Donhead St Mary Bell-Ringers - February 2020 Report

In December, we rang a quarter peal before the Thanksgiving Service for the life of Maurice Dingley. The band comprised the Master of the Salisbury Guild, the Ringing Master and Deputy Ringing Master of the Mere Branch of the Guild, a former Branch Ringing Master and 2 members of our own band.

Maurice was Captain of the Ringers, together with wife Joyce, from 1990 to 1995. He continued to ring till 2010, when he retired from ringing as Deputy Captain. Joyce and he were regular, reliable and dependable ringers for all the occasions when we have had to ring, be it for Sunday Services, weddings, funerals or thanksgivings. As members of the church, they have seen the role of bells as an important part of church life.

When they moved to Charlton, both Maurice and Joyce worked, and meeting people was limited to weekends. One of their neighbours heard that Maurice had been in the Scouts ever since he had joined as a Cub, and was an experienced Group Scout Leader. He took over the local troop and re-invigorated it. One Sunday, at the Scout Parade at St John’s, he was approached by Tower Captain Noel Mary Ward, who suggested he take up bell ringing. “Hand bells?” asked Maurice. “No, church bells”, she replied, “it’s an excellent way of getting to meet people.” It sounded a good idea to Joyce, and so, in 1984, they found themselves at St Mary’s, being taught how to handle half a ton of bell, by Jack Edwards. By the end of the year, they were regularly ringing for Sunday services and were elected as members of the Salisbury Guild.

In those days, the ringers read a large “menu” card set up on an easel in order to ring the changes. Maurice and Joyce were part of the group that wanted to learn method ringing, where the changes follow a pre-defined order or pattern, and is done without an external prompt. It was difficult to make progress without a resident method ringer in the band despite their best efforts. In 1990, Noel Mary retired as Captain, and they were elected as joint Tower Captains. In 1994, Joyce also took on the duties of the Tower Correspondent, until they both stepped down from these roles in 1995. Their great strength was in recruiting people to come and try ringing, and they have always advocated its advantages of meeting different people of all ages and backgrounds in the village.

Looking back over his 25 years of ringing, Maurice commented that he had always enjoyed the exercise. He originally declined Noel Mary’s invitation, as he suffered from a bad back, but was persuaded by her reply that the stretching required by ringing is very good for it. He felt that learning to ring from the cards had made it harder to learn method ringing, but he appreciated learning call changes. His great pleasure had been ringing the tenor, providing the steady rhythm for the changing bells to build on.

Among the highlights of Maurice’s ringing were listening to the quarter peal rung specially for the christening of their grand-daughter Megan in January 1997; ringing in the half-muffled performance of 120 plain changes to commemorate the death of Princess Diana in Sept 1997; ringing a quarter peal at Donhead in September 2001, the first of four in total; and ringing in the national commemoration of Trafalgar 200.
Christopher Sykes