Towers, tours and tall tales : Bruce Butler

An interview with Bruce Butler

Quarter peal for 50th year of ringing

In this episode, host Cathy Booth catches up with Bruce Butler in the USA and teases out some top tips to arranging a successful ringing tour. Bruce has been organising ringing tours to the UK since the 1990s – the logistics of arranging transatlantic ringing tours in the days before the internet are mind-blowing.

Having rung in almost 4,000 towers you might imagine the Bruce has some great stories to tell, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Hear about inaccessible spaces, strange ringing attire and some rather unusual furniture in the ringing chamber. And just watch out for the flowers around the font!

Area meeting

Bruce gives a brilliant overview of the towers of North America, their various merits and the differences between ringing over there and in the UK. Loving the sound of a Cathedral with two elevators to take you up to the top.

As Bruce says, American ringers are a welcoming bunch and love to have visitors – so what’s stopping you from planning your tour across the pond …

About Bruce Butler

Bruce at ‘Philly’ tower

Bruce started to ring in November 1963. He has been a member of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths for 50 years. He is a member of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and was very involved with the Ringing Remembers initiative for Armistice, finding teachers for many new recruits. He is currently the President of the North American Guild of Change Ringers and has held most offices in the Guild over the last 30 years including Education Officer, Public Relations Officer and Book Service agent.

Bruce has been tower captain and ringing master in Philadelphia where they are fortunate enough to have 2 towers. He is one of 2 recognised ART tutors for North America. He has organised bell ringing tours since 1991 for North American ringers to visit the UK, and other parts of the ringing world. He has rung in almost 4000 towers.

February 2022 update: We were sorry to hear of the recent passing of Bruce. I really enjoyed interviewing him and hearing about his enthusiasm for ringing. He will be very much missed by the bell ringing community.

North American Guild of Change Ringers:

Top five takeaways

  • Ringing in lots of different towers will help improve your bell handling as you’ll experience bells with different weights and different draughts.
  • If you want to organise a tour a good tip is to start with the local association of the area you want to visit.
  • Plan your days in a circular route around the hotel that you’re staying in.
  • The website of the North American Guild of Change Ringers contains details of towers, tower contacts etc.
  • If you fancy a real adventure on an island paradise you can even go bell ringing in Hawaii!

Ask the expert

Pip Penney answered the following questions in this episode:

  • Stuart: “Is bell ringing dangerous”
  • John “What is the best way to learn to ring bells?

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