In this month’s fascinating episode, Simon Aves takes host Cathy Booth on an entertaining romp through Scotland’s bell ringing history. You may be surprised to learn it is very different to England’s.
Who knew the Scots were so fond of peace and quiet? Cathy learns that in the past the best way to annoy people in Dundee was to travel up there and ring all their bells. And beware of the constable waiting at the bottom of the tower to arrest you for that very noisy peal you just rang. Or worse still, the constable might well follow you to the pub and then ban you from ringing, perish the thought!
Of course, all of this is history - very colourful history and brilliantly told at that. First bells, first peals, first women ringers, colourful characters, court cases and ringers being sick after their eight pints, this podcast has it all.
|St Mary’s Edinburgh ’The Ringing Palace’ c 1895
|SACR Golden Jubilee in 1982
Inaugural meeting SACR 1932 outside St Mary’s
Cathedral Edinburgh April 23 1932
Oldest change-ringing bells in Scotland waiting to be
re-installed at St Andrew & St George, Edinburgh
|The cover of Simon’s book
|Simon ringing a bell down at St Mary’s
Top 5 Takeaways
- Read Simon’s book ‘A History of Change Ringing in Scotland’ on Amazon Kindle
- Are you up for the Inveraray challenge? Find out more about the bell tower and its fascinating history http://inveraraybelltower.co.uk/index.shtml
- Discover more about bell ringing in Scotland https://www.sacr.org
- Why not research and write the history of your tower or association
- For something completely different, why not plan a tower outing to a Worbey and Farrell performance! http://www.worbeyandfarrell.com
Sponsor: This podcast is sponsored by the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART). To find out more about learning to ring, learning to teach or other resources to support your ringing go to bellringing.org.
SIMON: And the two men fell out fairly quickly. The Earl of Mar accused Arthur Hallen of being drunk, conducting services. Arthur Hallen had no option but to sue the Earl of Mar. And so this went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The first hearing came about and a number of the ringers were called to give evidence.
[Bells ringing rounds]
CATHY: Hello, I'm Cathy Booth, and this is the Fun with Bells podcast. This episode is to mark the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Scottish Association of Change Ringers. And I'm talking to Simon Aves about stories from his book, A History of Change Ringing in Scotland.
SIMON: I'm Simon Aves. I learnt to ring when I was about 16, which was in the mid to early seventies. I was taught to ring by a chap called Stanley Jenner, who went on to be master of the Cumberland Youths and is still active in ringing, into his 80s, at Tunbridge in Kent.
CATHY: How long have you been in Scotland?
SIMON: Well, I've been in Scotland since 1976. I came to university in Aberdeen and in fact, I stopped ringing almost completely straight away when I came to Scotland. In fact, I didn't ring from 1980 until 2007, so I had a very long gap. I've been up here virtually all of my adult life now.
CATHY: The main reason why I wanted to interview you is because you've written a book called "The History of Change Ringing in Scotland", which I've now read from cover to cover. And I was fascinated, lots of interesting facts and entertaining stories, and I think we can only scratch on the surface of those today. Your book starts by explaining what change ringing is. I think a lot of my listeners will be familiar with it, but just in case we've got some that aren't. Could you briefly explain what change ringing is?
[00:01:49] Definition of change ringing
SIMON: Change ringing is the English style of ringing, whereby the bell is attached to a wheel which rotates through a full 360 degrees. That enables the ringer to be able to pause and ring the bell at the point when they want to ring it. And that facilitates the ringing of different changes, changing the sequence every time.
[00:02:10] Towers in Scotland and the history of why so few compared to England
CATHY: And how many towers currently are there where you can do this in Scotland?
SIMON: I think we currently have twenty-one, maybe twenty-two. Very few compared to England. England has six and a half thousand or so. Scotland has virtually none.
CATHY: And then it's very interesting to know the history of why there is that difference.
