In the area of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild it has been thought desirable to suspend all activities while the ban on the ringing of church bells lasts and the danger of air-raids remains. The organisation of the Guild will, of course, remain in being, and there is to be an annual meeting called next year. The decision was arrived at by the members at the general meeting last Saturday, although the resolution only formally recognised what had actually been the state of affairs for a year or more. At first sight it seems a pity that the Guild which covers so wide an area should decide upon what looks like a policy of surrender to conditions which other associations are cheerfully endeavouring to overcome. Admittedly the season is now approaching, with long nights and early black-out, when there is little possibility of holding meetings, but we believe this is the first instance of an association officially abandoning all activity and putting up the shutters so completely.
Some excuse may be found for the Guild, apart from the loss of members which it shares in common with all other ringing organisations. Part of the area the Guild covers is one of the most vulnerable in the country, and the centre of its past activities has been in that strip of Hampshire which has suffered most at enemy hands. The risks of holding a gathering in that part of the county are therefore greater than in some other places, and winter meetings may be considered impossible. On the other hand, in the territory farther removed from the sea, enthusiasm has long been less marked, and cannot, we suppose, be expected to rise to fresh heights when there are no bells to ring. Between risks in one part and indifference in the other, the Guild has decided there is little hope of carrying on, and it is going into hibernation until, some time next year, the members will be asked to come together again to transact the business of the annual meeting required by the rules.
So completely are the Guild activities to be put aside that not only is there to be no annual report or balance sheet printed until after the war, but the rule requiring the payment of subscription by December 31st is to be suspended. This, of course, will keep the names on the roll, and a Guild with funds of over £200 and few, if any, expenses, can be expected to carry on in name for a long time, but on the face of it the whole policy looks very much like a defeatist attitude. And yet there are indications that the Guild still has life. An attendance of sixty, drawn from a wide area, at last week’s meeting shows that the Guild is by no means dead, and that, in all probability, a few optimists might keep the spark of life in being, but on last Saturday’s decision how will they answer if in days to come they are asked, ‘What did you do to keep the flag of ringing flying?’ At the moment the flag has been struck, and how long it will be before it goes up to the masthead again no one can say. It will not he yet, unless some miracle happens. In reply to a letter forwarded from the Doncaster and District Society the Minister of Home Security (Mr. Herbert Morrison) has said, ‘Unfortunately the threat of invasion remains, and as the circumstances are the same as a year ago when the Church Bell Order was made, I cannot recommend any amendment of the Order.’
But one ray of hope stands out. The veteran Master of the Guild has set an example to other towers. Most of the older members of his band are dispersed, but he has gathered round him a group of youngsters who meet Sunday by Sunday, ‘bells or no bells,’ and have a weekly handbell practice. That is the spirit to keep the art alive. North Stoneham is in the vulnerable part of the area, and if this sort of thing is possible there it ought to be possible elsewhere where the towers are left standing. The recommendations of the executive committee, which were accepted by last Saturday’s meeting, were passed last November, when the Battle of Britain had only just been fought, and the onslaught on our coastal areas was at its height. The outlook then was different, and doubtless had its influence on the committee in coming to their decision. It is true there are still risks, but it was a pity officially to discourage the maintenance of life in those areas where something might even in these days have been close to keep up the interest of the members.
The Ringing World No. 1590, September 12th, 1941, pages 433 to 434
ACTIVITIES TO BE SUSPENDED.
A fateful decision was taken at the annual meeting of the Winchester and Portsmouth Diocesan Guild on Saturday, when it was resolved to approve various recommendations of the Executive Committee suspending the activities of the Guild in all the districts. The recommendations were drawn up last November, and, as far as they affected the conduct of the Guild’s affairs, had been acted upon since. The meeting last week at Winchester confirmed this course of action.
The Master of the Guild (Mr. George Williams) presided over an attendance of some 60 members from all parts of the diocese, from Christchurch in the west to Petersfield in the east, from Basingstoke in the north to the Isle of Wight in the south. The chairman was supported by the hon. secretary (Mr. F. W. Rogers) and the acting treasurer (Mr. W. Linter).
LOWER MEMBERSHIP, BUT INCREASED BALANCE.
The meeting resolved to send a congratulatory letter to Mr. G. H. Coombes, of Ryde, the oldest member of the Guild, who at the age of 96 is still hale and hearty.
