Listen With Others

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Listener No 4675, Called to Order: A Setter’s Blog by Vismut

Posted by Listen With Others on 26 Sep 2021

You may or may not know that there are two forms of bell ringing (as far as I know anyway) which are method, about which I know nothing and Devon call changes. I learned the latter many, many years ago in my local church which was, as you may have guessed, located in rural Devon. In that church the bell chamber was located at the back and behind a wooden screen so that all you could see was the ropes and the sallies (the furry bits) going up and down. Since the tower had its own external door no-one ever came out through the little wooden door into the church and as a child I became overwhelmingly curious as to what went on in there. As soon as I got the chance I had my first lesson which coincided with the same night I went to see Jaws and I’m still not sure which was the scariest experience. When you watch ringing on the TV everyone looks completely calm and the rope goes up and down in a beautiful straight line. Almost laughably (see Midsommer Murders) they sometimes feature one person ringing two bells, something I have yet to see in real life. There is a very heavy weight (our tenor weighs well over a ton) on the end of a very long rope and the first thing you learn is that the bell carries on moving whether you have control of the rope or not. Cue rope burns and even broken light bulbs.

Once you have learned the basics you move on to ringing in a team and this is where the fun really begins. The set we usually ring here is based on the arrangement of Queens (1,3,5,2,4,6) which is arrived at from Rounds (1,2,3,4,5,6) by a series of commands from the caller, 4 to5; 2 to3; 2 to 5, the team then goes through a series of called changes where the bell at the front moves to the back and the treble (1) moves up and then down the tower each time. Of course, unless you are a bell ringer, you won’t understand any of this, but take it from me when it goes well it is a beautiful thing.

Like the crossword community, the bell ringers are a friendly crowd and once you have learned you can usually join in with teams anywhere. I have rung the New Year in at Hobart Cathedral where they were extremely excited to have a genuine Devon ringer in their midst. I thought Devon was just known for its superior cream teas, but no, our bell ringing is world famous too. Some ringers collect towers, a bit like twitchers with birds, but this never really appealed to me, it is ringing with your team that gives the most pleasure. It can also be a family affair and my father took it up too after I had talked about it so (too) much. He did this without telling me while I was away at my first term at university and casually walked up to the tower with me for the Sunday ring to keep me company. I was a bit confused by this, the church was only next door, but it all became clear when he took hold of a rope too.

Years down the line I became Bell Captain at my local village church and I have taught many, many people how to ring over the years. Some more successfully than others. I have always worked with horses and I treat the ringing learners in the same way. Something very  unpredictable on the end of a rope. 

We’re not all bearded weirdos either (especially the ladies), farmers, accountants, carpenters, former rock band drummers, college lecturers, physicists, carers etc etc you get the picture. Most people like the sound of the bells (if they’re rung well anyway) so it is a shame that the number of ringers and the number of towers with bells fit to ring is gradually declining. They mark special occasions, personal ones such as weddings and national ones such as VE Day 75th anniversary and Prince Philip’s death.

Anyway I’ve always hummed the David Bowie tune to myself when I think of Ch, ch changes and explaining them to learners, hence this puzzle, which I hope you have enjoyed.

If you are now inspired to learn bell ringing, which will keep your mind and, to some extent, if you don’t go for a beer afterwards, your body fit, have a look here:

Many thanks



2 Responses to “Listener No 4675, Called to Order: A Setter’s Blog by Vismut”

  1. pandiculator said

    Thanks Vismut – there was even a post on the Bellringers Facebook group a few months back that suggested that crossworders would be ideal recruits for ringing although lots of Listener solvers seemingly already are (see e.g. SImilar kind of skill set in many ways. As a method ringer (learnt as a youngster in Cheltenham and now live in deepest darkest mid Wales), there were a number of change names in your puzzle that I’d read about in books but have never used by name in the tower (Jokers, Priory, Kennet), so even that bit of the puzzle required a bit of a head-scratch for me. Thanks for the puzzle!

  2. Vismut said

    Apart from Rounds and Queens, they were new to me too as it happens.

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