Mid-Devon Tower Talk - Sep/Oct 2020

Zoom Quiz

Our Chairman, Rodney Horder, was the Question Master for the latest quiz, ably assisted by his wife Sheila.

As usual our brains were thoroughly tested with rounds on Geography, Science and Nature, Food and Drink, Art Literature and Culture and finally History. As usual the questions ranged far and wide from "The Amish in the US speak Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of which language?" to "Which Liberal MP said "If the fence is strong enough, I'll sit on it"? and including one for CAMRA members " Where is Jail Ale Brewed?". Answers at the end of this edition. Altogether a challenging but interesting evening. Many thanks to Rodney and Sheila for all their hard work.


The History of Ringing Simulators

The presentations laid on by our Guild Secretary, John Martin on Monday evenings have been very well received and have kept ringers in touch, entertained and educated.

Many of these have been recorded and a recent one is of significance to our branch. David Bagley, who some will remember from his time in Plymouth in the 1980s, gave a well-researched history of ringing simulators. You can watch it here (the talk starts about 2.5 minutes into the video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ2x1WoXjHg&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2vlg44ASGD76j2--j4R7D6HO4-QLKw0FxNO_VEJC3OGNtHLWogA6n6w00 

The reason that it is of interest to our branch is that one of the first people to design the modern simulator was Peter Cummins. By this we mean the type where a ringer rings a bell connected to an electronic device (now usually a computer) and the device "rings" the other bells. Peter lived in Cornwall and found it very difficult to find method ringers to help him progress. The simulator was his solution to this problem.

In the late 1970s and early 80s Bill Simmonds ran a very popular practice at Torre (Tor Mohun) in Torquay. Bill realised very early that a simulator could be a great tool for teaching and asked Peter to supply one for Torre. This was a very early version and the sound was somewhat primitive – basically a bleep!

Peter had never rung a longer length on one of his inventions so it was arranged that he should attempt a quarter peal at Torre. This was successful and we now wonder if this was the first quarter using a simulator as silent apparatus.

Torre - 8 January 1983 1260 Plain Bob Minor
1 William Simmonds, 2 Nicholas Glanfield, 3 Rowena G Pierce (now Mansley), 4 Peter Cummins, 5 Tim King, 6 Martin Mansley (C)

Bill Simmonds was a very experienced ringer, having learned to ring with his father in the very progressive band at Caversham in Oxfordshire where Surprise Major was regular fare. In his younger days he was well known for ringing two tower bells to Stedman Triples. Although he was a very good teacher of bell handling, his best friends would agree that he lacked skills in diplomacy! There were no funds available at Torre to pay for the simulator and Bill applied to the Guild for a donation. This was not agreed and it led to Bill storming out of more than one meeting. He had been seriously injured in a road accident so he found walking very difficult, therefore it took him quite some time to "storm out"!!

The upshot was that Peter claimed back his simulator and thus ended this brave experiment. The practice carried on for a short time but the retirement of the caretaker and the job of opening up falling to members of the Greek church who often turned up late or not at all, caused it to cease. Although it may sound as if Bill was a bit curmudgeonly, he was a real character and much of his work goes on. He was a very good teacher of ringing and worked hard to see St Marychurch ringing again after the long break due to the war damage. His dream was to see 10 bells in the tower and it is pleasing to say the he lived long enough to see his dream come true. He would be thrilled to see the modern development of simulators with all their "bells and whistles" which has been made possible by those early pioneers such as Peter Cummins.


Ringing resumes

A tentative return to ringing has taken place in some towers. The conditions for a return are quite strict but with all the work of risk assessment done and safety measures strictly adhered to, some ringing is going on in the area. Towers that we are aware are ringing include Dawlish, Teignmouth St Michael, Brixham, Kingskerswell/ Coffinswell and St Marychurch. The bells we are allowed to ring with a maximum of six ringers sound "different" but it is good to hear that there has been very positive feedback from our listeners who, in general, are very pleased to have the bells back.


Teignmouth St James

We were very sorry to hear that an inspection of the bells prior to re-starting ringing was not possible. It appears that someone (a workman?) has left a trap door open. This leads to the roof and pigeons have done their worst. It would seem that a four-figure price will have to be paid to get the bells etc cleaned up. Very sad to hear that an active tower is out of action. We wish the ringers well in their efforts to get things back to normal.


Handbell ringing

Since lockdown there has been a growth in handbell ringing as it is still possible as long as social distancing etc are observed. Several branch members have been trying this, either for the first time or after quite a long gap. It is quite humbling how hard it feels to add another bell to look after in method and most of the ringing has been on simpler methods. Speaking personally, I am in awe of branch members who manage to ring surprise methods on handbells. E.g. https://bb.ringingworld.co.uk/view.php?id=1397666  (many congratulations).  However, tentative steps away from Plain Bob have been made and recently Single Oxford Minor has entered the repertoire. Some of the ringing has been on-line via ringingroom and some live. The online version is very susceptible to technical issues along with the more common "brain malfunction"!!

Recently a quarter peal (live) was achieved which included a 720 of Single Oxford. Is this the breakthrough we have been hoping for?


Branch AGM

The AGM is, of course, different this year as we will not be able to meet in person and we know how many were looking forward to sampling the new eight at Kingskerswell. On the other hand, you won't need to leave the comfort of your warm house – just log in to ZOOM!.

The committee has been beavering away in the background all year and we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on 14th November. Nigel, our hard-working secretary, will be sending you all the information you need. Keep an eye open for it.


Quiz answers
Pennsylvania Dutch is a form of German
The Liberal Politician was Cyril Smith
Jail Ale is brewed in Princetown