Ely District Secretary’s report for 2013

This year we were saddened by the loss of two of our long-standing, stalwart District members. Rosemary Palmer died on 31st August and Colin Johnson died on 30th October. We miss them both, and offer our deepest sympathy to their families. As you would expect, there was commemorative ringing within the District and the Association, and also ringing by members of other Associations with which Rosemary and Colin were linked during their ringing careers. Colin rang in two peals for Rosemary in October, and a peal was rung at Darlington by Northern based Ely DA exiles in memory of them both. More commemorative ringing within the District is planned for 2014.

There was ringing in the District for other National, local and personal events as well. We followed last year’s ringing for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II with ringing for the 60th anniversary of the Coronation – Colin Johnson rang in a peal at Chatteris on 2nd June and had also rung in a peal for the Coronation in 1953. We celebrated the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge, in some cases by ringing Cambridge Surprise Minor. Celebrations for Marion Robinson’s 70th birthday included an all-District peal at Oakington, and Ray Clist marked 70 years of ringing with a St George’s day quarter at Fordham. A summary of peals, quarters and other performances of interest to the District is available on the District website – more about the website later in this report.

We have held a full programme of monthly ringing meetings in the District. In February we had a well-attended meeting at Chatteris, with members from all four Districts of the Association present and a good range of minor methods rung. In March we went to Soham and Isleham, with a good attendance allowing us to ring Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Royal and to give some of our members their first taste of 10-bell ringing.

Our outing in April was to five towers in North Hertfordshire, giving an interesting variety of churches, bells and ringing chambers. The redundant church at Great Hadham is adapted for use as a residential retreat, and the ringing chamber doubles as a bedroom. At Ardeley, the ropes were so long that we had to tie knots above the sallys before we could ring the bells – fortunately, a step-ladder was available for this purpose. In May we held an evening meeting at Over; with the benefit of visitors from Bedford and Peterborough we rang Surprise Major methods, and also gave some of our members from 6-bell towers useful experience of 8-bell ringing. 

The striking competition in June was held at Stretham, . It was a good evening, and the judges, Phillip and Sheila George, commented that all the ringing was very enjoyable to listen to and congratulated all the bands. Phillip reminded us that all ringing is a public performance, and we should always aim for striking competition standard. He recommended that we 'live for the moment' and focus on ringing and bell control, as good striking is impossible without both of these. The local band entered a team for the Call Change Section, which was placed second to a scratch band and thus awarded the Don Murfet Memorial Trophy. In the Method Section, there was a tie between Fordham and Swaffham Bulbeck for second place, but Histon were the clear winners and won the Ely District Shield. During the meeting we also enjoyed the use of the newly-refurbished Stretham handbells, and a quiz which challenged members to identify some of our District towers from photos of their bell ropes.


Ringing on the mini-ring at the end of the Ely tower
open day. Photo: Peter Binns.
Also in June we organised a tower open day at St Mary’s in Ely, with the aim of raising the profile of ringing and identifying potential new learners. The event was well advertised in advance, with a new banner displayed outside the churchyard, many posters being distributed in the area and, on the day itself, a live radio interview and the services of the Ely Town Crier. A steady stream of visitors took advantage of a mini-ring and the Ely DA mobile bell outside St Mary’s church, and many of them went up into the tower to have a go, carefully supervised of course, at ringing backstrokes or handstrokes. Handbell ringing was available in the church, with refreshments in the church room, and plenty of District members were on hand to help, chat and provide information. In all, almost 200 people visited the open day, including at least one possible returning ringer, and a visiting ringer with his young son from Brewster, New York.

Our barbeque in July was kindly hosted by Roderick Johnstone and family in Over. This was the same location as in 2012, but in very different conditions. Last year we huddled under the gazebo for shelter from the persistent drizzle – this year we spread out and relaxed in the sunshine and the swimming pool was much appreciated.

In August we rang at Haddenham and Wilburton. Rosemary Palmer had specifically requested that we go to Wilburton to ring from the new gallery, and it was pleasing that she was able to attend the meeting and ring at Wilburton. This meeting was visited by ringers from St Edward’s in Cambridge, and also from Sussex, Peterborough and France so we had a good variety of 6-bell ringing.

Our September meeting was a mini-tour to ring at Lolworth’s 3 bells and Conington’s 4 bells, ending up with the 6 bells at Fenstanton in the Huntingdon District. This meeting again seemed to provide something for everyone; we were joined by some members of the Ladies Guild on their Quarterly District Meeting, 3-bell tower-grabbers joined us at Lolworth and we had a warm welcome from members of the Huntingdon District at Fenstanton.

In October we held a full meeting with ringing at Ely, followed by a service, tea and business meeting, and evening ringing at Wicken. The bells at Ely and Wicken provide very different challenges, which were addressed with determination and eventual success by those who were present. Our November meeting at Longstanton and Oakington, and our December meeting at Fordham, ended the year in style.

Ely District ringers have, as usual, taken part in Association events. The inter-district striking competition was held at Ickleton in the Cambridge District on Monday 6th May, the day of the Association AGM. Ely District rang last, with an unchanged band from last year and almost all wearing their blue 'Winners' polo shirts, which prompted some tongue-in-cheek muttering about psychological warfare from the other teams. The results were quite close with the Cambridge District in third place, Huntingdon in second place and the Ely District as winners for the 3rd time in 4 years.

There have been two Association training events this year, both of them taking place in the Ely District. In March, Tom Ridgman as Bell Adviser led a Belfry Maintenance course at Stretham and Haddenham. One result was that some minor faults were identified at Haddenham, subsequently addressed by students on the course which noticeably improved the ‘go’ of the bells. In October, Graham Nabb of the Association of Ringing Teachers presented Module 1 of the Integrated Teacher Training Scheme (ITTS) at Over, and several Ely District members attended as students. This was the first ITTS course to be run in the Diocese of Ely, and gives us access to the resources and increasing experience of this nationwide scheme to promote an organised and progressive approach to teaching bell handling.

This year saw a new initiative, master-minded by Barbara Le Gallez, to provide more opportunities for young ringers in the Cambridge and Ely Districts to ring together. Barbara has organised two full-scale events with ringing at two towers, handbells, computers, rope splicing and also cake, and two shorter meetings, timed to fit in with the Cambridge or Ely District meetings. The meetings and events have been much enjoyed by young ringers from the two districts and beyond, who appreciate the chance to ring at different towers and with ringers of about their own age.

Finally, 2013 saw a change in communication within the District. The last issue of Striking Features was distributed at the ADM in January, and its main function, to keep local ringers informed of news and district events, was taken over by a new Ely District website. The website allows news to be published much more quickly than waiting for the next issue of a printed newsletter, and details of future events can be announced and updated as soon as the information is available. In addition, the website for the Ely DA was reorganised to focus on information for the Association as a whole, with the separate website for each District providing details of its own towers and ringing programmes.

Thanks to all who have made this a successful year for the district: to the ringing masters for making the ringing enjoyable and useful for us all; to the district officers and committee members for their hard work and enthusiasm; to all the incumbents for use of their bells; to the local ringers for welcoming us to their towers and providing wonderful teas; and to our district ringers and visitors for turning up and supporting the district events.
Janet Garnett