The meeting was honoured by the attendance of an ex-member from as far away as Johannesburg, John Hopwood, and other visitors from the Midlands and East Anglia. These ringers the Master (Mr. Kenneth Croft) welcomed in his opening speech and also informed the gathering of the receipt of a letter of congratulation from the niece of Miss Alice White (now Mrs. Sullivan and living in Canada) who is nearly 99 years old, the first lady ringer to ring a tower bell peal. This was indeed a reminder of the historic nature of the occasion. The immediate Past Master (Roger Savory) also sent congratulations from America, and added that he hoped to be back in England and “see us all in the Fall”. We hope that despite this Americanism he has not succumbed to total Americanization!
After the minutes had been read, approved after minor correction and had failed to stimulate any discussion, the reports of the various Guild officers were presented. These were printed in the annual report, copies of which the assiduous had remembered to bring but the dilatory had forgotten. These, too, the meeting found satisfactory, and even the report of the Treasurer (Mr. John Colliss) which, by its monetary nature might have rendered it susceptible to closer inspection by members, was deemed to be error-free and in need of no explanation. The Master thanked all the officers for, in his words, “work well done”.
Mr. Robert Cater, as the most junior C.C. representative, gave a concise report of the meeting held in Penzance. The matter which gave rise to most discussion was a peal of a Surprise Major method rung for the Guild with the name “Superlative Minor”, a name deemed unacceptable by the Council. The conductor of this peal (Mr. Roy le Marechal) feeling himself unable to handle the problems which he had spawned, availed himself of the agile intelligence of Mr. Tony Smith to present the case. Mr. Smith, acknowledging that the matter was not of interest to all members, gave a brief and lucid explanation of the problem. The matter now rests with the conductor, and if it is not, like the infamous Basingstoke affair, a thorn in the side of the Council, it could prove a minor (or major?) irritant. (Is one justified in thinking that the choice of name was not entirely ingenuous?)
The Trustees of the Bell Restoration Fund, in view of the requests for grants they had received and the healthy state of the fund, now standing at approximately £4,500, this year recommended the distribution of £1,000 amongst five towers. One tower, Ropley, was to be granted £150. but it appeared after some discussion that all the necessary money had been raised by local effort. Several members voiced concern that, in this case, we could not be assured that the grant from the BRF would go specifically to bell restoration as the rules of the fund demanded. In view of this, Ropley’s splendid local effort was praised and the grant that would have gone to that destination was distributed amongst the other towers whose need was more urgent.
Another matter of interest which arose from the discussion over grants, always a lively topic, was the matter of self-help on the part of the various towers. It appears that the Trustees take this matter into account to a certain amount when recommending grants. One member objected to any grant being given to one particular tower since it had not produced any money itself. This extreme view was strongly countered since the band in the tower in question was only just getting started, and the applause this riposte engendered showed the meeting’s rejection of any rigorist self-help policy.
THREE MONTHS’ NOTICE
Under “Any Other Business” Mr. Fred Collins raised the matter of elections. He would like to see, he said, a state of affairs where the membership had at least three months notice of the various officers’ intentions as to whether they were or were not willing to stand for re-election prior to the triennial elections. This would avoid the possible embarrassment of a meeting being unable to decide on, say, a new master if he (or she) unexpectedly decided not to stand. Mr. Graham Nabb replied to this, stating that when members came to such a meeting they should be aware of their responsibility of either re-electing officers or electing new ones. Mr. Collins’ proposal would detract from the responsibility which was ideally vested in the meeting as a whole. Mrs. Jessie Kippin (Chairman, Winchester District) stated that this was what she reminded her members until she was “blue in the face”, she said. The Master also strongly stated that officers were appointed to serve for three years and three years only, implying that no officer, or the meeting, had the right to assume his or her being re-elected: it was all up to the meeting at the time.
The meeting we had this year, if not outstandingly well attended, did seem to take the business seriously, with many members speaking on a variety of issues some of which have been described above. The Master chaired the meeting well, allowing, and indeed, positively encouraging discussion on all topics, even Superlative Minor S. Major. It is for this, namely the voicing of opinion on any relevant subject, that meetings are called, even if the result is a long agenda and a lengthy meeting. (This meeting had 19 points on the agenda and lasted some two and a quarter hours). This, however, is the sign of a Guild’s vitality.
A service was held afterwards, conducted by the Rev. Peter Robbins with the lesson, from Philippians, read by Mr. Jack Chesterman who had been taught ringing by Miss Alice White. The numbers had by now swelled considerably and after the service the Church disgorged its large gathering of ringers into the adjacent hall for the centenary tea. It is no discredit on this part of the proceedings to state that it was rather like a children’s birthday party. Guild members swirled eagerly around a central trestle-table which was a thesaurus of good things to eat. Delight upon delight was theirs when they discovered individually prepared jellies on a nearby table! If anyone was still hungry after the food tables had yielded up their burdens, there was still a gigantic Centenary Cake to be cut and eaten. This cake had been made and splendidly iced by the Royal Navy, and was cut according to a combination of ecclesiastical and military ritual, with the Bishop of Basingstoke in attendance the cutting implement being a naval sword, wielded jointly by the Master and Miss Julia Cater (8). the Guild’s youngest member
When all had received their statutory piece of cake, the ringers dispersed, some to the various towers and others, the organizers, to do the washing up. The cake, however, was not by any means finished off, and I suspect it may well find its way to more than one subsequent ringers’ gathering. You can’t get away from this Centenary business!
William S. Croft.
The Ringing World No. 3562, August 3, 1979, page 657