Go Glasgow!

Fourteen of us met on Saturday 20 October in the Guildhall at Burwell for a training day on Glasgow Surprise Major. We were greeted with a warm welcome,  tea and coffee, and a large pile of cakes.

We started with a theory session. Our tutor, Paul, claimed to be somewhat nervous about tutoring some of the Ely District's keenest Surprise Major ringers! In truth, many of the ringers were very apprehensive about the method to be attempted later in the day.

Paul spoke to a very comprehensive booklet on Glasgow Surprise Major that he had produced, setting Glasgow in context as the 9th method of the standard eight! We learned that the method had been created by John Spice, first pealed in 1946, and that it is characterised by 4-5 dodges both at the half lead, and at the lead end. It is noted as one of the first 'spiky' methods, while its blend of both both right and wrong hunting makes it counter intuitive in many ways and hence quite hard to ring. As well as being hard to ring, it is also hard for peal composers to produce a composition including more than more than half of the musical combination roll ups which are so sought after.

Paul then took us though the method, lead by lead, both in words and diagrams. Paul's comprehensive booklet showed the method in each of Criblines, Blueline and Grid format. Then the bombshell hit! Glasgow can have either (or both!)  4th place and 6th place bobs – more work to be learned. In anticipation of our pending success, Paul finally introduced us to some quarter peal and peal compositions.

During an interactive session in which we were encouraged to test each other on our knowledge of the different leads there were more fine refreshments and cake and biscuits. Then to the tower...

Fortunately, there were some capable Glasgow ringers present, who (with Paul) were able to provide some degree of stability for the novices to work within. All levels were catered for. Those that wanted to ring only a few leads had the method called round appropriately, changing to Little Bob for an elegant finish in rounds (at least in princple!). Others rang the full plain course, while, some were able to attempt splicing alternate leads of Glasgow and Cambridge – an excellent way to practice knowledge of Glasgow place bell starts.

Lunch was a diverse affair, with some of us heading for the Black Horse in Swaffham Bullbeck, while others made their own arrangements. Then to the afternoon session at St Mary the Virgin, Swaffham Bullbeck.

Plain and bobbed courses, as well as Glasgow and Cambridge Spliced, were attempted with a remarkable degree of success. For me, there is no substitute for the old adage “practice makes perfect”, so while this training day has provided a solid foundation, and shown what is possible, I think that I'll need a few more practice sessions to consolidate what has been learned, before moving on to quarter peal the method.

Very many thanks are due to Dee Smith for organizing this training day, to Paul Seaman our unbelievably amazingly capable (and patient) tutor, all the helpers who came to provide a stable framework for the learners to ring within, and to the locals at Burwell for providing such a warm welcome, and loads of cakes.

Roderick Johnstone