Among the apologies received was one from the Rev. N. C. Woods, chairman of the Winchester District, and now at St. John’s Vicarage, Ladbrooke Grove, London, who sent his greetings and good wishes.
Mr. W. Linter, acting hon. treasurer, presented the balance sheet and statement of accounts for the year 1940. It showed that the year began with a balance in hand of £219 5s. 5d. including £93 1s. 1d. retained by the districts. The receipts included subscriptions from 92 honorary members amounting to £24 11s., and from 420 ringing members £41 4s., one new life member £2 2s., and an arrear of 2s.; £4 2s. was received in interest from the Post Office Savings Bank for 1939 and 1940, the total receipt s being £73 18s. 7d. Among the items of expenditure was £17 14s. for printing the previous year’s report. The balance in hand had risen to £237 9s. including £80 from the district balances which had been invested in War Savings; the net increase on the year being £18 3s. 7d.
Mr. Linter, in giving some comparative figures of membership, said in 1939 they had 139 honorary members, but in 1940 only 92. They had 686 full ringing members in 1939, but only 420 in 1940. In 1939 they elected 39 compounding members, but in 1940 only eight.
The balance sheet was adopted on the motion of Mr. R. Brown, who congratulated the Guild on the result in very difficult year.
The Hon. Secretary thanked Mr. Linter for his services in connection with the accounts. Owing to the death of the late treasurer, Mr. H. Barton, they were somewhat at ‘sixes and sevens,’ and they wondered how they could get hold of someone to undertake to visit Mr. Barton’s executors at Ventnor. The Guild was indebted to Mr. Linter for stepping into the breach and extricating the Guild’s finances in the way he had done.
Later a vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Linter for his services.
The report of the Peal Recorder (Mr. R. A. Reed, now in the Royal Air Force) was read by the hon. secretary. Seven peals were rung before the ban put an end to church bell ringing, three of them having been by the young band at St. Michael’s, Basingstoke.
The Hon. Secretary reported that the future of the Guild’s activities was discussed at a special meeting of the Executive Committee on November 9th, and it was decided to ask the general meeting to say whether they should carry on under war-time conditions. The feeling of the committee was that, at least until the ban was lifted and the risk of air raids less serious, they could not advise the resumption of district meetings. Fifteen members of the committee were present, representing six out of the eight districts, and the committee made the following report:-
The various aspects of the Guild’s activities were discussed, in the light of war conditions, and the following decision were reached, with a recommendation to the districts for their adoption:-
Guild meetings.- Until the ban is lifted on church bell ringing, and the danger of air raids less serious, the committee does not see how to recommend the resumption of any district meetings.
District accounts.- (a) That the district accounts be balanced up for 1940, and annually for the duration of the war, and added to any balance that may be in the hands of the respective secretaries, after which three-quarters (75 per cent.) of these amounts be deposited in the general treasurer’s account on deposit at the Post Office. These moneys will remain in this account until such times as the district secretaries may require them again. This will not only help the ‘war effort,’ but will be safely invested. (b) That in view of the fact it is considered impracticable to hold any district meetings, the Executive Committee directs that the district secretaries balance their accounts for 1940, and annually for the duration of the war, have them duly audited and signed by the district auditor and representative(s) without submission to the usual annual district meeting, and then forward the appropriate balance to the general treasurer not later than February 14th of each following year.
A RULE SUSPENDED.
Membership.- It was felt by the committee that many members, both honorary and ringing, could not see their way clear to continue their financial support, and in order to retain their membership it was decided that, for the duration of the war, Rule 6, Paragraph 4, be suspended. It is hoped, however, that those more fortunately placed will continue to give their financial support.
In making these recommendations, which, the committee feel, is to the best advantage of the Guild, it is hoped that if and when the situation permits, a return can be made to normal conditions in the districts.
Rule 6, Paragraph 4, referred to in the report, provides that a member who fails to pay his subscription for any year by December 31st shall be deemed to have withdrawn from the Guild.
The Hon. Secretary pointed out that the 1940 accounts were drawn up under the altered rule.
The meeting confirmed the committee’s recommendation.
On the motion of Mr. Wilfred Andrews, seconded by Mr. W. Tucker, the Master (Mr. G. Williams), the hon. secretary (Mr. F. W. Rogers) and the peals recorder (Mr. R. A. Reed) were re-elected, and Mr. W. Linter was elected hon. treasurer.
