A DISTRICT PROBLEM.
The annual general meeting of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild attracted about a hundred members and visitors to Christchurch on Saturday week [July 2nd], and they spent a most enjoyable day in glorious weather. Full use was made of the opportunity of ringing on the twelve bells of the old Priory Church, the belfry having recently been enriched by the addition of four trebles, which, had been dedicated on the previous Wednesday. Many of the visitors tried their hand for the first time on a ring of twelve, and were proud of the experience. The ringing had perforce to be limited largely to courses of Stedman and Grandsire Cinques, but Plain Bob and Treble Bob Maximus were also rung, and everyone admired the very fine splice which Messrs. Taylor and Co. have made, for the magnificent back eight required some specially good companions if the peal was to be really properly balanced. The Loughborough founders have completed the task with characteristic skill, and, for their weight, the bells can be ranked as one of the finest augmented twelves in the country. It is interesting to note that there are now 15 bells in the tower, the other three being discarded members of the old ring. One of them, which was cracked a few years ago, is a relic of an attempt at welding, which failed to stand up to the strain of ringing, and cracked again so badly that it had to be replaced by a new bell. The other two are the trebles of the former ring of ten, which were much inferior in tone to the other eight, and have now been ‘retired,’ and will remain exhibits in the belfry.
The Guild’s business meeting was held in the Church Room, with Mr. G. Williams, the Master, in the chair. He welcomed the visitors, who included the Master of the Lincoln Diocesan Guild and Mrs. Richardson, Mr. E. C. Merritt (Brighton) and Mr. J. S. Goldsmith (hon. secretary of the Guildford Diocesan Guild, which is an off-shoot of the old Winchester Guild).
A letter was read from the hon. secretary of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild acknowledging the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild’s congratulations on the occasion of the Salisbury Guild jubilee, and expressing appreciation of the friendly relations which had subsisted between the two guilds from the very early stages and throughout the 50 years of the Salisbury Guild’s existence. He hoped the good fellowship and mutual co-operation between the two guilds would long continue.
The Master’s report showed that the year 1931 had been most successful financially, the total income for the year having exceeded £100. The number of members who had paid during the year included 136 honorary, 650 full, nine new compounding and one new life member. The sum of over £55 had been paid to the treasurer by the districts, and there was a balance of over £40 in the hands of the district secretaries. They had had extra heavy expenses, including the printing of new hymn sheets and new certificates, the latter amount would, however, have been much heavier but for the kind generosity of Mr. W. H. Fussell, of Slough, who designed the new certificate free of charge. The Guild offered their best thanks to Mr. Fussell. The annual district meetings had again been exceptionally well attended, and the hon. secretary of the Winchester District, Mr. G. Noice, and his sister deserved the special thanks of the Guild for the number of new members secured during the year. It was an uphill struggle to induce new towers to come in, but they gladly welcomed those who had done so. Three towers in the Andover district had come in under the affiliation scheme, and they would welcome more from all districts as a means of inducing the ringers attached to these towers to become members of the Guild. The Master went on to advocate a quarterly peal in each district to give an opportunity to any young enthusiasts who wish to take part the opportunity to do so. After referring to the various bell restorations and augmentations that had taken place in the dioceses, the Master thanked the members of the Guild for the gift presented to Mrs. Williams and himself on the occasion of their golden wedding, adding that it was a great pleasure to them to know that the interest he had taken in the Guild practically through the whole of its existence had been appreciated. The report concluded with a reference to the loss sustained by the death of the Rev. T. Salmon, of North Stoneham, and thanks to the honorary and life members of the Guild for their support and to all the officers for their kind co-operation.
The report was adopted, as was also the balance sheet, presented by the treasurer, the Rev. Evan Jones. The balance on the general account had been increased from £54 7s. 2d. to £56 18s. 5d., while the special purposes fund, which began with a balance of £20 1s. 7d., now had a balance of £25 10s. 4d., the receipts having included £2 2s. from life hon. members subscription, £5 transferred from current account and 8s. 9d. interest. The expenditure was £2 2s. to the Stedman Commemoration Fund.
The Rev. F. S. H. Marle advocated the transfer of a further £30 to the special purposes fund so that they might further help any towers in need of funds for restoration. He also referred to the fact that only one district - Andover - had produced any affiliation fees, and added that that was a pure accident. As a result, however, he felt it would not be very difficult to get the Parochial Church Councils of most of their towers to pay the affiliation fee, and he thought they should invite them to do so. By this means they could further strengthen the special purposes fund, and he thought that if parishes knew they could get help from this fund when they undertook restorations or augmentations, they would be even more ready to subscribe.