SIMON: Well, the difference, I think is predominantly religious. Back in the middle of the 17th century when England was restoring its bells after the period of Oliver Cromwell, Scotland had a very different attitude to religion, and bells were seen as a remnant of popery, as they described it at the time. There was a great resistance to anything that was in any way seen as being of a Catholic church, and it was never really adopted at all in Scotland. And in fact that sort of attitude still persists to this day in some places. Recently we were trying to rehouse a set of bells from Paisley. The church had become redundant and we took possession of them. I and Mike Clay, a fellow ringer were touring around Scotland trying to find somewhere to put them. And there were a number of churches we approached that looked suitable in terms of size of tower, where the Vestry, the committee that runs the church, actually said to us, "Why would you even think that we would want bells?" because bells are not something that we would countenance at all in Scotland. Well that attitude is particularly in the Church of Scotland as opposed to the Episcopalian, which is more an Anglican tradition. But there are still places which will completely reject the idea of bells or the sound of bells and incense and things like that purely on religious grounds. So it never came into Scotland at the same time as it was coming in to England.
[00:03:48] First change ringing bells in Scotland
CATHY: Can you tell me about the first change ringing bells to be installed in Scotland? How that came about?
SIMON: You may think it's quite surprising that the first bells were installed in a pure Church of Scotland building. But the reason for that was because at that time, some church buildings were not controlled by the church who met there. They were controlled by the council. And the decision to put them into St Andrews, as it then was, on George Street in Edinburgh was a purely, in my view political decision as a part of the building of the new town in Edinburgh. So the new town was set up if people are familiar with it as a grid of streets named George Street, Queen Street and Princess Street is now the main thoroughfare and the streets in between those were named Rose Street and Thistle Street, and the Edinburgh Council were very much trying to amplify the Union of the Crowns. And the context of that I think was that, this is only about 30 years after the Battle of Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising which got as far as Derby on the way down to London. And Bonnie Prince Charlie had actually died only about a year before the bells were put into St Andrews, and his brother Henry, was starting to call himself Henry the Ninth. So I think there was quite a political element to the decision, and it was a definite decision to put English style bells into the first church in the new town in Edinburgh.
CATHY: And what ringing took place on those, in those early days?
SIMON: They bought them specifically so that they could celebrate national holidays. And the early records we have of ringing at the church building were to celebrate the birthdays of George the Third, celebrate government successes. And they were very much at the whim of the local dignitaries to ring when the council wanted them to be rung. And that didn't really change until the 1860s when there was quite a schism in the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland was set up as actually a result of a meeting held at St Andrew's Church in the late 1840s. And it wasn't 1861 when the church building was taken over by the church as a religious body and taken away from the Edinburgh council. And there are all sorts of disputes, you can find in the council records about who is going to be responsible for the bells. Who is going to be responsible for the clock and the running of it. Those sorts of things. But the actual ringing after that was dedicated to church services, which it had never been before.
[00:06:09] English born people ringing the bells in Scotland
CATHY: Historically, who's rung the bells in Scotland?
SIMON: Who has rung them?
CATHY: Yes, in general, a big picture. I'm thinking it's English born people.
SIMON: Yes, predominantly it has been English born people. As each tower came into use in Scotland there was an attempt to establish a local band and that continues to this day actually. We attempt to establish local bands, but mostly it is English people who have relocated to Scotland who are ringing them. We do have a few native born ringers, not that many. But traditionally over the years, what would happen would be the church would engage someone from England to come up and teach people to ring, and they would stay there for about two or three years, teach a band of ringers and go away. And over a gradual period of time, the ringing would stop and they would get somebody else back up to to try and teach people to ring.
[00:07:00] Who paid for the bells, historically and why
CATHY: So typically, who paid for the bells?
SIMON: Well, in the first instance it was the Edinburgh Council that was the first tower. After that, it was very often local dignitaries like the Earl of Mar at Alloa. They would pay for a set of bells to be installed in the local church. They could hear them, and very often they could determine when they were going to be rung and for what purpose. And again, certainly in the case of the Duke of Atholl, that it was very much he was wanting to celebrate his own birthdays and people coming to visit him in Dunkeld.
[00:07:32] St Nicholas Church, Aberdeen
CATHY: Now, Aberdeen was interesting how the money was raised there and what the people thought it was being raised for.
