Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thing 356 Bell Ringing (Campanology)

When I was small, Nana used to bring me and Thorny Wire down to Clancy's Strand by the river. Across the Shannon, St Mary's Cathedral, which was built in 1168 (I tend to love old stuff, historical stuff) used to ring out every day. It wasn't just gong-gong nonsense, it was proper bell ringing, in tune and in time. I'd actually forgotten about that sound until Monday night.

Campanology is the art of bell ringing. It's not just pulling on a rope, any idiot with a pair of hands and half a brain who started a stupid Project can do that. This is an art, and it has competitions, serious teams who practice every week, and it's one of the oldest forms of art in the world. Also, it's another thing that Limerick people apparently kick ass at doing. The St Mary's Cathedral Bell-Ringers just won the South Division competition like three days ago. They won the All-Ireland in 2008. The Redemptorists Bellringers are several times champions.

The lightest of the bells in St Mary's is six hundred weight. The top weight bell is just over a ton and a quarter. That photo down below is not sideways, it's a ton a quarter of bell, re cast in 1907 being swung from a rope down below. Check it... a ton and a quarter...
The way it works: Eight bells, the smallest is called the "treble", the heaviest is the "tenor". Teble's away first with all the others in order of weight following after. The leader then calls a change, inserting one of the later bells in before an earlier one. For example a call of six-two, would mean the number six ringer now changes his tempo and beat to fit in ahead of the number two ringer. After a while, another change is called. Hence the proper, in tune bell ringing that actually takes years of practice.

There's also a rhythm and this where yours truly falls down. Left hand to pull the rope, right hand to catch it, only on the upswing, and guide it down for the next pull. Or something to that effect. I think. Bless 'em, the Ringers in St Mary's were determined that I get it right. So they kept me going back up for practice over and over in between their ringing.

They have a set of practice bells. They're not in the next picture, the next one is me covering my ears to protect me from the sound of the tenor bell in St Mary's, with us standing right next to it...
These are the practice bells. And these are some of the St Mary's campanologists...
The sound of their ringing transported me back to being a child with Nana and Thorny Wire feeding the ducks and swans on the Shannon just by Curragower Falls. It's hard to explain. Things that I think are cool, are not really cool, most people think that they're daft and ridiculous, but I thought bell ringing was amazing. Not just the history of the church, or my own personal history, but the art and ease that these guys did a pretty complex job. The whole thing really.
Mind you, the narrow ass stairs was properly claustrophobic. Worth it for the view from the top. In Limerick and with nothing to do about the town; I highly recommend a visit to St Mary's Cathedral. It's cool. And by that I mean I think it's cool, and you may not.

1 comment:

  1. My friend, you did pretty good! An, hey, you write well too! Nice piece.