The Treasurer agreed that it would be advisable to strengthen the special purposes fund, but it was early yet to say how much they should vote to it. When the committee met at the end of November they would be in a better position to judge. With regard to the affiliation fees, this matter had cropped up again and again. It had proved a very difficult task, especially in these days when money was hard to come by. He had brought the matter up at his own Ruri-decanal Conference, but he found the parishes were not so ready to help. There were so many claims that the parishes had not the money to give.
The Hon. Secretary said they had never seriously tried to obtain these affiliation fees, and he thought they might endeavour to do so through the district secretaries. They had received practically nothing from this source up to the present, so they could not be worse off in that respect, while if they received the fees it would be an additional source of income.
Eventually it was resolved that the district secretaries should invite the Parochial Church Councils in their respective areas to pay the affiliation fee and report the result at the next annual meeting.
ADDITIONAL CENTRAL COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES.
The officers were re-elected en bloc as follows: Master, Mr. George Williams; hon. secretary, Mr. F. W. Rogers; hon. treasurer, the Rev. Evan Jones; recorder of peals, Mr. C. E. Bassett; auditor, Mr. G. Smith; representatives on the Central Council, Messrs. H. Barton and G. Williams.
The Hon. Secretary pointed out that the Guild was entitled to four representatives on the Central Council, and it had been suggested that they should elect four. He did not suppose that the necessity would arise when all four need attend the Council’s meeting, but there were times when one or other of their present members might not be able to attend, and it would be well that the Guild should have other representatives who could do so, so that they could make sure that they had at least two representatives present. Moreover, if the new rules for the Council were passed, they would have to pay for four members, even if they did not elect them.
It was agreed to elect two more representatives, and Messrs. G. Pullinger (a former secretary of the Guild) and Mr. F. W. Rogers (the present hon. secretary) were appointed.
A discussion ensued as to whether the new certificates should be presented free to new members or whether a small charge should be made for them. Mr. Wilfred Andrews considered that to give new members some sort of emblem of their membership would be an inducement to them to continue as members at a period when, having found the difficulties of the art, they were inclined to drop away. It was more difficult to retain members in their first year or two, and he believed the possession of the certificate would be an encouragement to them to become permanent members. Any cost to the Guild would quickly be wiped out by the additional membership.
The Master said the committee had discussed this matter, but could come to no decision, and, therefore, left it to the members to decide.
The Hon. Secretary said those who opposed the free issue of the certificates thought it would make the thing look cheap, whereas if a small charge were made for it it would be more valued. There was also the risk, if the certificates were given away haphazard, that they would fall into the hands of those who were not interested.
The Rev. F. S. H. Marle said the cost, threepence per copy, was small beside the fact that it would give the young ringer something to look at as a reminder of his membership of the Guild. It was, however, in his opinion, important that the Guild should retain its ownership of these certificates, so that if a man resigned they could claim it.
The Hon. Secretary said it would serve no purpose to reclaim it, because the man’s name would be on it.
The Hon. Treasurer said he was afraid if they gave the certificates away they would be throwing them away too cheaply.
The motion to issue the certificates free of cost was defeated.
It was unanimously resolved, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to elect Mr. W. H. Fussell to an honorary life membership of the Guild in recognition of his services.- Mr. Fussell, in writing to accept the committee’s offer, expressed his great appreciation of the distinction which the Guild had offered him. The work of designing the certificate had been a great pleasure to him.
Mr. R. G. Warwick, of Wickham, was elected an hon. member of the Guild, and Winchester was chosen for the next annual meeting, to be held on the first Saturday in July, 1933.
The committee recommended a grant of 5 guineas to the Davies Memorial Fund, the secretary pointing out that Mr. Davies was closely associated with the Winchester Guild, and rendered yeoman service as hon. secretary of the Basingstoke District.
TRANSFER OF TOWERS.
Considerable discussion ensued on a proposal to transfer the towers of Petersfield, East Meon, West Meon, Bramshott and Steep from the Portsmouth District to the Alton District, with a view to strengthening the latter, which has only 25 members, while Portsmouth has 140.
It was pointed out that all the towers mentioned were in favour of the transfer.
The Rev. A. S. Smithers (Portsmouth) said to transfer the parishes which were now in the Portsmouth diocese to a district which was in the Diocese of Winchester would be, he thought, contrary to the policy which was being pursued in the Diocese of Portsmouth. He knew the Guild covered the two dioceses and that there might seem to be no harm in transferring these parishes, but in practice things were rather different. It was important in starting a new diocese that they should generate a corporate feeling in the diocese and should hold the connection, as far as possible, in every form of church life with the centre of the diocese. He did not think in Winchester they quite appreciated the difficulties there were in a small and new diocese in generating the diocesan feeling. To transfer these towers meant that the ringers, instead of normally attending Portsmouth district meetings in the Portsmouth diocese, would attend Alton district meetings in the Diocese of Winchester. The Bishop of Portsmouth was anxious to foster the diocesan spirit in every direction in all the parishes of the diocese, and he felt the Bishop would be against this proposal. In any case, he thought they should take no action until the Bishop had been consulted. There was a considerable divergence of opinion at the district meeting, and he could not conceive there was the slightest necessity for the alteration.