SIMON: Aberdeen, this is St Nicholas Church, not the two towers that are now in Aberdeen, was again a decision of the local council. They had five bells already in the tower, which went back to medieval times, and the local council decided that they would quite like to have a set of bells fairly similar to the ones that had been installed 70 odd years before in Edinburgh. And so they raised a subscription and there was quite a wealthy banker who was actually resident in Leeds but had come from Aberdeen, and he supplied a lot of the money. But they didn't know that they were getting change ringing bells. They ordered a set of bells and there was quite a dispute amongst the people about whether they were getting enough bells because they had ordered eight and there was a council meeting in Aberdeen where there's somebody pointed out that you couldn't actually ring the national anthem on eight bells, so you'd have to have a ninth bell. So they ordered a ninth bell and that was put up in the tower as well. And when the bells arrived, of course, they were change ringing bells because no one had actually mentioned to the founder that they didn't want change ringing bells. They would just assume that's what everybody wanted when they ordered bells. And so Aberdeen had the set of eight with a ninth, which they didn't really know what to do with, which couldn't be played on a keyboard, which is what everybody thought they were going to be. And they had to arrange for a conductor to come up from England.
And then a second conductor came up from England about two years later, and they became incredibly successful as a local band. Joseph Healey was the chap who came up from the Leeds area. The second of the conductors came up and he managed to train some local Aberdonians to ring very well. To the extent that there was a peal within about 15 months of them learning to ring, which was an achievement, quite an achievement. I'm pretty sure that was the first peal in Scotland. I say with some doubt because these Leeds ringers stopped at Edinburgh on the way up and there is a record of them ringing for two and a half to three hours. But we don't know what they rang and it was never recorded that it was a peal but certainly that was the first recorded peal in Scotland, was at Aberdeen in 1859. But after a period of time, Joseph Healey went back down to England. The ringing dwindled away again. And there was a terrible fire in the 1870s and the tower burnt down and the bells actually dropped out. And the only metal that's left from them is a lectern in St Nicholas and having been such a disappointment that they got change ringing bells, they decided that this time they would have a carillon that they could play on a keyboard and they had that installed. That wasn't as good as they wanted and eventually, this is down to the nineteen fifties now, they installed what is I think, the biggest Carillon in the United Kingdom at St Nicholas in Aberdeen.
CATHY: Gillette and Johnston, from your book I remember.
SIMON: Gillette and Johnston. Very nice bells they sound as well. When I was a student in Aberdeen, I would hear them playing mournful tunes on on a Sunday morning and rather wishing that they had change ringing bells in Aberdeen, which at the time they didn't.
[00:10:31] Historical reputation of bell ringers in Scotland
CATHY: So despite Aberdeen losing its bells in the fire, the number of bells in Scotland increased from three in 1860 to nine in 1882. What sort of reputation did ringers have in Scotland during that period?
SIMON: I think they were tolerated, but really there wasn't a great deal of enthusiasm for ringing, and that was probably based on the religious expectations that there wouldn't be any change ringing bells. When Dundee had their bells installed in what is called the Old Steeple. The Old Steeple is actually still a council building, and up to five churches have been meeting in there at any one time. That was another public subscription started up by the editor of the local newspaper Dundee Courier, and at the same time St Paul's in Dundee, St Paul's Cathedral just along the road, which is only about a quarter of a mile away arranged to have a rival set of bells put in. And again, it was done by subscription. They bought them by piecemeal, buy one at a time and install them, and then increased gradually to eight. But the two towers were very close together. So when we had visiting ringers coming up from England, wanting to ring the bells and they would very often want to ring the two towers and the one day because they'd come so far and there was a great deal of objection to it and lots of letters written to the papers saying that it's disgraceful that these people are coming here and making such a noise. So generally I think and this has persisted until at least the 1980s, there has been resistance to the bells being rung in Scotland and visiting ringers from England have not really understood that. And you can find it in the annals of the Ringing World that there in quite a lot of occasions when people from Scotland have been writing saying "English people just don't understand what they're doing when they come,"They're setting ringing back by making so much noise".
CATHY: And I saw one quote that likened them to football hooligans.
SIMON: That's right. Yes, very much.
