ECG - 40th Anniversary Peal Weekend - Saturday 24 February 2007
By David Maynard
It seemed appropriate to mark the 40th anniversary of the Exeter Colleges Guild with something special. Attempting a peal at Exeter Cathedral was the natural challenge to choose. The society had scored a peal of Grandsire Cinques there in 1987 to mark the twentieth anniversary year, and this represented the only twelve bell peal ever rung by the Guild. The need to start the peal after the end of Evensong precluded attempting the peal on Dinner Day, so a date was arranged for later in February.
A second peal was also arranged for the morning, involving people associated with the University and friends of the Guild. St Mark's, the original home of the ECG before the move to St David's, seemed the appropriate location. As arrangements progressed the opportunity for a reunion peal of the Harrison handbell gang also presented itself, and so a third peal attempt was included in the programme. Unfortunately the traditional venue was unavailable so Matt offered his spare bedroom in lieu of seminar room 171!
The Saturday morning was bright and sunny, and the first ECG peal at St Marks since the recent augmentation was scored in fine style. The two new trebles have bedded in well, and the new carpet in the ringing chamber has further improved the acoustics. The standard of ringing was good, with very few trips. Congratulations to Dominic Meredith on scoring his first ten bell peal. The composition selected was John Longridge's very neat 5075 which was a fitting tribute to our late Guild President and founding member. This was the first ECG peal of Caters on towerbells, the only other being Grandsire Caters on handbells in May 2005 - John Longridge's last peal. It was pleasing to note that three members of that band, as well as John's son Tom were ringing at St Marks.
Martin's Pie shop provided some much needed sustenance for the few ringers foolish enough to agree to ring in both peals, and with some trepidation the band assembled outside the ornate west front of Exeter Cathedral.
After a few courses the ringing settled down into a good rhythm. Worries that the difficulty of the world's second heaviest ring of bells would prove too much for a band not used to ringing together proved unfounded, and the peal was scored in 3h47. At no point was the success of the peal certain as the complexity of the final turning course kept everyone on their toes to the end. This was the first peal of Stedman by the Guild and only the second on twelve bells.
We retired to the White Hart for a much needed drink (or few!) and with the real achievement of the peal behind us, enjoyed a convivial evening. It was a really good chance for ringers from different periods of the Guild's history to get to know one another - for Bob Metcalfe, the Readings and the Tuckers (who joined us after their quarter peal day) this was the first time they had all met up since graduating in 1977! - and the traditional enthusiasm for beer and curry was satiated!
On Sunday afternoon the Harrison boys convened at Matt's house to attempt a handbell peal. After discussion about whether a wardrobe had been moved since our last rendez-vous in the spare bedroom we started for Double Norwich. A couple of very short false starts galvanised the concentration and another first for the Guild was scored. Special thanks must go to Rosie Green for her generous donation of chocolate ginger biscuits after the peal!
Congratulations to all those who took part, and especially to Matthew Hilling for organising and conducting the three peals. What new challenges can we take on for the fiftieth anniversary?