A campanologist’s finest hour: farewell to our Queen

Bellringers – campanologists – up and down the country have been called to special duties in the last few weeks. Their job to ring muffled bells to mark the Queen’s passing.

When the Queen’s death was announced, the flag at the tower of the church in the village was raised to half mast within an hour by a bell ringer and steeple keeper. Across the country church towers have provided the first visible signs of a nation in mourning.

Today, on the day of the Queen’s funeral, a single bell at the church in the village is rung between 10 and 11am. The bell chosen for this job is the largest bell in the tower. It weighs over a ton (or 21 cwts). Its tone is E flat.

The job of ringing this enormous muffled bell fell to Nigel and Bob who take it in turns, in 10 minute shifts, to ring the bell. The hand over is smooth and seamless. Nobody listening would know the bell has changed hands.

The sound of this large bell is sombre. The church tower sways gently while it tolls. A strange sensation.

To take their minds off the hard physical work of ringing the bell, they chat about this and that. Bob and Nigel remember friends who they have in common (they used to play at the same rugby club when they were younger). There has been a strong smoky smell over the village in the last few days … a compost heap somewhere has ignited apparently. Bob collects the orders of service for all the funerals he attends … he likes to look through them so he can plan his own.

Phew! Its hard work ringing this bell! Not as bad as the Cathedral in London – they have to ring for 1 hour and 36 minutes – a minute for each year of the Queen’s life.

Unseen unsung heroes, we hear their efforts from far and wide

The most amazing thing about all of this is that there are bells being rung up and down the country. Similar levels of physical effort going into a bell tolling solidly for an hour. Some towers may only have a single volunteer to do the job as bell ringers are in short supply these days. New recruits are few and far between.

The bells in the village rarely all get rung together now as there are not enough people to ring them. Strange really as bell ringers really get the best of all worlds in my opinion – they claim the church tower and the bells as their own. They make the bells ring to celebrate or remember, or to call to action. They can be a whimsical bunch – often just enjoying the ringing of bells. Happy in the knowledge that they have done their duty by calling others to deal with matters of religion downstairs.

As I was at the tower I went to have a look at the large bell ringing.

I went up further to the very top of the tower. What a day! What a view! The new lead on the spire looks spectacular too!

Fit for a Queen’s funeral. May she rest in peace.

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