CATHY: Leaving it very difficult for the local ringers afterwards.
SIMON: Yes indeed, yep.
CATHY: What changed that? Or has it changed?
SIMON: Yes, it has changed I think. What changed it? I don't really know what changed it. I think there's just a general change in society that religion has become less important to people than it was even 40, 50 years ago and doing something in a church building that people who were worshipping there disapproved of has become less and less important.
[00:12:48] The bells of Alloa and Arthur Hallen
CATHY: Now, I was particularly interested in the story of the bells of Alloa and Arthur Hallen, his rules and his appearance in court. Quite a long story, but it's quite a good one.I think.
SIMON: It's quite a long story yes. It was quite fascinating to try and get some background to the people who were involved in these things when I started this, and I regret the fact that in writing the book, I only had about six months to do it and I didn't have a lot of time to go back. But this was quite a good story. Arthur Hallen, who had been curate at St James, Leith. I think that's where his connection to ringing came from. He was then installed as the minister at Alloa and very quickly decided he would like to have his own set of bells and arranged for six bells to be put in. And he, I think had learnt to ring himself in Leith and wanted to ring bells himself. The bells were installed at considerable cost to the Earl of Mar, who owned all the land around there and very much controlled what went on in the church, and the two men fell out fairly quickly. The Earl of Mar accused Arthur Hallen of being drunk, conducting services. Arthur Hallen had no option but to sue the Earl of Mar. And so this went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The first hearing came about and a number of the ringers were called to give evidence. Anyone who's been to Alloa, which is not very many people, probably that it is a very small ringing chamber. It's probably only about eight feet across. So six ringers in there would have known if one of them was drunk. And so he called as his witnesses the ringers, and they all stood up and said that they had never known him to be drunk. And he controlled his bell very well, always rang the tenor and was a man of sobriety. And after that, the Earl of Mar settled out of court. So I don't know how much Arthur Hallen got, but he did stay as Minister of Alloa for another 20 years and always held a Christmas dinner celebration with the ringers, possibly in gratitude for what they had done for him.
CATHY: And he also put some rules in didn't he before this, based on Belfry reform?
SIMON: Yes. So that may seem like a contradiction of what was being said, but the Belfry reform of the time was suggesting sobriety was required of ringers. And I think that was a reaction in what went on in a lot of English towns where the ringers would not go to the service, they were going to the pub instead. So the typical English village, you'll find a small village green next door on, which is the church, and next door to that will be a pub called something like Five Bells or the Six Bells or the Eight Bells. And indeed, there's the Edinburgh papers of the ringers of St Andrew's being followed by a police constable to a place of spirits where they were caught drinking and were banned from ringing for a period of time. So yes, that sort of reform was going on, and Arthur Hallen was wanting to install that in the Alloa church. So it's quite ironic that he was the one who was hauled up by his dignitary and accused of being drunk.
[00:15:42] Ringing by women in Scotland
CATHY: Can you tell me a bit about the early days of ringing by women in Scotland?
SIMON: Women ringers generally were not approved of until probably the first or second decade of the 20th century. The first female ringer in Scotland that we know of was a lady called Marjorie Samson, who was the daughter of the chap who eventually went on to be the first president of the Scottish Association, William Samson. He'd learnt to ring in Leith, but then moved to Edinburgh Cathedral and was the ringing master there. And Marjorie was his second of four daughters and she was walking with him every day to services from their house in Morningside, a distance of about two miles. So they talked about ringing a lot and she became very interested. And when she was 16, she learnt to ring and she very quickly became, I think, the best ringer in Scotland and was the first woman to ring a peal in Scotland in 1909. She was studying at Edinburgh Catering College and then when she was about 19, 20, she got a job in Tamworth and went down there and was taken up by the local ringers and rang several peals in a very, very short period of time, including two in successive days, one of which was Stedman Cinques. So she was certainly the first person in Scotland ever to ring on 12 bells. It's a sad story though because I suspect she had some sort of nervous complaint, possibly anorexia, she is described as wasting away and by the age of 24 she died. She was commemorated in the first peal by the Ladies Guild, which was rung half muffled in her honour as she had been at the inaugural meeting. I think there were only 15 ladies there, but after that women ringing became a necessity during the First World War, when so many male ringers went away, particularly at St Cuthbert's in Edinburgh where the local conductor William Heathcote decided to, possibly because he had rung with Marjorie Sampson, knew that there was no problem with lady ringers, and he introduced half a dozen lady ringers in 1915, 1916 to supplement the ringers of his tower.
