LESSON IN BELFRY
by E. O. England
Hundreds of church bells throughout England which have been silent since before the war are again sending out their melodious Toll of Witness.
Among the ringers are teen-aged, and in some cases school-aged, girls who, unlike their elders, are not dismayed at the scores of steps and narrow winding staircases which usually lead to belfries.
At St. John's, Ranmoor, Sheffield, two school girls are making it possible for the full peal of ten bells to again send out their message.
The girls, both pupils of Notre Dame School, Sheffield, heard of the shortage of male bellringers, and offered their services.
One of them, 16-year-old Sheila Maule, of 10, Woodvale Road, told me her interest in church bells was awakened two years ago when she read a novel about a murder in a church belfry.
She offered her services and, together with her schoolfriend, Gillian Bedingfield, aged 17, has qualified as a bellringer.
More pupils are wanted by Ranmoor Church to train to ring the bells.
In 1934 the peal was increased from eight to ten with the addition of two treble bells in memory of Mr. Sam Thomas, one of the founders of the Sheffield District Association of Change-Ringers.
The present Ranmoor team has decided, like many other similar teams, that they prefer women pupils, because they are "keen, adaptable, and don't have to serve in the Forces."
The idea that bell-ringing requires great strength is scoffed at by Mr. M. Ditcher, of High Storrs Drive, Sheffield, captain of the Ranmoor team.
"A reasonably healthy boy or girl of 12 could ring a church bell." he told me.
"In fact, my son Michael, now aged 17, started when he was only 13," he added.
Bell-ringing, however, is in the Ditcher family. Michael's great-grandfather was a well known bell-ringer.
Mr. Ditcher, who has been ringing bells for 37 years, has not yet met a girl to equal his own record. That was some years ago in Sheffield Cathedral when he helped toll the bells non-stop for 3 hours 48 minutes.
The great interest which girls are taking in campanology was revealed at an 'at home in the belfry' held at Ranmoor Church.
End of article