Christmas 2011 – some notable firsts

St. Dunstan’s current band began ringing for Sunday morning services in November 2007. Since then the band has been growing and improving its skills at a steady pace. In early days we weren’t able to muster a band every Sunday, but now we rarely miss one. The Sundays when we ring more than 6 bells are becoming more frequent, too. It’s all very encouraging.

However, because our band – like much of London’s population – comes from elsewhere, we are often too short of band members to ring at Christmas, as ringers journey elsewhere in the UK or the world to celebrate with family.

This year for the first time we were able to ring six bells on Christmas morning – and, some other ‘firsts’ complement this notable achievement.

On Christmas Eve Elizabeth rang ‘Joy to the World’ on the Ellecombe chimes, along with her usual Rounds, Queens and Tittums, the first time she has employed the Ellecombe’s most obvious capability of ringing tunes. But the Ellecombe being a softer-sounding and less satisfying substitute for the ‘real thing’ we were very pleased to accept an offer of help from Bermondsey ringers on Christmas morning.

With insufficient numbers south of the river too, Bermondsey offered to join forces with us, enabling a band of seven to gather at Stepney Christmas morning. Alison Hammond, Andrew Larsen, Simon Fraser, Roger Booth and Drew Booth joined Ed Bucknall and Elizabeth to ring rounds and called changes on the front 6 bells. For many of the newer ringers of both bands it was their first time ringing on Christmas morning.

A big day for several of us then, but one with even more significance for Drew Booth, aged just 10. Drew has been learning to ring for just a few months under the tutelage of his father at Bermondsey, a much lighter set of bells than Stepney’s. On Christmas morning not only did Drew ring for the first time at Stepney (under his father’s watchful eye and with his assistance), he also rang our treble – though our lightest bell, at 6-2-0 (728 lbs or 331 kilos), it’s the heaviest bell he’s rung yet.

Well done, Drew and thank you to all the ringers who travelled from south of the river to help St. Dunstan’s bells ring out on Christmas morning 2011.