Glasgow Surprise Major

Notes from a course held at Burwell and Swaffham Bulbeck on Saturday 20th October 2012
Paul S Seaman

“I will never be able to ring that........”.

Most ringers, after years of struggling to master the ‘standard 8’, will inevitably ask “What next?”.  On eight bells, the answer is usually Glasgow.  Ringers usually refer to Glasgow as the 9th standard method with Belfast often quoted as the 10th.  To my knowledge there is not an 11th!  The selection of the standard 8 has often been challenged as they contain methods with similar structures (Pudsey, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland) and the original four (Cambridge, Superlative, London, Bristol) have more diversity.  The argument is that the standard eight should be recognisably different.  The ‘Nottingham 8’ consists of London, Cambridge, Cornwall, Lessness, Superlative, Glasgow, Bristol and Cassiobury.  Interestingly, Glasgow is included.

Glasgow was first devised by John Spice (1922-2006), originally from Kent he became Master of the Oxford Univ Soc and settled in the Winchester area.  He arranged and conducted the first peal of the method at Frindsbury, near Rochester, in 1946.  (For the record, Belfast was devised by Roger Baldwin).  The method was, and still is, considered a big jump forward in method complexity.  It was one of the first to be deliberately ‘spiky’ with sudden changes of direction, mixture of wrong and right hunting, internal places and perhaps the most defining aspect, 4-5 dodges at both the lead end and half lead.  Nowadays, Glasgow has many rivals for method complexity, the Chandler’s collection of 23 spliced contains 22 similar methods (the 23rd being somewhat trivial with the inclusion of Pudsey) together with other similar compositions.

Ironically, the falseness contained in the rows make it difficult to generate compositions which have musical qualities.  Richard Allton’s peal composition contains 75 combination roll ups (cru’s) but most have 60 or so.  When it is remembered that there are 144 maximum cru’s it becomes clear that the musical quality is not the endearing feature.  The reason that Glasgow is still an attraction is the need for the ringer to use all the attributes to ring the method well.  A good visualisation of the line, good rhythm, awareness of lead ends, ability to listen, adjusting to right and wrong work.  The satisfaction of ringing a course for the first time is quite rewarding.  The quote at the top of the page is mine own when I first saw the line! 

So how do you learn it?

There is no other sensible way than to learn the line.  Break it down into manageable chunks, i.e. a lead at a time.  Remember that the lead end order is the same as Plain Bob. 8ths place becomes 7, 7 becomes 5, and so on.   8  >  7  >  5  >  3  >  2  >  4  >  6  >  8.  Recite the line in your mind and try to visualise it.  The first change catches many ringers as 3rds and 6ths are made.  From rounds:

                                                1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

                   2 1 3 5 4 6 8 7

Make sure you start correctly.  Here is a table to help you.

8ths place bell

Fish tails 7-8 and lie behind.  Make 6ths and meet the treble in 5-6.  Point 4ths and make 6ths. Dodge with the treble at the back and lie behind.  Make fishtails and lie at the back before making 5ths and 6ths. Become 7ths place bell.

7ths place bell

Fishtails at the back.  Make 5ths and pass the treble.  Straight to the front for a point lead.  Dodge 4-5 up and make 6ths.  Fishtails at the back and make 5ths and 6ths.  Dodge 4-5 and become 5ths place bell.

5ths place bell

Point 3rds and make 4ths and meet the treble in 3-4.  3rds, 4ths and 3rds again before a full lead (note that this lead is wrong, i.e. back and hand).  Up to point 5ths and back to the front for a double dodge.  Lead and dodge with the treble on the front.  Become 3rds place bell.

3rds place bell

This is the mirror bell.  Thirds and point 4ths.  To the front for double dodge, lead right, point 2nds and lead wrong.  Make 3rds at the half lead.  Lead wrong, point seconds and lead right.  Double dodge.  Point 4ths, 3rds and into 2nds place bell.

2nds place bell

Dodge with treble, lead and double dodge.  Point 5ths.  Lead (wrong).  3rds, 4ths, 3rds before dodging with the treble in 3-4.  Make 4ths, point 3rds and dodge in 4-5 to become 4ths place bell.

4ths place bell

Up to 6ths and 5ths.  Fishtail at the back.  Pass the treble and make 6ths.  Dodge 4-5 at the half lead.  Point lead.  Make 5ths after passing the treble.  Fishtails on the back and down to become 6ths place bell.

