Over the past six months, I have been learning to ring at Wellington Cathedral, New Zealand. It has been such a wonderful experience - one that I never imagined when I first started, on January the 19th!
My first day was quite nerve racking. I was greeted downstairs by my soon-to-be mentor, Derek Williams, a nice old chap from Oswestry. We went up the lift (yes, a lift, so that we’re spared from the pre-ringing workout), and I entered the vast expanse that is the ringing room. I met some nice people, and we got started on the mini-ring. My heart was thumping rapidly all this time, mind you. Within no time I could handle a mini-ring bell, and I was already getting into the basics, Rounds, changing places and so on. Many people said that I was quick to progress ... a trend which certainly continued!
My progress increased rapidly after several handling sessions with my teacher and multiple practice nights. I could soon ring rounds on tower bells, but to my embarrassment, I just couldn’t understand call changes for ages. So, very unusually, I went down the path of method ringing!
First to be learnt was College Bob. Explanations were mostly good, but my teacher unfortunately dumped a whole lot of terminology on me without explaining what it meant (sound familiar anyone?) Lots of things just ‘came to me’, I guess, like ropesight, and seeing the treble and it’s magical path. Before then, Terry, our dedicated treble ringer, must have felt very neglected, as I barely even glanced in the treble’s direction.
After breaking a stay and feeling like crap for the rest of the night, and a lot of quarter peals on the Treble and Tenor covering, I moved on to Plain Bob Doubles inside. I handled that reasonably well but 3-4 down dodges were my absolute nemesis. I just kept missing them. I can imagine all the other ringers thinking: “Watch out, Dylan’s about to dodge, more appropriately crash, 3-4 down”. Once, Derek even had the audacity to say, “Missed your dodge, as usual”, much to the amusement of the others.
There were a lot of good moments and certainly lots of struggles while I was learning. After four more months, I got to where I am today, ringing regular quarter peals of spliced Minor, and Plain and Treble Dodging Major on tower bells and our very handy mini-ring. I never thought that I would be at this stage so quickly. I have no one else to thank other than my absolutely amazing teacher, Derek, and ‘co-teacher’ Gerald McIllhone, who keeps our ringing extremely interesting with plenty of new methods, variations, and his own compositions.In Wellington, you never get to rest on your laurels ... quote, unquote, Ruth Lightbourne (I can’t have favourites but If I could she’d be one of them.) Gerald certainly makes ringing, method wise, far, far more interesting! The other ringers have also been incredibly kind, supportive, encouraging, and absolutely amazing people to know. I have no words to describe how lovely it has been to learn and ring with such a wonderful band, I would never, ever have a different band for the world. It was certainly one of my better decisions to learn to ring at Wellington Cathedral.