The Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild celebrated its diamond jubilee on Saturday, when the annual festival was held at Ryde, Isle of Wight. There was a large attendance of members from all parts of the two dioceses, and although some of those who came from the mainland found crossing not a very comfortable process in the peak of holiday traffic, and some had to stand by and watch crowded boats go out before they were able to get aboard, the success of the meeting more than made up for any inconvenience suffered. The festival was notable for the fact that not only was the Guild privileged to have the Bishop of Portsmouth as preacher at the festival service, but his lordship also presided over the business meeting, the first time, so far as can be remembered, that the Guild has had a Bishop in the chair during the transaction of its business.
The service in All Saints' Church was conducted by the Rector of Ryde and the singing was led by a full choir.
The Bishop, in his address, referred to the ministry of the bells and to the important part which church bells played in the life of the nation and the parish. He said he could not conceive what England would be like if the bells were stopped and could not be heard over the countryside, or across the hills and valleys calling to evensong. There would be a great emptiness in our lives, he said, if that happened. It gave those whose business it was to lead in Church affairs much pleasure and much happiness to think that so many Christian men and women gave up their time and effort to this real bit of Christian work, bringing happiness and joy and comfort into the hearts and minds of endless people up and down England. He hoped, when they stood in their towers, they would think not only of the scientific succession of changes upon which they were intent, but sometimes also of the great and good God in whose honour they were ringing, for the comfort and happiness of humble souls in dark and dreary streets, in the cottages in the countryside, in the mansions of the rich and in the palaces of kings. Let that be their incentive and their aspiration, too.
The Bishop reminded the ringers of the changed conditions in the towers and said in these days ringers recognised that in the belfries there should be reverence and devotion, and that their calling should be exemplified in their lives. He was, he said, still reminded sometimes that ringers who rang for a service walked away from the church when the ringing was finished. That was an unfortunate thing. It was also an unfortunate thing that there were clergy who never went into the ringing room. He had usually made a practice himself of going to the tower, and in that way had been brought into contact with men whom he would otherwise have known nothing about. He thought it was a good thing that as many clergy as possible should learn change ringing, so that they might join their brothers as ringers in calling people to church. The Bishop closed by exhorting his hearers to live up to their vocation so that the names of the ringers should rank high in the parish and their conduct be an example to those who heard them ring.
A party, numbering 130, sat down to tea at the invitation of the Guild.
The Bishop of Portsmouth presided at the subsequent meeting, and was supported by the Archdeacon of Newport, the vice-president and Master of the Guild (Mr. G. Williams), the hon. secretary (Mr. F. W. Roger), the Vicars of Newport and Carisbrooke, etc. At the outset the Master welcomed the distinguished visitors, and specially mentioned the presence of Mr. Charman, of the Sussex County Association, Mr. J. S. Goldsmith, of "The Ringing World," and Mr. G. Coombs, who, at the age of 96, was the oldest ringing member of the Guild.
The Bishop, in reply to the welcome, expressed his pleasure at meeting the members of the Guild and said he and the other clergy present appreciated the Guild's invitation to be present on the occasion of their diamond jubilee. Referring to the presence of the "young fellow" of 96, he recalled the quotation, "Kind words can never die," and said he thought they ought to read, "Kind ringers can never die" (laughter). When he looked round on those old gentlemen and ladies of 12 and 14 years who were present he thought some day in the future one of his successors might have to welcome somebody well past the century. It might, perhaps, be his friend on his right (Mr. Williams) (applause),
The Bishop went on to say how much he and his brother clergy appreciated the friendly relationship which existed between them and the ringers. One of the astonishing things of modern churchmanship was the way in which church men and women had found out that it was not only the parson's duty to work on behalf of the church and religion, but that it was the privilege of the laity to work also. The ringing of church bells was a very important part of church work and he need not remind them of the rubric, which said that a bell must be rung immediately before a service. Recently in connection with a new housing estate there had been some little trouble about the use of a church bell, because some people did not like bells and thought they were a nuisance. There, they had to come to a compromise, but it was very doubtful indeed whether anyone could object successfully to the ringing of bells before morning and evening service. It was a rubric and a, rubric was a law of the land. "We are parsons and ringers," said the Bishop; "they cannot do without us and we won't go" (laughter). He concluded with good wishes to the Guild for the future and congratulated the diocese upon having such an active and efficient body of ringers.
Among the apologies received was one from the hon. treasurer (Mr. H. Barton), one from the Southampton district secretary (Mr. G. Pullinger) on account of the illness of his wife, and another from Mr. Jennings, who was in hospital. At the suggestion of the chairman, it was decided to send letters of sympathy and good wishes, for speedy convalescence, to the sick.
A letter from the hon. secretary of the Sussex County Association conveyed the good wishes of that association to the Guild upon its sixtieth anniversary, and similar congratulations came from Mr. T. Trollope, of Oxford, who mentioned that he was present at a meeting of the Winchester Guild held at Ryde in 1889, when he was a member of the band at Twyford, near Winchester.
The accounts, which had been printed and circulated, were adopted. They showed that the balances in hand were £244, against £236 2s. 8d. in the previous year. The receipts amounted to £129 3s. 7d., including £45 11s. 7d. from 175 hon. members and £68 16s. paid by 699 ringing members. Among the items of expenditure was £15 6s. 6d. in grants to bell restorations.