[00:17:48] St Mary's Edinburgh
CATHY: Ringing at St. Mary's, Edinburgh, there was quite a lot about St. Mary's, Edinburgh, which I found really interesting. The ringing room, the Seage apparatus, the difficulty of being able to ring because of the neighbours and who was controlling it and the silver badges. Tell me a little bit about St Mary's, Edinburgh.
SIMON: St Mary's, Edinburgh. It's an enormous church. It's an enormous ringing chamber. The bells were installed by the provost of the cathedral, the first provost who actually himself was a very interesting man, and I didn't know anything about this until until I started researching him. Dean Montgomery was a very early pioneer of photography and was exhibiting his photographs in the early 1850s. And it was him that provided the money for the bells, and the ringing chamber was decked out in crimson cloth to the height of about seven or eight feet, and the rope guide above the ringing circle was also covered in this cloth, which must have dampened the sound tremendously. But it looked like you were ringing inside a big, bright red drum. He also arranged to have lots of plaster casts of local bells made, and these somehow found their way into the ringing chamber. I have absolutely no idea how they got them up there because some of them are absolutely enormous and they're still there and they stand around the ringing chamber. So, it was a place that people love to visit. But like with all the other towers in Scotland, it was a place where the ringing noise was not considered something that the local population wanted. And indeed when the first peel was rung, the ringers were met by the local constabulary, who wanted to arrest them for making too much noise. Fortunately, they had arranged in advance with the Chief Constable that they could do this, and so the charges were never taken up or were perhaps dropped. But yes that continued, but they collected a large number of ringers from the congregation together, and it was probably the first place that was successful in promoting ringing in Scotland. And they were very proud of themselves. They applied to join the college youths fairly early on. I think there was sixteen of them joined all at once, and they designed little badges for themselves to wear, which had C.Y. attachable on the bottom to say that they had actually joined the College Youths. As far as I know, none of them ever rang with the College Youths anywhere else other than Edinburgh.
[00:20:10] The Scottish Association
CATHY: Now, I'd like to ask you about the Scottish Association.
SIMON: The first idea for a Scottish association came up in about 1902, I think when there was a proposal that the ringers of Edinburgh Cathedral and the ringers of Leith combine themselves together to become one association. And I think the idea was the ringers at Leith were a bit short on numbers and they could actually poach some people. But there was a man whose name was Charles, but he was always known as Cleveland Ellis, who had come from Malvern as an 18 year old civil servant but gradually worked his way up to the top of the civil service to the point where he was in charge of health care in Scotland by 1930 and appointed MBE. He decided that it would be better if we had a complete Scottish Association. And this time there were very few towers and in fact, his idea didn't come to anything at all. And sadly he died just before a Scottish Association was formed, but it was formed at the instigation of a man called Steven Wood, who came up from London. I think he was a Cambridge University ringer and he came up and met Edwin Lewis who at the time, although he had been living in Wishaw in Scotland, was not ringing at all, although he was on the Central Council of Change Ringers. And was quite a prominent member and during the war and up until about 1950s, he was the president of the Central Council. So Stephen Wood and Edwin Lewis decided it would be a good idea to have a Scottish Association, and they formed it in April 1932. Stephen Wood was made the first master and then immediately announced that he was moving and went off down to Bristol. And so William Sampson was appointed as the first president and William Heathcote, who was in charge of St Cuthbert's but was made the first official ringmaster at the time.
CATHY: In the 1950s, who rang peals in the name of SACR? Do you say SACeR or SACR? How do you say it?
