Learning The Ropes: Achievement Award

Winner: Benjy Mallard

Benjy has zoomed from a passable rounds ringer on light dumbbells to a steady tenor ringer at a 21cwt tower and confident Cambridge Minor ringer. However, it is not just his skill on the rope that has prompted this nomination but his attitude to ringing, to learning, to helping others and his commitment to supporting the band.

Within two weeks of resuming ringing in September, Benjy was willing to have a go at ringing quarter peals, tenoring and trebling to minimus. Seeing others ringing methods he asked how to best practise methods so he could progress and he downloaded Mobel for his phone and was soon learning methods far beyond his current handling capability.

Once he had got the hang of trebling to doubles he had obviously let ringing into his very soul. He started ringing at the Town Church (TC), 21cwt eight and quickly (over a 1.5 hour practice) had adjusted his handling to cope with the much heavier bells compared to the Saxilby simulators at school (EC). By the October half term his striking was of high enough standard to apply for and secure a Youth Bellringing Scholarship at TC and he was ringing mad enough to agree to ring a peal!

It was his quarter peal inside to PB5 that was the turning point. He rang it beautifully, didn’t put a blow wrong and you could see the understanding growing behind his eyes as each extend was completed. Within 10 days he had rung his first quarter peal of minor and called his first quarter peal! By this point he had also learnt St Simon’s Doubles and Cambridge Minor. Benjy was just as keen to ring quarter peals for his peers to achieve their firsts and his commitment to service ringing, both for school carol services at the end of term and all the extra services at Town Church, has been exceptional.

On Christmas Eve we rang at 3pm for a Crib service and again at 10.45pm for midnight mass. At the crib service ringing I called for Grandsire which Benjy has never looked at before so he took the treble. During that service ringing there was only one touch that he didn’t ring in and in that time he had looked up Grandsire and learnt it. Having seen already (with St Simon’s and Cambridge) his ability to learn a method and ring it accurately first time we suggested he could have a go that evening at midnight mass. He turned up at 10.45 having looked up the bobs AND singles on the internet and having practiced on Mobel. We had 7 ringers so I stood behind him expecting to talk him through the touch; the only time I had to speak was to correct another ringer who should be dodging with Benjy! All our jaws dropped.

I finally managed to arrange his quarter peal of Cambridge Minor and it was delightfully uneventful. I gave him a couple of reassuring nods at most.

At our latest TC practice he took the treble for half a course of Cambridge Major for the first time and struck it nicely. He tells me he has learnt the line and given how well he rang the treble I will be pleased to let him try the method next week! I must add that his treble to Cambridge Major would have been only the fourth time he has rung a method on 8 bells. Nothing seems to phase him!

You might be wondering why a lad who had only just quartered Plain Bob Doubles dived into Cambridge next – you can blame one of our other youths for encouraging him, half-jokingly, to have a crack at it. And he did!

I hope that this rambling tale has illustrated the character of this young man. He comes to three practices a week (EC practice on Saxilbies, EC practice on mini-ring, TC practice night) and TC Sunday service ringing. He also turns out for any quarter peals, extra services and practices that I ask him for. He helps his peers, he teaches handling (on the simulators and mini-ring) if a new student turns up. He has run the mini-ring practice when I’ve had meetings. He has learnt to call called-changes and touches of Plain Bob. He puts in the time and effort to both learn methods and practice them on Mobel so when he’s in the tower (both simulators and real bells) he rings a method beautifully the first time he tries. The only thing holding Benjy back is availability of the rest of the band otherwise I’ve no doubt he would be scoring a ‘first in’ footnote every day of the week.

I wondered if Benjy was just a naturally talented ringer, with plain hunt encoded in his DNA. I don’t think so! It took 2 months to get the handling really sorted on easy simulator bells – he got there by putting in time and effort and listening to advice very carefully. He doesn’t just learn methods to impress, he learns the ones the rest of us are ringing so he can join in and he puts in hours of practice so that doesn’t let the band down. He is outwardly focused as a ringer and very much has a team sense of mind and not just a self-centred desire to progress and it is for this reason predominantly that I have been motivated to hastily write this nomination to commend both his progress in such a short time frame and his attitude and commitment to all aspect of ringing.

Sponsored by the Ancient Society of College Youths


Winner: Benjy Mallard

Highly Commended: James Ellis and George Ellis, Sarah Robbins and Dominic Johnson

Nominated by: Duncan Loweth