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West Lindsey Branch AGM, 17th January 2015


All Saints, Gainsborough; 8, 19cwt.

West Lindsey branch held its AGM on 17th January at the beautiful church of All Saints in Gainsborough. The weather joined in the spirit of ringing the changes and worked through spells of bright sunshine, a little snow and icy rain; but all was warm and cosy within. Some people seemed reluctant to ascend the tower, diverted perhaps by the tempting smells coming from the church kitchen and the warmth and comfort of the café in the old vestry, now St Michael’s Room named in honour of the former church of that name. Those who climbed the short spiral stair found a ringing room with an historic atmosphere. Peal boards both ancient and modern, some really huge grace the walls, and on each could be recognised the names of some of those present; although perhaps in one instance representing a former generation. It is an inspiring place and predates the body of the church by some 500 years. The ringing chamber has support for a fan vault; has it been removed or was it never built? A pity it is missing, it would have been the crowning glory.

Who pinched our fan vault?

These bells sound lovely and mellow and are easy to ring, reflecting recent work that has improved the handling. Unfortunately they are not often available and so there was a keenness to ring on the part of several first time visitors as well as a number who were last here before the improvements. Janet Clarke catered for everyone with her normal easy style of leadership and so we rang call changes as well as Plain Bob, Little Bob and Grandsire. One or two needed a little help with handling and it was good to see that these newcomers to our art were not daunted by the prospect of ringing on unknown bells and being watched by a large audience at a major branch meeting. They did well and seemed happy with their achievements. They were not even thrown by a new approach to calling changes; are jump changes really allowed now? All too soon Janet was selecting a band for the service touch; half a course of Cambridge Surprise Major. The 20 people who stayed upstairs to listen enjoyed the sound of smoothly struck changes leading unerringly to successful completion; a fine example of what we all aspire to.

The Rev. Canon Michael Cooney led some forty people through the Guild’s established form of service and there was singing of well-loved ringers hymns; although with several complaining of lingering colds it was perhaps a little less lusty than it might have been. Canon Cooney’s address included an amusing story of a new vicar challenging his flock to find an item to illustrate a Bible quotation; he being sure that he would identify every one. When a youngster appeared tightly clutching a box of sweets the vicar had to admit defeat, which led the lad to proclaim from Thessalonians, "Hold fast that which is good". There was an analogy here for us ringers, that we should value what we do and be steadfast in it. As it happens the preceding few words of the quotation are also apt for ringers; "Prove all things". The sweets that the vicar had used to illustrate his address he shared with us all as we went to tea.

The cafe in the church at Gainsborough.
Haxey and Messingham ringers enjoy their meal.

Our hosts at Gainsborough had obviously invested much time and effort in preparing the excellent hot meal that was on offer. The servery at the back of the church displayed Jacket potatoes and steaming pots of chicken & bacon in sauce, and chilli (both vegetarian and con carne) with attractive salads that we ate in the vestry café. Afterwards, to ensure we did not forget this was a Ringer’s Tea there was seconds of the chicken and chilli; and then cake; and then some more cake, and tea of course. No one went away less than replete.

Finally we had to adjourn to a meeting room for, well, a meeting. Melvyn Rose led us as branch President, but as he was one of those with a lingering cough warned us that if he lost his voice he would have to hand over to Ian Till, his "ventriloquist’s Dummy", who would speak for him. Melvyn did not lose his voice and so we never found out where he planned to put his hand! Ian seemed relieved.

Tracey Black & Melvyn Rose get the meeting organised.

The usual AGM business was dealt with smoothly and without dissent on any point. The reports of the Ringing Master and Treasurer showed a branch that is holding its own and doing well in some areas, although no-one is complacent and the need for innovation in several areas was mentioned, particularly with regard to our young people’s activities. The record of the year’s activity left us wondering how we ever had time for our homes and jobs; a reminder of the debt we owe to those who give so much of their time to see that all this planned activity actually happens. In spite of the huge commitment required all officers were prepared to stand again and the members were prepared to have them, so they were all re elected without opposition. One additional member was elected to the Committee, Edward Sellars of Haxey, a tower that is enjoying something of a renaissance in its ringing. There was a report on the Guild review but this was not the place for protracted discussion of its detail, although some comments were noted.

The more pressing business was the election of new members; Canon Michael Cooney of Gainsborough and Joy Smith of Messingham, and the presentation of certificates to Melanie Williams (Belton in Isle of Axholme), Lynda Whitehead ( Haxey) for their first quarter peals and to David Cooper(Epworth) for his first peal. Not many would choose to ring their first peal at Haxey, said Janet Clarke as she presented David with his certificate, but when it is to honour your dad’s 80th birthday and he has rung there for many of those years then you don’t have much choice.

The Eight Bell trophy.

Throughout the ringing and meeting the Henry Law James Shield was on display, this having been convincingly won by the branch at the Guild eight bell striking competition. Congratulations were formally accorded to the band that did the job so well; a mere 6½ faults seems pretty close to perfect.

Ian Till guides new member Joy Smith in rounds at Lea.

On closure of the meeting some 20 of us moved on to the pleasant six at the delightful church of St Helen at nearby Lea. Here there were further rounds, in which our new recruit, Joy Smith was involved. Others rang Stedman, Grandsire, Oxford Treble Bob and Norfolk Surprise. Finally there was a touch of spliced All Sorts, (those sweets again). Ian Till managed to squeeze Cambridge, St. Clements, Single and Double Oxford, Plain and Little Bob into a pleasant touch that brought the day to a fitting close.

Next years’ meeting will be at Epworth but we have plans for a very busy year before that.

Ted Steele

I would just like to say "Thank-you" to Ted for his write up. It's nice to have someone else contributing to the web - Webmaster