Mr. Andrews pointed out that the Guild served the two dioceses, and the question of the diocesan spirit in Portsmouth as distinct from Winchester ought not to weigh with them very much. They ought to conform to the wishes of the towers.
A motion that the transfer of the towers should be made provided equal voting, 15 for and 15 against, many abstaining. A further resolution to the same effect, but in slightly different form, was put to the meeting and defeated by 16 votes to 15. A third motion that the matter should be considered at a special general meeting to be held later after the views of the Bishop of Portsmouth have been obtained was put and carried.
The Hon. Secretary brought forward the recommendation of the Central Council that everything possible should be done to increase the circulation of ‘The Ringing World,’ and urged the members to do their best to secure this result. He pointed out it would be a lamentable thing if ‘The Ringing World’ were to drop out of existence, and ringers should support it individually. He knew of a number of towers where only one copy was taken, and he instanced a case in which a rota was placed in the belfry showing the names of the members whose turn it was to pay for the paper each week. If sufficient additional support was given, the Editor had promised that a larger paper should be provided, so that many reports now crowded out would find a place. He hoped all the members of the Guild would back up Mr. Goldsmith and help to keep ‘The Ringing World’ going.
The Master supported the hon. secretary’s appeal. There were too many, he said, who took one copy for a tower and handed it round. It was this practice that kept the circulation down. They ought not to be satisfied until at least 50 or 60 per cent. of the ringers took a copy, and there were very few who could really say they could not afford to do so.
Mr. Goldsmith said the reason the appeal was being made throughout the associations was not merely to try and gain enough support to enable the paper to be enlarged and provide a fair remuneration for the work done, but to secure for the Exercise a journal in the future. He had continued the paper under the present conditions very largely because he had a deep love of the art, but when anything happened to him it might be very difficult to get it carried on unless it was an adequately paying proposition. The Exercise would be in a sorry position if it were left without a journal, and he hoped the appeal which was being made would have the desired result.
‘ON THE SHELF’
This concluded the business, and the members then attended special service in the Priory Church, which was conducted by the Vicar (Canon W. H. Gay), who also preached and welcomed the Guild to Christchurch. They were glad to receive them in Christchurch, he said, because they were a band of churchworkers engaged on a very prominent piece of churchwork, and also because, while Winchester and Portsmouth were now divided by diocesan walls, the ringers’ guild had remained united. From the diocesan point of view, they were working in different camps, but he was glad that, as a guild of ringers, they had decided not to sever the ancient ties. He was more especially glad to welcome the Guild because, as they knew, they had in the old Priory Church something of very special interest for them. Their tower had just received four new bells to complete the ring of twelve. It had been a ring of ten until a parishioner, a great lover of bells, offered him two additional bells from the funds of a trust which he controlled. It was then found that the addition would necessitate the recasting of the two existing treble bells, but another lover of bells came forward and offered to replace them with two entirely new ones, so that true harmony might be assured. They, therefore, had in their tower 15 bells, the ring of twelve and three on the shelf. His message to them that day was illustrated by the tower above them. The donors decided that their church was worthy of the very best, and in order that they might not risk having anything imperfect by recasting the old bells, they discarded and shelved the two trebles and two entirely new ones took their place. There was a parable for them. Church life was ever progressing, each generation was faced with new problems, new difficulties and new opportunities. As in the world of commerce old and antiquated machinery must be scrapped and new substituted, so it must be in a progressive church. The successful practice of their art was built up on team work, and the message of the bells could only be rung out true and harmonious as a result of regular attendance and conscientious practice, and, above all, their spiritual life should be in harmony with their call, for each man and each woman was not a mere unit tolling out a solitary sound, but the member of a team pulling together and proclaiming enthusiastically the Christian message, a message which might be expressed by five thousand and forty or fifty thousand and forty changes, yet was interpreted by one peal under the direction of one conductor, one master. Let them, therefore, remember that this team work demanded their earnest attention and their very best effort, not for their solitary selves, but for the sake of the whole peal, for the sake of others, and that there was such a thing as being de-toned and placed on the shelf and of another taking their place.
After the service tea was served in the picturesque grounds of the King’s Arms Hotel, with the ruins of the old Priory as a background. Among those who joined the members were the Vicar and the Mayor and Mayoress of Christchurch. The Vicar and the Mayor extended a welcome to the Guild, and a vote of thanks was accorded to them on the motion of Mr. F. W. Rogers, who also thanked Mr. George Preston, captain of the Christchurch ringers, for having made possible the success which had attended the gathering.
The Ringing World No. 1112, July 15th, 1932, pages 470 to 471