A unique (in my experience as a ringer) event took place in 2018. A new 6-bell tower was to be opened to commemorate the Centenary of World War One.I and the Irish Association were not needed for fund raising or recruitment but, and I quote, “Could you teach 17 new ringers for us please with a deadline of November 11th 2019.”
Following an incredible fund-raising campaign by the incumbent and parishioners in a place where no immediate tradition of bell ringing existed, the project was on course and here were 17 adults, male and female, all wanting to learn.
After an introductory visit to see bell ringing at a Northern District practice at St Mark’s Dundela and have a “wee go”, the next event was a special practice meeting in Ballylesson Drumbo where the recruits met those I’d chosen to instruct them.
Northern Ireland for various reasons was behind in the development of ART and I saw this as an opportunity to use the few ART instructors we alongside other very experienced and talented instructors in the District and get them all working towards a common aim. After establishing the availability of the 17 recruits for instruction, three groups were set up on different nights and in different locations. Initially these were in Bangor, St Thomas Belfast and Hillsborough. I instructed in St Thomas and Hillsborough in conjunction with Gaurang Patel and Simon Walker while Martin Yardley, Colin Holiday and Brian Hamilton taught in Bangor. After a while some of the Hillsborough and St Thomas groups were also offered a second location with some going to Carrickfergus on another different night.
The learners were all instructed using ART methods and registered on Learning the Ropes. With the lighter nature of the Kilmood bells in mind, having achieved a level of competence on large bells all teaching relocated to the six at Greyabbey to further develop skills. Eventually the Kilmood bells were installed in October and I’m pleased to say that following further intensive instruction in Kilmood all 17 recruits (none of whom dropped out !!!) were able to take part in the dedication service for the bells and later at the various Centenary events.
Since then, they now have attended two practice nights a week in two groups assisted by myself, Simon and Gaurang. In addition, some ringers also attend District practices and Bangor practices. It is hoped that they will all take all the opportunities that exist to spread their wings in other towers as time goes on.
I expect them all to pass their LtR Level 1 and be presented with their certificates when they join the Association at the District AGM. It’s difficult to get across the amount of enthusiasm these learners have and indeed the way they have assisted in re-invigorating the district as a whole. Furthermore, the non-ART but very experienced instructors who worked with me have agreed to start working towards accreditation in 2019 along with others of varying experience who are responsible for teaching in other towers. All in all, a very worthwhile experience which was enjoyed by all. I look forward to continued progression in 2019.