Jeremy Knowles – Barnoldswick, Lancashire

Left to right, Richard Wheelhouse, Alan Gould, Chris Wright, Jeremy Knowles, Keven Haseldine, Allan Gould

Left to right, Richard Wheelhouse, Alan Gould, Chris Wright, Jeremy Knowles, Keven Haseldine, Allan Gould

I only wanted to see the view from the top of the tower, when we spotted a big sign at the top saying it was open today. Then I met Chris, who showed us the ringing chamber and talked a little about ringing (well, quite a lot if I’m honest). I found it fascinating and he invited us to come and watch that evening’s “performance”. Before I knew it, I was going to every practice and really got into ringing. I wish I’d started before getting to to the age of 46 !

Slowly but surely my ringing improved and after nearly 2 years learning I did my first quarter peal in 2014. I didn’t think I could ring for that long, and my legs were surprisingly dead at the end. I didn’t know about moving them. The thought of doing a full peal lasting 3 hours just seemed an impossible dream, as I only just managed 45 minutes. I couldn’t imagine ringing the tenor for that long. Ours is over a ton, and I would sweat after 5 minutes. I had to work on that technique.

It isn’t just the ringing that I enjoy, but meeting so many people. I’ve now visited a few other towers and love how welcoming everyone always is.

Anyway, earlier this year and having seen this initiative, our band decided it would be nice for Skipton to have a ringer have a go at this. Since all the full members of the band had done plenty of peals, all eyes were looking at me. Eek. I said I’ll have a go, but I really couldn’t see how I could concentrate for that long.

That started a long period of concentrating of me practicing plain hunting the treble on a variety of methods on 6 and 8 bells. To me they all seemed similar, in that I would be 1,2,3 etc following bells that appeared randomly. To add some spice it was sometime a minor method so I didn’t even know which the last bell might be until I could see it. As time progressed I started to be able to see which bell it might be, which felt particularly pleasing as it seemed a lot easier. “You’re getting rope-sight” I was told, and I liked it.

Eventually I was told a date was to be set for my first peal attempt as I “would be fine”. So we had a date early in November, in nearly Barnoldswick’s church, and as we practiced I tried to think what it must be like to ring for 3 hours. Unfortunately, it was postponed as the church was needed for a funeral that day, so a new date was set for mid December. Phew, I thought, more time to practice!

The new date duly arrived and I found I was pretty relaxed. The thing I was most concerned about was that it was an early start and I couldn’t have my usual quantity of morning coffee, I just had to make do with half an expresso. The last thing I needed was my bladder piping up in the middle of ringing.

Everyone arrived, we got the bells up then Kevin who was conducting asked if I wanted to see the clock. No thanks. He moved it where he could see it but not me, and off we went.

We were ringing 5040 Plain Bob Minor, and I’m counting out loud “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, lead” and I’m thinking about nothing else as I couldn’t since I was concentrating so much. After 10 minutes I had a scare in that I nearly missed the sally, and I thought if “I’m doing this already 4, 5, 6 then what happens 6, 5, 4 when I’m tired 3, 2, lead”. I had to stop thinking. Concentrate.

Then I heard people moving about in the church below, like big church mice, trying to be quiet but moving things around and I wondered what they were doing and had to zone them out as well. Just keep going, and listen to Kevin.

I then relaxed a little and started to enjoy it, my arms and hands were holding up fine and I moved one leg or the other a bit every time I said lead, and the pattern of slow ringing then faster ringing started to feel good and I was thinking we’d maybe done an hour when Kevin said “about 40 minutes to go, keep going” and I couldn’t believe that much time had gone already. Wow ! It seemed a short time later when he said “20 minutes left” and I started to think that even though my left knee was sore we could actually do this. That 20 minutes seemed to last more than an hour, and we had a slight wobble with 10 minutes to go where the gaps between the bells weren’t quite right but Kevin showed me exactly why you need a conductor and all was soon sounding correct again.

Finally after 2 hours and 48 minutes I heard those immortal words “that’s all”. Never has anything Kevin said sounded so sweet and welcome (to me, anyhow). We stood. I fell. My left knee required some movement, then we got the bells down, and took a photo as a momento. We went down to the church and discovered that the “mice” had actually been people and they had decorated the church for Christmas whilst we had been ringing and it was delightful.

I have to say that having such a strong band helped me immeasurably and I have to thank them all for being a part of it, and in particular Chris, Kevin and Richard for their never ending help teaching me. I can’t wait for the next one, hopefully on an inside rope!

Jeremy Knowles