Ringing World Vol 18, Iss 636, p326,

Saturday  5th May  1923  Full

  The annual meeting of the Sheffield District and Old East Derbyshire Amalgamated Society was held at the Church of St. John-the-Evangelist, Ranmoor, on Saturday, May 5th, and in spite of a disappointingly wet afternoon, proved very successful. About 80 ringers and friends (including quite a number of ladies) were present from Sheffield (All Saints’, Pitsmoor; the Cathedral, St. Mary's, Handsworth St. Marie’s R.C., and St. John’s, Ranmoor), Barnsley, Bolsovor Bolsterstone, Chesterfield, Doncaster, Dore, Eckington, Ecclesfield, North Wingfield, Norton, Rawmarsh, Rotherham (Parish Church and St. Stephens), Whiston, Wortley, etc.

  The peal of eight bells (tenor 15 cwt.) was kept going at intervals from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., some very good striking being accomplished in all the standard and  several Surprise methods. It not being possible for all the members to be in the tower at once, many look the opportunity of making a closer acquaintance of this exceedingly beautiful church, one of the finest examples of modern architecture in the country, and of admiring its noble proportions and decorations. The church, though modem, already has something of a history, and its fine environment, situated in one of the most delightful of the many beautiful suburbs of Sheffield, overlooking the beauties of Endcliffe Vale and the hills beyond, coupled with the almost unlimited facilities for change ringing and the warm welcome always extended to visiting ringers, make it an ideal headquarters for the society.

  The first church built, from designs by Mr. E. M. Gibbs, and consecrated by Archbishop Thomson in 1879, was, with the exception of the tower and spire, totally destroyed by fire on the first Sunday morning of 1887. The fine organ and many beautiful memorials all perished in the flames. Rebuilt from designs by the same architect at a cost of about 14,000, it was reopened in 1888, and a tablet in the porch records the fact. The present beautiful building is in a style influenced by French Gothic. The spacious and lofty nave has 750 sittings, and presents a stately appearance. A notable feature is the triforium, unusual in parish churches, and an apsidal chancel. As might be expected in such a wealthy district, the church has been enriched by many beautiful and costly gifts, including some very beautiful windows, and a fine organ. The bells, though a musical peal, and one on which there have been many notable performances, are hardly up to the exceedingly high standard of the rest of the church, and it is the hope of the local company that the church may one day possess a fine peal of ten to harmonise with its other beauties.

  A short musical service was held in the church, opening with the Te Deum, and including some well known hymns, which were heartily rung by those present. An interesting address was given by the Vicar (the Rev. J. R. Lee Nicholls). himself an enthusiastic ringer, and an incumbent who, in the Sheffield Diocese at any rate, holds the unique distinction of being Ringing Master in his own tower, and who in spite of many and urgent calls on his time, including often two sermons on a Sunday, is seldom absent from his place in the belfry.

  A tea was held in Parish Hall, followed by the annual business meeting, at which the Vicar presided. The balance sheet (which showed a small balance on the right side) was presented, and a short report, of the previous year was given by Mr. Sam Thomas, who explained that he had been asked to undertake the duty; the late secretary (the Rev. J. F. Amies) having left the district, and the now secretary not having yet been officially appointed. The report showed a gratifying year of progress, with a membership reaching 300 and 30 affiliated towers. About 25 peals has been rung in most of the standard methods, and several Surprise methods, including  Norfolk and Cambridge.

  At this point the Bishop of Sheffield arrived, and after being given a hearty reception, and expressing his regret that pressure of other engagements had prevented his earlier attendance, at once proceeded to make a  presentation to Mr. Sam Thomas, at the request of the chairman. The presentation, which had been kept a secret until the last moment, and came as a complete surprise to Mr. Thomas, consisted of a very handsome smoker’s cabinet (fitted up with tobacco, cigars and cigarettes), with a suitable inscription on an attached plate, and an exceptionally beautiful illuminated and framed address, worked by Mr. Tom Lee. of Norton, himself a change ringer, and one whose work in illuminating peal records and the like is well known in the district. The address, dated 1890—1923. recorded Mr. Thomas’ 33 years' association with change ringing in the district, and his 21 years' association with the Sheffield District Society. for many years as president, and later as its secretary. It recognised his untiring and disinterested efforts in the cause of change ringing particularly in the training and encouraging of young bands and concluded by expressing the hope that he might be spared for many years to carry on his good work, and asking his acceptance of the presentation with the most cordial good wishes of the society. It was signed by all the officers of the society on behalf of the subscribers.

