By Alan Barber (Our Northern Correspondent), October 2014
The inspiration for this article was poor Peter Waterfield who recently met 11 short for a peal of Stedman Cinques. These are some of the incidents I’ve encountered during my ringing career. With two exceptions the names of the individuals have been withheld to protect the innocent or should that be the guilty?
The first ever 12 bell I organised was at a tower which had to have a late afternoon start. Reaching the venue early I was surprised to see a member of the band (Mr A) exiting the car park. Due to a breakdown in communications Mr A had been led to believe it was a 3.00 start and having waited for ages was just leaving as we arrived. We finished up ringing a peal on the back 10.
Talking of 12 bell attempts years ago a friend of mine (Mr B) arranged a series of such peals up and down the country. The nature of Mr B’s employment meant he was often asked to work abroad at short notice for long periods. On one such occasion Mr B passed the arrangements to Mr C giving him details of those who had agreed to ring. When the attempt grew closer Mr C realised that he was unable to complete the band so cancelled the attempt advising the band. Unfortunately Mr B had omitted to tell Mr C of two members of the band who subsequently made the long journey to meet 10 short.
At one of my former home towers (a ring of 10) a Mr D asked for the bells for a peal attempt some 18 months in the future. Permission was duly granted. As the date of the attempt drew nearer the Tower Secretary (TS) was concerned that he had not heard anything further from Mr D. TS made attempts to contact Mr D only to find that he had moved and nobody knew of his whereabouts. As a result TS assumed the peal was off and went out for the day. 10 disgruntled ringers turned up at the tower and were unable to obtain access.
A Bristol ringer (Mr E) was asked one evening when in an inebriated state if he could ring in a peal on the fine 8 at Tiverton in Devon. Mr E found he was free on the date and agreed to ring writing Tiverton in his diary. Cometh the hour and cometh the day Mr E in a state of sobriety made the short journey to Twerton (near Bath) to meet 7 short whilst those who made the longer trip to Devon met 1 short.
Talking of inebriation a Mr F was allegedly phoned in his local one Friday evening and asked if he could ring in an attempt the next morning. Unfortunately Mr F made a non appearance as he had no recollection of having received the call!
Years ago on a peal tour the wonderful Don Murfet was scheduled to ring in a peal at Manchester Cath. Having difficulty in finding the location Don asked a local who, in a broad Irish accent, pointed him in the direction of the nearby Catholic Church. There Don found the tower door open and climbed all the way to the top before finding it had no bells. Fortunately on this occasion Dumps eventually found his way to the Cathedral where, amazingly enough, he rang the tenor behind to a peal of Caters.
I’ve left my favourite story to last. This is as told to me by the late, great Ron Warford. Ron was a larger than life character who is sadly missed in the North East. Ron was asked by a Mr G to ring in a peal at a rare 10 on a Bank Holiday weekend. Thus it was that Ron, Mr G and three others made the long journey on the Saturday for the attempt. On reaching the tower there was no sign either of a local to let them in or the other five ringers. Having waited for ages the 5 repaired to a local hostelry and every now and then one would return to the tower to see if there was any sign of life which there wasn’t. Eventually having drowned their sorrows the five returned home. The remaining five including the intended conductor (Mr H) who calls the odd peal of Stedman turned up on the Monday. Surprisingly enough Mr H has never invited Mr G into a peal since that time!
The moral of this article is that arrangers must never leave anything to chance and always confirm details with ringers, tower secretaries etc. shortly before the proposed date. Also don’t ask people when they may have had one too many! Most of these incidents occurred before the advent of mobile telephones and internet. However I found that pre technology people were more inclined to adhere to plans. Having said that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve contacted people to confirm arrangements to be met with the response ‘I’ve been meaning to let you know that I can’t ring’. A pity they had not done so! As always some of these incidents are so bizarre that you could not make them up. Enjoy your ringing and ensure that you are not a victim!
Alan Barber, October 2014