Donhead St Mary Bellringers - April 2016 Report

A date for your diary: Thursday, 7th April. That morning, we shall attempt to ring a peal on the bells, starting at about 9.30. The band are all experienced peal ringers, so the ringing should be of good quality. To ring a peal is one of the highest achievements in bell ringing. Over 5,000 changes are rung, without any major errors, and it takes about 3 hours. If you find it a bit too much, then it may be a good day to go out for a long walk!

The peal is an early part of the celebrations for the Queen’s 90th birthday, and Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary. Some of you will remember what I wrote in 2002 about the celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. At the risk of repeating myself, we – being myself and 5 other ringers from the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers – shall try to ring 5,040 different changes without repeating any (*). At an average 28 changes a minute, this will take about 3 hours. Sometimes, a mistake happens right at the end, which means that, despite our best efforts, the performance will not count as a peal. However, I hope that we shall succeed and count it as part of the national celebrations this year.

(* As we have only 6 bells in the tower, there is a maximum of 720 different possible combinations, or ‘changes’. To ring 5,040, we shall need to ring 7 separate blocks of 720s. All of the ringing is done by memory and without a script before us. Each ringer knows sets of pre-defined sequences of bell orders, called ‘methods’, and there is a conductor who directs the ringing and calls out which method is to be rung at what time and also any variations to the method as we go along.)

Previous peals were in June 1935 for the King’s Silver Jubilee and two more on the 25th and 50th anniversaries of that first peal; June 2002 for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and October 2004 by an elite band from Oxford.

Christopher Sykes