In acknowledging his election, Mr. Rogers, as it is not possible to hold district meetings, appealed to the members to continue their support of the Guild. As there is no ringing, he said, there is no incentive to do anything, but they should realise that the war will end some time and they would be able to resume their activities. He asked the members to continue to give their support to the Guild and rally round the officers so that when the time came they could get together again.
It was decided to elect the four representatives to the Central Council to which the Guild is entitled, and the following were appointed : Messrs. G. Williams, F. W. Rogers and G. Pullinger (reappointed) and W. Andrews (to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. H. Barton).
On the question of the place and date of the next annual meeting, Mr. Pullinger moved that it be left to the Master, hon. treasurer and hon. secretary to decide. It was useless, he said, to decide at that meeting something which they might next year find it impossible to carry out.- Mr. R. Brown seconded.
Mr. W. Tucker moved an amendment that the meeting be held at Winchester, whatever happened. ‘I am not a pessimist,’ he added.- Mr. J. W. Faithfull seconded.
The amendment was carried, but the date of the meeting was left to the officers to decide.
NO ‘ANNUAL REPORT.’
Mr. Pullinger brought forward the question of printing an annual report for 1940, and moved ‘That the reports for 1940 and subsequent war years be not printed, but that the accounts and records be carefully preserved, and as soon as possible after the end of the war be published under one cover; that four copies of these records be made and distributed in different parts of the county for safety from enemy action.’ Apart from the shortage of paper, he said, there was the difficulty of distribution. If they didn’t print one copy for each member, the members who did not get them might feel aggrieved; if they did print them, there was the difficulty of finding the members, many of whom were in the Forces; others had been scattered through evacuation and other causes and they were out of touch with them. If the reports were left to the end of the war they would not lose anything, but after the war the combined reports would give them something from which to make a fresh start.
Mr. W. Melville seconded and the motion was supported by Mr. Faithfull, who said that the reports could only remain in the tower secretaries’ hands. In his own case he did not know where all his members were, and it was impossible to meet, as the tower went up in smoke and they lost everything.
The Master opposed Mr. Pullinger’s motion. He thought the records of the Guild should be kept up and a report in an abridged form published every year, as it was in the last war. At that time he was hon. secretary of the Guild and they printed a pamphlet of a few pages with the balance sheet and the names of the secretaries of the towers. He thought for a wealthy society like theirs not to print a report would make them look very small.
Mr. Melville said the circumstances of the last war and of this were very different. In the last war the towers were still open and a meeting place for the ringers every Sunday. Now, they didn’t meet at all and they could not get the reports into the hands of the members.
The Master said in his own tower (North Stoneham) they met nearly every Sunday, bells or no bells. It was true that many of them were young ringers, but they had handbell practice in most weeks. He hoped they would not let the reports lapse.
The Hon. Secretary said he sympathised with both sides. He did not want to see the reports dropped, but they had to realise that, perhaps, 75 per cent. would be left in tower secretaries’ hands and many would never reach the members.
The Hon. Treasurer supported the Master’s view. He thought there ought to be an annual report on their finances, especially for the hon. members. If they did not give them any report for four or five years they would begin to wonder where their money was going to. He thought they should try to keep in touch with their members, war or no war.
Mr. Pullinger, in replying to the discussion, said be was as anxious as anyone to keep things together, and he felt that if, as soon as peace came, the committee liked to go forward and publish a report it would be a start for them right away, and the reports would get into the hands of those whom they wanted to have them. He disagreed with the Master that they would ‘look small’ if they did not publish the report while the war was on. If they put the money into War Loan instead of spending it they would be looked upon as heroes. If they wished to do so they could have a typed copy of the accounts, and records placed in the hands of each district secretary. It would be an additional safeguard and the secretaries would have the documents to refer to at any time if necessary.
The motion was carried by 35 votes to 15.
Alfred Picknell, one of the Master’s young pupils at North Stoneham, was elected a member of the Guild.
This concluded the business, and tea was served in the meeting room.
Afterwards the members attended evensong in the Choir of the Cathedral at the spot where many Saxon kings were crowned. The hymns were ‘All people that on earth do dwell’ and ‘We love the place, O God.’ The preacher was Canon Brabant, who took for his text Numbers x., 7 and 8, and spoke of the religious and national uses of bells, their call to the people and the obligations of ringers.
Subsequently many of the ringers returned to the meeting room and indulged in handbell ringing, or watched it with interest.
The Ringing World No. 1590, September 12th, 1941, pages 439 and 441