6ths place bell

Make 6ths, 5ths and up to the back for lie, fishtails, lie and dodge with the treble (this work is similar to London).  Down to 6ths and point 4ths before going back to meet the treble in 5-6.  Make 6ths.  Lie behind, fishtails and lie to become 8ths place bell.

It is usual practice to start the line with the 8 as it is an 8ths place method.  The 2nds place variation of Glasgow is called Huddersfield S Major.  Preston S Major is Huddersfield over the treble.  It is surprising how common these variations are.

How do bobs work? 

This is what makes Glasgow interesting.  Many methods have an obvious position for calls, however, Glasgow can be rung with either 4ths place bobs or 6ths place bobs.  Singles are very rare!!

Place bell and

lead end destination

4ths place bob

6ths place bob

8ths place > 7ths place bell

Instead of going up to 7ths place, turn back and become 5ths place bell instead.

Make the bob and start as 6ths place bell.  Note that you will make 4 blows in 6ths.

7ths place > 5ths place bell

Instead of making a 4-5 down dodge, make the bob and start as 4ths place.


5ths place > 3rds place bell



3rds place > 2nds place bell



2nds place > 4ths place bell

Do not dodge in 4-5 but hunt up to 6ths place bell.


4ths place > 6ths place bell

Continue dodging in 7-8 and become 8ths place bell.  This has the effect of doing 4 wrong dodges at the back.

Continue dodging in 7-8 and become 8ths place bell.  This has the effect of doing 4 wrong dodges at the back.

6ths place > 8ths place bell

Continue dodging in 7-8 and become 7ths place bell.  This has the effect of doing 4 wrong dodges at the back.

Continue dodging in 7-8 and become 7ths place bell.  This has the effect of doing 4 wrong dodges at the back.

The record peal of Glasgow was rung earlier this year at Spitalfields in London.  The details are shown below.  The composition is a nine part incorporating a combinations of 4th place bobs, 6th place bobs and half lead calls in order to extend the peal length to avoid falseness.         

Saint James' Guild

Spitalfields, Greater London


Saturday, 12 May 2012 in 9h 11 (17)

14688 Glasgow Surprise Major

Composed by Brian D Price

1  Simon A Rudd

2  David C Brown (C)

3  Martin J Whiteley

4  John P Loveless

5  Alan G Reading

6  Ian Roulstone

7  Frank W Rivett

8  Alan Regin

Longest peal in the method (subject to ratification).

Below are some selected compositions:

1,250 Glasgow Surprise Major

23456   B  H

26435   4  2

24635      s

round in two blows. 4th place calls

1,280 Glasgow Surprise Major

23456   V  O  I  H

42635        3     -

23564   2     -

23456        -     -

6th place bobs

5,021 Glasgow Surprise Major

Roderick W Pipe

 23456   V  O  I  F  H

 53246      -  2

 34256      3  -

 42635      2        -

 53624   2  -  -

 36524      -

 65324   3  -

 54326   2  -

 35426   3  2

 32654   -  -  -

 652743     2     -

(423675) 6ths/6ths      

60 cru's. Queens. Tittums. Round at the snap before the course head. 6ths place calls.

5,152 Glasgow Surprise Major

Richard I Allton

23456    V  O  I  

25346       2  - 

43526       2  2 

53624    2  3    

32546    -     - 

42356       -  2 

52436       -  2 

62534    -  3    

23645    -     - 

42635       3  2 

23456    -     -  

75 cru's. 6ths place calls.

5,472 (5,120) Glasgow Surprise Major

Roderick R Horton

23456    B  W  H   

35642    2     -

64352       -  -

52436    2     3

23564    -       

3 part. For 5120 omit one block of 3H. 60 cru's. 4ths place calls.

5,058 Glasgow Surprise Major

Roger Baldwin

23456   W  B  M  H

23564      -     -

45362         -  -

64523      -     2

64235      -     -

23645   -        -*

34256      -       

3 part, calling s for -* in last part. Contains 53 Combination rollups, 12 56s, 7 65s, 2 7568s, 5 8765s, 38 little bell at the back, and 6 56s, 6 8765s at the front.

This document is also available to download as a pdf file, use the links below.

Janet Garnett,
Apr 28, 2014, 3:15 AM