Look To - Chairman's Chat

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A Final Chat, April 2022

You may well have heard that I have resigned as your Chairman and so this is the last of my little “Chats”. I don’t want to go into the reason for my resignation now, but I’d just like to say how grateful I am for your support over the past four years, and now I’d like to look forward.

In August 2020, when the first lockdown restrictions had been lifted slightly, we travelled to the coast near Harlech, and on our first afternoon there, I sat in the garden of our bungalow looking out on to the Lleyn Peninsula, watching the sea birds and waders making the best use of the tide being out. I was struck by how different things could have been., had the virus been that much more virulent. The birds would be there, doing what they do, but there’d be no people, no you and me, to see them. The human race, and all its works, blasted by a great wind from the east, leaving behind no recollection of the past, and no hope for a future that might have been. Humankind’s final obituary.

Mercifully, that didn’t happen. But let us not forget the lessons we’ve all learnt from covid. It doesn’t matter how good a ringer you are, all of this is of no consequence when faced with an invisible, inaudible enemy….the veritable “pestilence that destroyeth in the noonday”. What really matters is how we care for and help one another; “a strong and steadfast band” as mentioned in the Ringers Hymn. We’ve seen this in action during lockdowns.

It would seem that scientists and medical professionals are working on a new vaccine to counteract all the variants of covid. So, a few months will tell if this if this really is a new beginning for humankind. If it is, and let’s hope it is, then let us face it well, and we, as bellringers, being the special people we are, show the rest of the world just how to do it. If, as I say, this really is a new beginning for humankind, let us, proud and arrogant as we all are in our relentless pursuit of money, pleasure and power, be resolved to do so with care, with kindness; dare I say, even with love. For well we know how to do so. Let us be able to say once again “truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun” (Ecclesiastes 11.7).

As we, hopefully, return to a new “normal”, I hope that you will enjoy the ringing as much as before the lockdowns. A very sincere thanks to all who “kept things going” by Zoom and Ringing Room whilst we were unable to ring “properly”. Hopefully the new skills we all learnt during this time can be transferred into “proper” ringing as things get back to “normal”.

Goodbye and thank you for your patience and loyalty over the past four years.

One last final thought. One thing is certain. Somewhere, out there in that vast universe, too vast for our comprehension, there is a Great Heart and a Great Mind that loves the human race far more—far, far more—than we have ever loved ourselves.


Chairman's Christmas Message

Once again, Christmas is almost upon us, and, hopefully, it will be a better one than last year….we can only hope. 

I’d like to take this opportunity of thanking all of you, for your part, however big, however small, in helping to keep bellringing going over the past year. Those of you who have rung in, and those who’ve run, Zoom/Ringing Room practices whilst we couldn’t ring “live”; those who have supported, and those who have run, “live” practices when we had a gradual return to “normal ringing”, and those who’ve started to teach bell control and indeed Call Changes and method ringing to novice ringers. Thanks to you all. Everyone in the Association has done their “bit”.

Unfortunately, the future is still very uncertain. Still, if we have to go back temporally to Zoom meetings, at least we’ll know what to do and how to go about it! That’s something we had to learn during the first lockdown….but we did it!

So, whatever 2022 throws at us, however bad it gets (and hopefully things will improve gradually) let’s face it together and continue to support ourselves and one another; we’ve proved that we can do it! 

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from myself and my family. Stay positive, stay safe and…..carry on!


November 2021

It was with very great sorrow that I learnt of the passing of Brian Pratt, who for many years was Tower Captain of Chesterton in Cambridge, and also of David Webber, formerly Tower Captain at Cherry Hinton. Both served the Association well. 

In fact, Brian was Cambridge District Secretary when I first joined the Association back in the early 1970s. Brian was a member of the pioneering “Tuesday Band” of the late 1960s to mid-1970s, who rang Surprise Major at Trumpington, and he took part in several peals with them. 

Carol and I rang on Tuesdays at Cherry Hinton fairly regularly, before we married and moved away, temporarily. 

Both will be very sadly missed, a great loss to the Cambridge District and to the Association.

Do please let me know of any other ringers who have passed away recently; my apologies if I’ve missed any other sad news.


August 2021

At long last, things seem to be getting back to some semblance of normality as far as ringing is concerned. Practices will, no doubt, gradually return to whatever the “new normal” turns out to be, and we shall be ringing for Sunday services, ringing quarters and peals, with the gusto we saw prior to March 2020.

Just a brief note of caution, though. Remember you can still catch, be ill with, and pass on this wretched virus even if you and others have been double-vaccinated. Be cautious and stay safe. The delta variant is very easily transmissible, unfortunately, and has caught more than just a few out!

So, get back to ringing, enjoy it more than ever after the long time without, and let’s be grateful that we are still able to get back to it. 

Thanks to all of you who have worked and planned so hard for this moment, and let’s all move forward together in a spirit of cautious optimism..


July 2021

I was shocked and saddened by Sue Marsden’s news of the death of Alan Barber. Alan was indeed, as Sue says, one of the best composers and conductors this Association has ever seen, in fact he exceeded the late Frank Warrington’s achievements during the 1930’s. 

