Stories from ‘A History of Change Ringing in Scotland’

An interview with Simon Aves

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 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 pint, this podcast has it all.

A black and white photograph of the inside of a church bell tower. 10 men dressed in suits stand with their arms raised holding a bell rope. They are all stood in a circle. Framed pictures line the edge of the room.
St Mary’s Edinburgh ’The Ringing Palace’ c 1895
A black and white photograph. A large group of people stand facing the camera in front of a grand church entrance.
Inaugural meeting SACR 1932 outside St Mary’s Cathedral Edinburgh April 23 1932
A digital image of a book cover. A colourful drawing of a church surrounded by trees and grass. In white text central to the image it reads: A history of change ringing in scotland. Simon Aves.
The cover of Simon’s book
A black and white photograph. A large group of people stand facing the camera in front of a grand church entrance in the sun.
SACR Golden Jubilee in 1982
A photograph of 8 large church bells resting on lengths of wood on the floor outside.
Oldest change-ringing bells in Scotland waiting to be re-installed at St Andrew & St George, Edinburgh
Simon, a tall white man stands in a church ringing room holding the end of a long bell rope. The fluffy saly part of the rope is blurred in motion in front of him. There are many frames and bells surrounding Simon in the space.
Simon ringing a bell down at St Mary’s

About Simon Aves

A portrait image of Simon Aves. A white man with short brown and aubun-y hair looks directly at the camera. His shoulders slightly offset, wearing a white shirt. He stands in front of a black backdrop.

Simon Aves was taught to ring by Stanley Jenner in the mid 1970s at Tonbridge in Kent. He moved to Aberdeen for University, at a time when that city had no change-ringing bells, and as a consequence stopped ringing almost entirely for over a quarter of a century. He noticed a newspaper report in 2006 about the restoration of the bells of St Andrew & St George, Edinburgh and joined the new band there. He rang his first peal since in 1979 the following summer, and has now rung over 200 peals in Scotland.

Simon was Tower Captain at St Andrew & St George for three years, and Treasurer of the Scottish Association for ten. With the Central Council visiting Scotland for the first time in 2017, it was suggested that someone could update a 1982 work by Magnus Peterson on the history of ringing in Scotland. The result was Simon’s book A History of Change Ringing in Scotland.

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
  • Discover more about bell ringing in Scotland
  • 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!


Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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