SIMON: Well, I always say SACR but some people do say SACeR. So peals were wrong in the 1950s and partway through the 1960s in the name of the Scottish Association. But there were virtually no Scottish ringers involved in that. All of these peals were rung by people coming up from England, quite often on tours, going around as many times as they could. And they claimed them for the Scottish Association. I don't know whether they thought they were honouring the Scottish Association at the time, but there was no resentment about that. As far as I know, there was only one Scottish ringer who rang a peal in the 1950s, and he only rang the treble to something. And after that, I think it was not until the mid 1970s when the Scottish Association decided that you really had to be resident in Scotland to ring a peal for our association.
CATHY: Skipping forward to the Golden Jubilee of the SACeR. It seems to have marked a turning point for Scottish ringing in 1982. Can you tell me a bit about that? Do you agree with that? In the book it seemed to come across to me like that.
SIMON: I think that's probably coincidental with who was running ringing at the time. Yes, they took the opportunity to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1982, but I think the catalyst for ringing had probably come about when Tony Lewis came up, and this is probably a repeating theme over the years in Scottish Ringing. There has always been someone who arrives and makes makes a big difference for a period of time and then disappears. We see this in the early 20th century when William Barber came to Edinburgh and in the period of time where nobody had rung a peal. In fact, Scottish ringers hadn't rung a quarter peal on their own until 1900 and from then till 1908 I think, 17 people rang a peal within about 18 months of learning to ring. So there was a catalyst then and then there was another catalyst later. And a third one was probably when Tony Lewis arrived in Scotland and made a big difference. But around that time there were other people who were enthusiastic about it and actually arranged the Scottish Association so that it was a proper association that recorded its events. The first annual report wasn't until the early 1980s, and they started writing newsletters and letting people know what was going on. And so from an association that had perhaps one or two meetings where people got together a year, they became an association that regularly rang peals. And it was also a time when the Edinburgh University Guild started up. There were a lot of student ringers arrived in Edinburgh at the same time who were very good ringers and probably all of those things coincidental around the early 1980s.
CATHY: And there was a constitution formed.
SIMON: That was all part of it, it was saying, "if we're going to be a proper association, we need to have a constitution to decide who we are and what we do." And as we were saying before, a part of that was designed in that who could ring peals and who could not ring peals for the Scottish Association, so residence was required.
CATHY: And in 1979 there was the Bell Restoration Fund set up.
SIMON: A lot of associations and guilds across the country and across the world probably, at that time were setting up bell restoration funds, and it seemed like a good idea to do that at that time. And it has been instrumental in enabling some new rings to come about and also some improvements to take place in existing towers.
CATHY: And your book has a lot of really interesting information about all that, but we've not got time to go through all that unfortunately.
[00:25:30] 1998 - a new tradition
CATHY: So in 1998 there was a new tradition formed, I understand.
SIMON: We haven't mentioned Inveraray at all yet, and we probably should do. Inveraray came about as a war memorial in the 1920s. The bells were bought well before there was a tower to put them in. But like other places in Scotland, the tower fell into wreck and ruin, and there was a tremendous work done in the 1970s to restore it, which I'm sure we could spend a long time talking about, but probably not for this occasion. But there became a tradition started up where if you went to ring a peal at Inveraray because it was so far from anywhere else, you wanted to do other things and they've established what they called the triathlon where you rang a peal at Inverarary, you climbed a Munro, which was fairly close by, which is a hill over 3000 feet. You probably did that before the peal but certainly the third thing was done last, which was to drink a gallon of beer in the George Hotel in Inverarary high street.
CATHY: And have people manage to do those?
SIMON: Yes, several people have done this successfully. I've never attempted it and would not do. I would never get as far as eight pints. There has been at least one occasion where someone threw up the last pint, but counted it.
CATHY: Now we've covered quite a lot, I think. But is there anything else that you think we should mention?
SIMON: I think I would say about writing the book if that's OK.
