The 50th Annual Dinner - February 3rd - 5th 2017
Report by David Lay.
Exeter Colleges Guild - '50 Not Out'
The first week-end in February is a special time for those members, past and present, of the Exeter Colleges Guild of Bellringers. It is the time when the annual dinner takes place. This year, 2017, was 'extra special' because it was the 50th Anniversary Dinner.
Celebrations began on Friday 3rd February with some peal attempts. Kent TB Royal was successfully navigated on handbells in the morning. In the afternoon a mixed band ranging from those recently graduated through to those who graduated over 35 years ago gathered at St Mark's, Exeter, to ring a peal of 5050 Spliced Caters. Two hours and fifty six minutes and just a few minor hiccups later the peal came round and a commemorative photograph was taken.
More 'getting together' took place that evening in various hostelries in Exeter as people arrived from all over the country in readiness for the dinner.
Saturday morning ringing took place on the magnificent 12 at Crediton where methods from call-changes to Stedman Cinques were rung by a growing band of ringers. This was where the meetings of long lost friends began with the inevitable comments of "you haven't changed a bit" and "I would never have recognized you". In some cases people were meeting for the first time in over 30 years!
As bell ringers do, we then adjourned to the Crediton Inn for an excellent buffet lunch and liquid refreshment.
The afternoon entertainment was a more varied affair. Over fifty ringers, other halves and children assembled in St. David's, Exeter, and were split into five teams to undertake a tower bell striking competition; a treasure hunt to find clues which spelt the name of a ringing method (FRANCIS GENIUS DELIGHT if my team got it right); practice for tune ringing on hand bells (the competition to take place during the dinner); and gnome painting! Thank you to Ian Campbell for sitting in his car to judge the tower bells. Thus, brains slightly addled and hands speckled with paint, all then returned to their accommodation to don their glad rags for the evening.
As this dinner was the 50th, those attending were invited to wear something golden in celebration and some magnificent outfits were worn. One hundred and nine people descended on the Rougemount Hotel at 6.30 pm. in preparation for a commemorative photograph and to partake of an excellent meal. In one corner of the room was a looping slide show of photographs submitted by members dating from the earliest days of the guild to the current day and expertly set up by current guild president David Atkins. (Was my hair really that long? Did I ever wear flares like those?)
After the meal the final of the handbell tune ringing and the judging of the painted gnomes took place. These results were combined with those of the treasure hunt and tower bell competition. It was a draw between "The Presidents' Men" and "Norfolk-n-Chance"! The guest speaker was Tom Longridge, son of one of the founding members of the Guild, John Longridge. John is no longer with us, but the fact that the Guild and the annual dinners continue to thrive is in no small measure due to John's efforts. Evan Jones, Master, spoke about the activities of the current students over the previous year. Handbell touches of Surprise Royal and 16-in were rung before, finally, the origin of the 'daffodil toast' was explained by Simon Reading (along with suitable health warnings) and all graduated members munched their way through the very tasty daffodil head. Dancing to the ceilidh band, Buttoned-Up, then took place until midnight and a barrel of ale brought in for the evening was drunk dry.
Sunday brought, no doubt, a few sore heads. There was good attendance at Sunday service ringing at a number of Exeter towers before all coming together for coffee and lunch. The final event of the weekend was an invitation to ring for evening service at the Cathedral. By my reckoning almost forty ringers climbed up to the ringing chamber and some very nice ringing for all abilities was rounded off by a service touch of three leads of Yorkshire Maximus - a very fitting end to an excellent weekend.
Thanks are due to many people for organising such an excellent event but special thanks must be given to Matt Hilling who coordinated the weekend.
The weekend was great fun. Shall we do it again in another fifty years?