A joint report by the Guild's representatives on the Central Council was presented, in which they reviewed the business transacted at the Whitsuntide meeting, and reminded the members that the Council was always grateful for books and documents which could be added to its library. At the meeting the Council acknowledged the gift of a large number of association reports of some 30 societies, covering a period from 1881, which it was hoped would form a valuable basis for a collection, should the Council ever decide upon making one. The representatives of the Winchester Guild suggested the Guild might consider it a privilege, if it were possible, to make a gift to the Council of a complete set of their own reports towards this object. With regard to the publication of the Surprise Major book, the Guild, in accordance with its decision at the last annual meeting, had been able to inform the Council that they would take the full quota of twelve copies, at a cost of 33s. The report emphasised what had been said in the Council meeting that conductors of peals should take every care that reports sent for publication in "The Ringing World" should be accurate and complete. With regard to collection of details concerning old peal boards, the report asked members of the Guild who knew of the existence of peal boards relating to peals rung up to the year 1825, and who had not informed the secretary of the particulars, to let him have the details at once. The report also set out the conclusions of the Standing Committee on the use of mechanical substitutes for bells, which are to be sent to every Diocesan Advisory Committee in the country.
The Hon. Secretary said with regard to the suggestion that the Guild should present copies of its annual reports to the Council Library the difficulty was that they had not got a complete set. It was, however, possible that between them they could get one together. If they could do this the copies could be bound and given to the Council. He proposed that this should be done.- Mr. Upton seconded.
The Bishop emphasised that by carrying out this suggestion the members would be doing a valuable public service. He did not like giving up old things and he thought many other members of the Council were the same, but they would be doing a public service by relinquishing these reports if they had them. It would be better far to give them now than to hang on to them and let them be destroyed after they were gone by someone who did not value the reports. If they were presented to the Council they would be kept for good.
The proposal to endeavour to make up a complete collection of the reports and present them, bound, to the Council was agreed to, and the representatives were thanked for their report.
All the officers were re-elected en bloc, viz.: Master, Mr. George Williams; hon. secretary, Mr. F. W. Rogers; hon. treasurer, Mr. H. Barton; recorder of peals, Mr. R. A. Reed; auditor, Mr. G. Smith.
A motion stood on the agenda in the name of Mr. G. Pullinger to alter the rule with regard to the allowance for out-of-pocket expenses to the representatives attending Central Council meetings. It was proposed to substitute for the words "necessary out-of-pocket expenses" the words "third class monthly return fare and ten shillings." In the absence of Mr. Pullinger this was moved by Mr. Stone and seconded by Mr. W. Andrews.
Considerable discussion ensued, in the course of which it was pointed out that a sum of 10s. sustenance allowance was totally inadequate when the meeting was held in some place which necessitated absence from home for two or, perhaps, three days. Eventually the motion was amended to read "third class monthly return fare and not more than 10s. per day for a maximum of three days." This was carried with one dissentient.
A member suggested that provision ought to be made to refund to any representative any loss he sustained by loss of time at work.
The Chairman, in the absence of a definite proposition, ruled this out of order, but said he had every sympathy with the idea. When a working man had a claim to represent the Guild on the Council he should not be debarred from lack of means, but he thought that, as they had settled the matter so far, it would be better if the proposer put down a resolution for the next annual general meeting.
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, it was decided to hold the next annual meeting at Bournemouth on the first Saturday in July, 1940.
The Hon. Secretary said last year a sub-committee was appointed to go into the question of the restoration of the Rayner tomb at Arreton, Isle of Wight. There was some difficulty about the matter, as the tomb contained a long inscription, much of which did not relate to Henry Rayner, but to members of his family, and it was suggested that the matter be adjourned for another year, so that the officers of the Guild might consult further with the sub-committee.- This course was agreed to.
The Executive' Committee reported that an application had been received from St. Michael's, Basingstoke, for a grant from the Special Purposes Fund to wipe off the balance of the cost of the restoration of the bells at St. Michael's, Basingstoke, and the committee recommended that the balance of £12 5s. be paid.
Major Stilwell (district secretary) supported the proposal, and it was pointed out that it was at this church 60 years ago that the Guild was formed.
The recommendation was agreed to.
Mr. J. S. Goldsmith, on behalf of the Guildford Diocesan Guild extended the congratulations and good wishes of the daughter Guild to its parent upon its diamond jubilee.
The Rev. N. C. Woods referred to the serious illness of Mr. J. W. Elkins, senior Dean's verger at Winchester Cathedral and an hon. member of the Guild. He had suddenly broken down and there was little hope of his life being prolonged for many days.
The Bishop asked the members to remember Mr. Elkins in their prayers.
The Master was about to propose a vote of thanks to the Bishop at the close of the business, when the chairman interrupted to remark that Bishops were not allowed to be thanked for presiding at meetings.
Ringing took place during the afternoon and evening on the fart peal at All Saints' Church, the variety extending from rounds to spliced Surprise Major.
The Ringing World No. 1476, July 7th, 1939, pages 433 to 434