Five recent recruits to the Richmond bell ringers took part in the Remembrance Day centenary events on Sunday November 11. They had all responded to a national appeal called Ringing Remembers for new ringers around the country to learn to ring to represent each of the 1400 casualties of the First World War who were also ringers.
The newcomers joined the regular band at St Mary Magdalene where the bells were rung half muffled as a sign of respect before the 9.30 morning service. Then at 12.30 each of the new recruits took part when every bell tower throughout the nation had been asked to ring for half an hour in celebration of the end of the war.
Siobhan Alden, a Phd student, who was the first to join the Richmond ringers, has advanced from beginner to intermediate. She says she found the process of learning difficult at first – ‘but I’m a stubborn type and I was determined not to give in’.
The newest member is Geoffrey Ogier, who works in sales. He is still at the stage where he shares a rope with an experienced ringer. “I was driving to work when I heard an item about Ringing Remembers on Radio 4. Although I am still a novice I will persevere and make this a skill I can use wherever there are bells.’
Ingrid Demaerschalk, originally from Belgium, has learnt to ring as a tribute to her great grandfather who fought at Ypres. She says ringing proved to be ‘a lot harder’ than she thought ‘but I’ve enjoyed the process and I was pleased that I was able to ring with confidence on Remembrance Sunday’.
Originally from Italy, Donatella Astratti has lived in Richmond for 20 years and is currently volunteering at the Museum of Richmond and is contributing to research about the history of the parish church that celebrates its 800thanniversary next year.
Ian McKenzie is a magazine publisher who admires the ‘quintessentially English sound’ of church bells. ‘How brilliant to learn to be a bell ringer and to take part in this great national occasion.’
Martin Crick, who is the chief trainer and ringing master, thought the response to Ringing Remembers had been ‘phenomenal’. By the time all five recruits have advanced to change ringing the Richmond band will have been significantly strengthened.