[00:26:48] About the book 'A history of change ringing in Scotland'
SIMON: The book came about because in 2017, the Central Council decided to have its last meeting in its current form in Scotland, the very first time it had come to Scotland, and we were looking to do something to celebrate that occasion. Magnus Peterson had written 90 pages worth of material as part of the Golden Jubilee celebration in 1982. And there was a thought that perhaps we should update that bringing forward from 1982 to 2017 to record all the things that happened since. Quite a lot of which being new rings of bells come into existence. And I was retired and so I agreed to undertake this task. But I had lots more material available to me than Magnus had because I was able to get online old newspaper reports and some research into family history and that sort of thing. So I found that although I started with Magnus' text, very quickly I was embellishing that and it was probably only about two months to go before publication date, where I actually reached 1982 and and embarked upon the new bit. So where there are mistakes in the book and there are about two or three, I think they are all in the latter period where I just completely ran out of time to research things properly. There was some indignance about members of the Edinburgh University Guild, who I claim gone up to Edinburgh earlier than they had actually done, which made them older than they actually are. So, I apologise for that and there are a couple of other mistakes, but that's how the book came about. It was to celebrate the coming to Scotland of the Central Council in 2017.
CATHY: The book is absolutely filled with facts. I would be amazed if you had got them all completely right!
SIMON: Well subsequently I found some quite interesting things about people that I didn't know, for instance, the treble ringer on the first peal for the Scottish Association was a lady called Mabel Holland, and she was actually born in Canada. Her parents had emigrated as a lot of people did emigrate from Scotland, her parents had emigrated in the early 1900s. She had been born in Canada. Her mother died in childbirth, so her father brought her back. I suspect she might be the first Canadian peal ringer but I don't know that and I would like to research that sort of thing, but these are things that I could have found out if I'd had more time to write the book.
[00:29:08] Simon's favourite ring of bells apart from his regular tower
CATHY: So apart from the tower that you regularly ring at, what's your favourite ring of bells and why?
SIMON: I think my favourite ring of bells would have to be where I learnt to ring. One of the great things I like about ringing is the social aspect of it, and it's wonderful that nearly 50 years later, I can still go back to the same ring of bells when I'm visiting my family in Kent and find that there are people there who I have known all that time. So if it's not Tunbridge in Kent, then it's probably some of the other West Kent rings of bells. There was a particularly good practice I used to go to when I was down in Kent at Chiddingstone, which has associations with my family because my brother in law grew up opposite the church and it was here where my sister was married and where my nephew and niece were married. And there's a very good practise that they used to run on Monday night there, which I don't know whether it's still happening because I've not been down for two years, but I would recommend that to anybody if they wanted to go there. They're not particularly good rings of bells, but they're sociable rings of bells and I like them.
[00:30:10] Simon's experiences as a writer
CATHY: Has anything remarkable happened to you that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't taken up bell ringing?
SIMON: I think become a writer, which I didn't really expect to do ever. My professional career was in taxation and I wasn't a writer until I took up this book, and now I have just almost finished another book, which I wouldn't have done because it's about another ringer who happens to be a concert pianist and his partner is a concert pianist, and I'm ghostwriting their autobiography, which is tremendous fun. But I certainly wouldn't have done that if I hadn't known him through ringing.
CATHY: Who's autobiography are you writing and when is that likely to be published?
SIMON: Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell. Kevin Farrell is not a ringer. Steven is. When is it likely to be published? Hopefully in the next month or two. We're at the probably the last draft now, just running through the wrinkles and crinkles of editing. And we hope to get it out in the next couple of months. They entertain on cruise ships and have known lots of famous people. They are interesting people themselves. They're concert pianists which you think might sound rather dry, but they say that they are very much in the business of not coming onto the stage and looking mournful, they come onto the stage and tell lots of jokes. If anybody wants to go and see them. I would recommend it. They did a show Cadogan Hall just recently, which an awful lot of ringers went to and another one at the start of the pandemic in Brighton at the Brighton Dome, which again was populated by members of the College Youths.
CATHY: Thanks to my guest, Simon Aves for his amazing recall of the fascinating facts of a book he wrote five years ago called 'A history of Change Ringing in Scotland'. I found it to be a very interesting read and it's available as a Kindle book on Amazon.
If you've enjoyed this episode then please share it. This podcast was put together by a team. Special thanks go to Anne Tansley Thomas and John Gwynne, Lesley Belcher and the Society of the Cambridge Youths for the recording of their ringing.
[Bells ringing rounds]