an American lady called Nancy Poore Tufts. I have only started
dipping into it but already have found a number of words of wisdom which I can
see myself quoting in a number of articles over the next few months.
Although the book was published in 1962 (before the birth of
our chairperson) many of the words still ring true.
In Chapter VI (Management and Policies of Handbell-Ringing Groups)
it suggests that the average handbell leader is a busy person. We are fortunate
to have found Clair who joined us only early last year and has taken on this
role under the new title of musical director.
The book suggests that she should be ably assisted and
relieved of the mechanics of operating the group by a dependable slate of officers.
These include a president or manager (in our case Jane, our
chair) who should check on the proper functioning of the other officers (I can
vouch for that!) and the care and maintenance of the bells.
There should also be a treasurer who collects our dues and makes collections
for special needs of the group. He should keep accounts of all the funds and
make regular reports to the membership. This is Roger who until 18 months ago
was the only gentlemen in our group. He is very efficient in carrying out all
Beyond this it is suggested we should have a publicity
manager to send notices to the press, broadcasters (are we getting ideas above
our station?), fans and sponsors and to maintain a scrap book. I suppose this
is much what I as secretary do.
The librarian should be responsible for having proper music
at rehearsals and readying it for concerts. This is a duty which has been
carried out by various members at different times by different members but now
is really the duty of Anne who also acts as our bookings secretary.
This all goes to prove however that even a small group such
as us does not run itself. However the final suggestion of a costume manager is
a step too far and we do appear to be capable of washing and ironing our own
Last year I organised a joint event for Hand and Tower Bell
ringers in the region. The event was a success and I was asked to arrange
another. I had thought it was going to be a one off!
This time we held the event in the hall adjacent Christ
Church,Ossett which although it does to have ringable bells is conveniently
situated close to a number of towers and the region's motorway network.
The advantage of doing an event for the second time is that
you can learn from your mistakes and successes. The morning gave people the
opportunity to learn new skills either tunes or changes (such as we normally
ring on tower bells) on handbells. In the afternoon the tower bell ringers
visted other towers and handbell ringers tried sight reading together under our
own musical director Clair. This was her first experience of conducting a wider
However the whole idea of the event was to give everyone to get together, swap
experiences and pick each others' brains for advice. It was pleasing to meet so
many tower bell ringers who are preparing to set up handbell gropus often with
The whole day was a great success and, although I did most of
the organisation, it would not have worked without the assistance of the
Biingley Hand and Tower Bell Ringers including those who helped with preparing
food, serving and clearing up, advertising, transporting the model bell and
generally setting up, particularly over the last couple of days. They will be
relieved to know however that it will be a few years before we organise such an