  The Bishop again expressed his regret at the fact that other engagements had interfered with his presence at the meeting, but stated that at all costs he had been determined to be in time to make the presentation to Mr. Thomas. He knew well the value of the work of the ringers, and especially of men like Mr. Thomas, who threw themselves heart and soul into the work, and he could as Bishop, bear testimony to the appreciation in which their services were held, and especially those of Mr. Thomas, in sticking to it and persevering in the task of training up and encouraging young bands. He had the greatest possible pleasure, he said, in presenting these tokens to Mr. Thomas on behalf of the society, in associating himself with its sentiments and in wishing the recipient a long and happy life. — The text of the address was then read out by Mr. G.  Lewis (president).

  Mr. Thomas, who confessed himself taken completely by surprise, and remarked that everyone had been in league against him, and that he felt quite unable to make a speech, assured those present that he felt that he did not deserve what had been done, and expressed his sincere thanks to the subscribers. What he valued most was the unanimity and spontaneousness of it all. He assured those present that he was no back number yet, and that he should continue to do all that he could for the art. He asked to be excused from saying more, as he felt too full and too affected to speak. It might perhaps be mentioned that the presentation was in the first mainly due to the disinterested efforts of the late secretary (the Rev. J. F. Amies), whose departure from the district was much regretted, and whose services to the society, though short, were much appreciated. An appeal was sent out to the various towers in the society, and only a small subscription was asked for, but the response. much to the gratification of the organisers, was considerably beyond expectations, and came as a further proof of the esteem in which Mr, Thomas is held.

  Following the presentation to Mr. Thomas, the society’s silver cup and framed certificate, for the best year’s attendance for Sunday Service ringing, were presented by the Bishop to Mr. F. Watkinson.  representing the Handsworth company, tile Bishop genially remarking that he always seemed to bo presenting things to Handsworth —  they had a splendid Rector, and did well in everything that they took up.

  Other calls on his time intervening, tho Bishop had to leave at this point, and smilingly declined a formal vote of thanks — an informal one was. however, accorded to him as he rose to leave, in the shape of very hearty applause.

  The election of officers resulted as follows: President. Mr. F. Watkinson (Handsworth), in place of Mr. G. Lewis (Ecclesfield) resigned: vice-presidents, Mr. A. Knights (Chesterfield) and Mr. J. Holman (Sheffield Cathedral); hon. treasurer, Mr. J, E, Lewis Cockey (Raninoor); hon. secretary, Mr. Thomas William Chown (Sheffield Cathedral), in place of the Rev. J. F. Amies (Chesteirfield) resigned; peal secretary, Mr. Sam Thomas (Ranmoor); hon. auditors, Mr. J. Flint (Bolsovcr) and Mr. G. Hollis (Chesterfield).

  The committee was re-elected, with the addition of Messrs. A. Robinson (Dore) and Measures (St. Stephen’s, Rotherham), with the cup sub-committee as before. The fixtures for the ensuing year were confirmed — the next annual meeting, in accordance with the rules, being fixed for Chesterfield, the hope being expressed that by that time that popular peal of bells would be again available and the wonderful crooked spire in a stable condition.

  Twenty-one new members were elected — a sure sign of progress —  from Dore, Norton, Rawmarsh, Rotherham (St. Stephen’s), Sheffield (Cathedral, Ranmoor, and St. Marie's, R.C.), and Whiston.

  A number of business matters were discussed — including the question of the control of the ringing at the various meetings; services at each meeting; and the provision of fixture cards. No resolutions were passed on the first two items, but in regard to the last, the recommendation of the committee was accepted, i.e., that small fixture cards should be printed as in pre-war days, with all the details of the society and the year’s fixtures recorded on them and that members should be charged 1d. per card — these cards to take the place of the large tower fixture cards previously supplied.

  A hearty vote of thanks to the retiring officers was proposed bv Mr. Sam Thomas, and seconded by Mr. Cockcy and responded to bv Mr. G. Lewis.

  Mr- Harrison, in a racy speech, proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the Vicar, organist, local company and ladies — expressing the opinion that now that his old friend, Mr. Thomas, had been able to rejoin one would soon be hearing of things doing at Ranmoor as in the old days. — Mr. C. Haynes suitably responded.

  Mr Potter (Barnsley) proposed a vote of thanks, which was earned by acclamation, to Mr. Tom Lee for his exceptionally fine work iu the lluminating of the address to Mr. Thomas, and to his generous action in doing it as his contribution to the presentation.—Mr. Leo, in response, referred to his work as a labour of love, and acknowledged the help and encouragement he himself had always received from Mr. Thomas in the art of change  ringing.

  Messrs. G. Hollis and F. Willey proposed a vote of thanks — carried by acclamation — to the chairman (the Rev. J. R. Lee Nicholls), and for the great interest he always showed in ringing matters.— The Rev. J. R. Lee Nicholls. in responding, extended a most hearty welcome to the society in their visits to Rnnmoor.

  Some very good handbell ringing was indulged in during the evening, and was much appreciated by those present.

End of Article


 Back to Historical Articles Index

 Go back to Homepage