From the Ringing Chamber


Robin Story

Picture: Robin Having been spared to January 2019 I have been ringing for 70 years.

In January 1949 Jack Weaver, the Tower Captain of St Michael’s, Basingstoke, came across to a session of the St Michael’s Youth Club and appealed to us to come and see how bells are rung with a view to learn to ring. Five of us took up the offer and learned to ring.
In St Michael’s ringing room there is a peal board on the wall. It records the peal in which the very first woman to ring a peal in the world was rung at St Michael’s on Wednesday, 12 February 1896. The woman was Alice White aged 15, daughter of Henry White, the Tower Captain of St Michael’s at the time. The peal was Grandsire Triples and Henry conducted the peal using the challenging 1-part composition, Holt’s Original. Alice later represented the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild on the Central Council and was the first President of the Ladies’ Guild.

But what fascinated me was that the ringer on the 2nd bell in the peal was John (Jack) Ballard because here he was ringing with me some 53 years later. From published records Jack must have been about 20 years old at the time of the 1896 peal as he rang his first peal in 1890. I reckoned therefore that he must have been about 73.

Practice nights alternated with the famous 9 bells at All Saints where we rang Double Norwich with a cover and Grandsire Caters without.

I rang at most towers in the Basingstoke District and on Whit Monday each year we ran an grand outing of ringers and families often needing two 48-seater coaches. I remember going to Buckinghamshire, Sussex and Oxfordshire.

On 4 July 1953 I conducted a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples at St Michael’s in memory of Jack Ballard.

During my three undergraduate years at King’s College, London, I joined the University of London Society of Change Ringers. At St Olive’s, Hart Street in the City of London next to the Guildhall, I learned to ring Surprise methods and improved my ringing skills. At my local towers in Streatham, Emmanuel and St Leonard’s, I met a well -known ringer, Jack Euston. He took me to many London towers including St Margaret’s, Westminster, where I rang my first quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters; St Martin’s-in-the-Fields, where they set the bells at backstroke (a new experience!); St Giles’-in-the-Fields and Southward Cathedral, where I rang the 48 cwt tenor (the heaviest bell I’ve ever rung).

My National Service posted me to Nigeria so I had no ringing for two whole years. With a job in Nigeria to return to my ringing was confined to home leave.

In 1971 we returned to the UK with a job for me at the University of Sheffield. One Sunday evening I arrived at St John’s, Ranmoor, and waited in the porch to see who would turn up. Ron Harrison came bounding up the steps. “Are you a ringer?” was all he said and the rest is history.

Picture: Robin
On 26 June 1979 I attended the Centenary meeting of the founding of the Winchester Diocesan Guild in Basingstoke. The Guild was founded on 26 June 1879 also in Basingstoke. Among the congratulatory messages was one from 98-year-old Alice White, now Alice Salvaneschi, from her home in Canada. Sadly she died later the same year.

Somehow the wheel had turned full circle.

Robin Story
Tuesday, 15 January 2019

To celebrate two former Ranmoor Tower Captains,
a quarter peal was rung before evensong on Sunday 13 January:

"Congratulations to Robin L Story,
a former Tower Captain at St John's
on achievement of 70 years as a bellringer,

and remembering F. Bernard Ditcher,
former Tower Captain at St. John's for over 20 years,
who died on 17th January 1969."

(The article above appeared in the Feb/2019 issue of Inspire)  

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