Alan learnt to ring, I think, at Fordham, taught, I believe, by Roger Palmer. He rang his first peal at the tender age of 14, conducted by George Thoday on the six bells at Swaffham Prior, and very shortly afterwards called his first peal as conductor at a tower in North Cambridgeshire. He was one of the few ringers to have “circled the tower” at Swaffham Prior as conductor to peals; this means he has called a peal from each bell in the tower. There were a couple of occasions when he and his peal band rang a peal, with the bells fully muffled, on the 5 bells at Horningsea, on Good Friday. This was unpopular because in those days, the early to mid 1960’s, any ringing during Holy Week, that is, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, was frowned upon.

Alan ‘s favourite Surprise Major method was Bristol, and he composed and conducted several peals of it. I was very privileged to be part of his peal band in the 1970’s, and was occasionally in the team that rang new methods, naming them after Cambridgeshire villages. He really loved Uxbridge Surprise Major, which has an extremely musical backwork, and these new methods invariably had Uxbridge backwork with variations on the front. Alan once persuaded us all to learn 54 methods so that we could ring 54-spliced Surprise Major, which works by the conductor calling a change of method every time the treble leads. Not an easy feat to learn, and certainly not simple to conduct. Sadly we didn’t achieve this, and I’m not sure whether he ever managed to achieve this later.

Alan was a very good beer drinker and loved his “pint”, especially after a peal!

Alan was promoted by Barclays Bank in the mid to late 1970s and moved to Essex, and, sadly, I lost touch with him.

I could go on, but I’m sure I’ve bored you enough. It’s a sad day for the EDA that Alan has passed away, even if he wasn’t a member at this time.


April 2021

A very big thank you to all of you who tolled, chimed or rung for the sad occasion of the funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and also for any tolling, chiming or ringing you might have done during the eight days of mourning following his death. The fact that, in many churches, only one bell could be used, is a sad reflection of the times. But, as always with us ringers, we made the best of what there was. The huge outpouring of affection for the Duke is obvious, looking on Bellboard etc.

Many of us of “riper years” will have had our second covid-19 vaccination., and, as the nurse at the Medical Centre said to my father-in-law and I, who had ours done at the same time, “after 3-4 weeks, you guys can go partying again”.  Yeah, right. But at least things seem to be moving toward s gradual easing of the restrictions such that we can all ring normally again. This will, of course, bring some difficulties which we will need to face as and when this happens. At least, though, there’s a light at the end of the long, dark, unhappy tunnel we’ve all been travelling through for over a year. 

So, hopefully, not long now. To perhaps put it poetically, the song “Keep right on to the end of the road” made famous many years ago by the late Harry Lauder (yes, that dates me all right!) goes like this:

“Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end,

Though the way be long, let your heart be strong,

Keep right on round the bend……..

Though you’re tired and weary, still journey on,

Till you come to your happy abode;

Where all you love, you’ll be dreaming of,

Will be there at the end of the road.”

Take care, and stay safe, folks.


March 2021

Many of you, like myself, were involved on March 23 with the National Day of Reflection. It seems difficult to believe that it was a year ago that we had the very first lockdown. 

Many of us will have had friends, relations, loved ones, who have suffered covid, and some that have, sadly, died from it. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this sad time. We must remember too, and give grateful thanks, to the NHS “front-liners” who risked their lives (and some indeed gave their lives) to help and comfort those in ICU across the country. We owe them such a debt. They truly are heroes!

Shortly we shall all hear whether the first stage of the Road to Return will actually occur, and it seems very likely. They are well on track with giving the 50+ age groups their first vaccination, and this is very encouraging. With the days getting longer, and hopefully some warmer and sunnier weather to come, things are indeed looking much more hopeful than this time last year…that’s for sure! 

In the meantime, let’s keep our spirits up, stay positive, stay safe and if we can, keep ringing even if it’s “only” on-line in Ringing Room, and above all, enjoy it as much as possible. Think about what has gone really well for you in your on-line practices and be pleased with yourself……and if you haven’t tried Ringing Room, well, join a practice and try it. You’d be given a warm welcome!


February 2021

Much has been spoken and written about Captain Sir Tom Moore, affectionately known to us all as “Captain Tom”, the old soldier that everyone wanted to be their grandfather. His compassion and thought for others were exceptional and an example to us all. Even when 100 years young, he raised millions of pounds for our beleaguered NHS, working so conscientiously and beyond the call of duty, to care for those seriously ill with covid-19. Captain Tom died, as he had lived, like the old soldier he was, fighting an enemy, this time a deadly but invisible enemy. It’s pleasing to think, that however “old” we think we are, we can still make a difference and achieve something special, if not spectacular. Had things been different, no doubt many of us would have been ringing something special, in our local towers, to his memory. However, many on-line performances have been done for this purpose; I myself was very honoured to take part in several of these.

Captain Tom’s footsteps will continue with us, in spirit if not in body, through the dark days to come, keeping us steadily moving to the light at the end of the tunnel, because it’s there and we’ll get to it. It is comforting to be aware. And, indeed, it is a source of comfort to some of us, that other footsteps are also beside us through the coming days. They’re there and they don’t leave us, ever. They will be with us until the bad times go and indeed afterwards, too. In the words of that beautiful song by Daniel O’Donnell:

Footsteps walking with me,

Footsteps I cannot see.

But every move I make,

And every step I take,

I know they're there with me.

They walk with me all the way,

Beside me day by day;

Through good and bad,

Through happy and sad,

Those footsteps won't go away.

Through good and bad

Through happy and sad

By my side they will stay.

So, let’s soldier on to the very end, like Captain Tom, and remembering in the song he made famous, the final line:

“You’ll never walk alone”.