Donhead St Mary Bell Ringers - December 2015 Report

It is 20 years since my first article for the 'Donhead Digest'. In November 1995, I wrote:

“We are a small group of people who meet on Wednesday evenings each week to practise bell-ringing. There are 6 bells in the tower, and it takes one person to ring each bell. No, we don't wear monk's habits and nor do we swing wildly around, hanging on with gritted teeth to a long rope! Anyone over 5 foot tall can ring, from the age of 10 or 11 up to 90 or more.

At present, we have 9 ringers in all, including 2 from Charlton, 1 from Donhead St Andrew and 1 who comes from Shaftesbury. Our skills range from absolute beginner to quite advanced. On Wednesdays, we practise to improve our skills in ringing the bells, to learn new "tunes" (the different combinations or changes that are possible with the bells) and to have a good chat and an enjoyable evening. We also ring for the Family Service at St Mary's each month and for weddings or any special occasion. For example, we have rung for all the weddings this year and to commemorate both VE and VJ days.”

We are unusual in that all our ringers are local or learnt to ring at Donhead. Many towers do not have enough, so visiting ringers dash round several parishes on Sunday mornings to ring for their services. Here in Donhead, we help each other out, but sometimes we do not ring all 6 bells if I do not have enough people.

Most of what I wrote in 1995 is still valid. Some ringers have retired, moved or passed away, and some continue or are new. One of our ringers was Michael Clarke, who died in September; he learnt to ring in the 1980s with his wife, and continued after Jean died. He was always cheerful and his humour would illuminate the evenings. We now have up to 7 on a Wednesday night: 3 who live in St Andrew, 1 who comes from Iwerne Minster, and 3 from St Mary. Sunday ringing has also evolved. When I learnt in 1968, we rang on the 1st and 3rd Sundays only. Whereas we rang just once a month in 1995, we now ring for four services.

As traditional, we plan to Ring out the Old Year at 11.35 pm on December 31st and Ring in the New just after midnight on the 1st of January. We all wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christopher Sykes