250th Anniversary of the first peal at St Martin's

19th November 2008 was a red letter day for the ringers at St Martin's Birmingham.

It was the 250th anniversary of the first true peal in the tower: the Grandsire Caters which had been rung following the installation of a new 35cwt ten by Lester and Pack in the summer of 1758. On this exact anniversary date, ten of us were fortunate enough to take part in a peal in the same method, specially composed and conducted by Rod Pipe, and on Saturday the 22nd a second peal, of the more contemporary music of Bristol Sixteen, was also rung by current Band members. These both went very well, but then, on the Saturday evening, we got down to the serious business of having a party.

Fortunately St Martin's has a very suitable room adjoining the church, and members and guests, in all about sixty of us, gathered there in celebratory mood. Among those we were particularly glad to welcome were the Rector Canon Stewart Jones, the Wardens and other loyal friends of ours from the church; Muriel Reay (whose 90th birthday party was recently reported on) and many former members; new friends who may perhaps become members (including Charlie L. aged 18 months who provided lots of sunshine); and two special guests of honour: Mrs Ruth Hardy, daughter of George Fearn, and her cousin Mrs Pauline Hulston, daughter of Henry Fearn.

All the arrangements had been put in hand by Michael Wilby (Conductor) and John Fielden (Secretary), and although this was an informal occasion, they had undoubtedly been kept busy in the planning. An exhibition of heirlooms, and various photographs etc., indicating the richness of St. Martin's ringing heritage, was set up at one end of the room. The weeks of worry with regard to the drink were followed by a brief hiatus which caused our leader momentarily to look like a banker whose credit was about to be crunched, but soon the beer flowed and was delicious. We were all treated to wonderful food which had been prepared by some of the ringers co-ordinated by Eleanor Linford.

The opportunity was taken to present Rod Pipe with a token of appreciation for his contribution to ringing at St Martin's, in particular his leadership of the Band 2004-2007. The gift took the form of an IOU (much to our amusement) from his brother George, who had been commissioned to provide a pen and ink drawing of their childhood home in Suffolk. Rod made a characteristically graceful reply, in which he reflected on the reasons for the strength of the tradition at the Bull Ring; one of these was the willingness of all, whatever their occasional differences, always to put the interests of the ringing first. 'Long may it continue!' he concluded.

Later we were entertained by ear-tingling Bristol Maximus on handbells performed by Fran Dodds 1-2, Mark Eccleston 3-4, David Pipe 5-6, David Hull 7-8, Michael Wilby 9-10, and John Warboys 11-12. David Hull expressed the thanks of all to those who had done so much work to make the party such a happy event, and finally Michael Wilby was presented with framed copy of a map of Birmingham from the 1750s as a souvenir of his Conductorship at this anniversary moment.

It all added up to a memorable evening which wound on to the end in the very best of humour.


Richard Jones