Thoughts on returning to ringing offered by Giles Blundell

Given that no-one has yet suggested a date for us in England to come out of lockdown, you might think that it's a bit early to be asking this, but I don't think so.

Even if we all come out of lockdown at the same time (unlikely) to being able to fully freely associate and ring together (also unlikely) it doesn't seem likely that everything will be just as it always was. Some ringers will no longer feel up to ringing (whether through their age or health): others will have found other things to do: some will one way or another have fallen out of contact: some, sadly, will have died.

We're not out of Covid yet, but I hope I am not being wildly optimistic to hope that we're nearer the end than the beginning. So we should be starting to think about what we should do once we're back.

The Central Council and the Association of Ringing Teachers have pulled together some thoughts on this at

and there's something there for everyone - whether you think of yourself as a member of your tower band, or as a leader, or a branch or association officer. Please have a look at it, and see what you can use.

But my personal suggestions would be:
  • is my analysis of how things will be right? I'd suggest that it's for branches to ask their towers or members of their best guess of how they will be when all this is over - let's get some real information instead of my speculation!
  • in the light of what we know, what should we do in the short term? Are there ringers or ex-ringers we can encourage back? If we have three towers with only a couple of ringers continuing each, should we encourage them to ring together at one tower each Sunday?
  • how, in the longer term, do we rebuild? Should we be setting up schools to teach bell-handling at one tower in an area, before learners move on to their permanent home tower?
  • what, in England, can we learn from the experience of other places with ringing who have already managed to tackle Covid? That's not just Australia and New Zealand - it's also the Isle of Man.

    My feeling is that Covid has not fundamentally changed anything for ringing - but it has pulled some threatening declines forward by maybe five or fifteen years. So if we want ringing to continue, we can't afford to take a watching brief and see what will happen. We need to get our best information to predict what will happen - and get ready to act if we don't like the prediction.

    Giles Blundell
  • The PCC of St Anne's Parish Church, St Anne's on Sea has approved the launch of a special project which will help ensure that the only peal of Church bells in St Anne’s can ring out into the next century.

    The aim is for the project to be completed in time for the 150th Anniversary of the consecration of the Church which is in August 2023.

    They need to raise £120,000 to fund this.

    More Information

    St Anne's Church website article

    Donation Page
    It is with deep regret that the Furness and South Lakeland Branch has to report the passing of Thomas F Metcalfe MBE on Christmas Eve 2020. He became a member of LACR in 1957 when he was a ringer at St John’s, Flookburgh. Since then he has been hugely influential in all aspects of the life and organisation of the Branch, serving as Branch Secretary from 1964 to 1986 and becoming Bell Advisor to the Furness and Lake District Branch in 1963. His exceptional ringing skills and enthusiasm for sharing these with others, has meant that many of our ringers owe their achievements to him. Latterly he was Tower Captain at both St Mary’s, Great Urswick and St Cuthbert’s, Kirkby-in-Furness, where he continued to be an inspiration and an example to those whom he taught. His talents as a Bell Engineer are legendary, both in the Branch and in LACR, where he became an Honorary Vice President. Tom’s contributions to bell ringing were recognised in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List, when he was awarded the MBE. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

    Below are two tributes to Tom submitted by Branch members, Peter Gardner (St Mary’s, Ambleside) and Andy Pollock (St James the Great, Barrow).

    My first recollection of ringing with Tom was Boxing day 1972, a peal of Stedman Caters at Preston conducted by my mentor Cyril Crossthwaite. More recently on my return to the North, Tom and I rang together frequently throughout the 90’s. At that time, he was very active in the Furness and South Lakes Branch. He organised practices with other members and arranged many peals for the Branch which he usually conducted. I particularly remember the fairly regular trips to Inverary and Edinburgh for ten bell peals. The bands were predominantly Branch members with some from the Carlisle DG.

    No doubt others will recollect his considerable bell hanging and other engineering skills and details of his work in the augmentations of the rings at: Broughton in the mid 90’s, Kirkby Ireleth around 2000 and Great Urswick about 6 years ago. One unusual peal from this period was Plain Bob Cinques on 11 bells (no cover) in 1994 before he had installed the current treble of the 12. Also, Tom was not too happy with the Tenor so he hunted around for another one. He found and installed a more suitable bell with a bit more weight.

    We at Ambleside had particular reason to value Tom’s expertise as he supervised and managed the voluntary work in rehanging and ¼ turning the bells between 1995-1998. The plain bearings and gudgeons of the front bells were so worn they were too difficult for learners to handle. They were replaced with self-aligning ball races and the clappers were overhauled. Removing the very heavy Tenor headstock (and refitting it) plus getting it down and back up the spiral stairs involved some interesting moments and words! What a difference to the handling of the bells and we started to teach learners. Thank you, Tom.

    For various reasons around 2000 Tom lost some interest in ringing other than at Kirkby and later at Great Urswick. But he rang with his good friend Richard Palmer in the first 12 bell peal at Preston in 2004, then he did a bit more after 2010 including peals on the Tenor at Ambleside and a couple at Great Urswick. I was pleased to meet Tom again after his last illness. This was at Kirkby earlier this year and we rang a peal of Little Bob Major. A few weeks afterwards we were in lockdown. RIP.

    Peter Gardner (St Mary’s, Ambleside)

    I remember the heyday of Broughton-in-Furness in the early 1990’s, when I was introduced to ringing, with all the excellent ringers (local and across the Branch) who came to the practices. I had the perfect environment in which to learn with a strong and stable band around me, and, typically, with a stander-by, on 6, 8 and 10 bells (and later 12!). Tom was excellent at putting people right whenever they hesitated, drifted or fell off the blue line! Tom was at the centre as Tower Captain, and jovially managed excellent practices with plenty of encouragement and a good variety of ringing that ensured each and every ringer had the opportunity to stretch themselves. As a learner I looked up to Tom and all these good ringers, and appreciated the good standard and striking – giving me something to strive toward one day. The good tower atmosphere extended to ringing trips including Lincolnshire, Bedale and regular trips to Inveraray – very happy days and memories. This is where I clocked up many of my peals with Tom, and with plenty of encouragement made great strides in my ringing ability despite being not as naturally gifted as many of my ringing peers. In recent years, I occasionally visited the Great Urswick practice where Tom was in charge and there was a familiar warm welcome and light hearted banter around some solid teaching.

    Tom had been teaching others for more than 50 years, probably for about 25 years before I started, and continued to teach ever since. I wonder how many ringers have learnt to ring under his tutelage over that time, and how many ringers in the Branch he has conducted or rung peals and quarter peals with! Some of his students are now teaching other ringers and/or have roles in the Branch. He leaves behind his wife Jennifer, and sons Stephen, Andrew and James and grandchildren. My thoughts and prayers are with them all at this difficult time.

    Andy Pollock (St James the Great, Barrow)

    Keith Hackney, Furness and South Lakeland Branch Secretary