Enid Roberts, 91, will ring the bells for Charles just like she did for Elizabeth
Like a marathon, a three-hour peak can go wrong. Or get some neighbors to complain. “Ropes can break, people can make mistakes. So unless you’re very good wrestlers, you’re not sure if you can make the distance when you go to ring a bell,” Roberts said.
Enid came to Australia in 1955. According to the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers, Roberts was the first woman to conduct a chime in Australia and held other records.
On Tuesday night, in an interview with the , she was so reluctant to press her own horn or ring her own bell herald that her bell-ringing team staged a surprising tribute.
Gathered beneath the ropes that the bell ringers pull to rotate the bells 360 degrees, Bell Tower Captain Ross Langford-Brown said: “She was so very, very humble. She’s one of the best wrestlers in the world, she still is.”
“She ushered in the Queen’s coronation 70 years ago,” Langford-Brown said. “That was wonderful.”
It takes agility, strength, a brain for numbers and a memory for complex patterns to become a bell ringer, said the bell ringer of St. Jude, who ranges in age from 16 to Roberts.
They include 16-year-old Andrew Gilchrist, his brother, his father and a retired academic, Diana Whitton, who was motivated to get involved after hearing the bells ring at her 94-year-old mother’s funeral. “There was one for every decade,” she said.
Roberts started ringing the bells at 15 and saw an appeal for members in her local newspaper in England. At that time there were only a few bell ringers. She recalled cycling from village to village with a group of eight bell ringers for services. All are dead now except one, she said.
Robert said bell ringing was a challenge. “If you do everything right, you make music with a perfectly coordinated band.”
During the last coronation, the ringing in British churches stopped when a clapper in one bell fell out, another bell cracked and the wind blew the sound away. Even Westminister Abbey’s first attempt to ring the full bell failed. A second attempt succeeded. “The chime is a testament that we have wrestlers of this generation with the stamina of their old fathers,” he said The Sounding World publication at that time.
Hunchbacks are in demand now. Bell Master Richard Webster, a volunteer, rings bells in churches across Sydney because he loves it, for the company and for the mental and physical stimulation. It is his job to announce the changes. “All in,” he intoned.
But it’s a dying craft.
Webster says more people are needed to keep the old practice alive. Please contact ANZAB.org.au if you would like to try it. Most churches welcome visitors.
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