The Channel Islands District represents the youngest of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild, having become a separate District in its own right just six years ago. Since that time, many Guild members have visited the Islands and have attended Island events, but no official Guild function had ever taken place.
Two years ago the Master, Mrs. Gilian Davis, invited the Guild Executive Committee to consider holding a Channel Islands Festival, to embrace the three Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney. The idea was enthusiastically received, skeleton plans were laid over the next few months and approval given at the subsequent Annual Guild Meeting.
Credit undoubtedly goes to Michael Hilson, Secretary of the C.I. District, for the meticulous attention to detail in the planning and organisation and he was well supported by ringers in all three Islands. Booking arrangements were put into the hands of C.M.A. Ltd., whose friendly couriers were always on hand to ensure the smooth running of events. Individual packages were offered to ringers and their families, the bulk of whom flew from Southampton and Bournemouth Airports. Others sailed their own craft or travelled by Sealink.
The Festival was officially to last from Thursday 29 May until Sunday 1 June, but many ringers made it a holiday and booked in for a week or more. Amongst the early arrivals were a group of peal ringers who successfully rang peals at all towers in the District. In addition, quarter peals were scored and many "firsts" were achieved.
By Thursday, over 100 ringers from the U.K. had arrived at Guernsey, mostly members of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild but including some friends from other Guilds as well. The first event was an evening of Wine Tasting in St. Peter Port, followed by a "Get Together" to find out just who else was there.
On Friday, tower-grabbing tours were arranged. Coaches toured Guernsey, one in a clockwise direction, another anti-clockwise, so that there was a manageable number of ringers at each tower. At the same time a group flew out to Jersey, travelled to Alderney in the "Yellow Pencils" and returned to Guernsey in the evening, whilst yet another group flew to Alderney and did the tour in reverse. During the evening, approximately 150 people attended a Folk Dance in St. James's, a handsome Centre converted from a redundant Church. Here Frances Hilson was the popular Caller and even the most reluctant visitor was persuaded to Do-Si-Do with the rest.
So far, the weather had been glorious, but it let us down on Saturday. The plan had been to reverse the tours, thus giving everyone an opportunity to ring on each Island. Happily, what could have been a crisis was handled with superb efficiency by Ann Brehaut of Jersey, who found herself with 16 ringers and fogbound Airports. She arranged for everyone to return to Guernsey by Hydrofoil - an experience causing much amusement to those of us who did not actually have to do it!
The evening began with a Vin d'Honneur - a Civic Welcome hosted by the States of Guernsey. This took place at the Candie Museum and Art Gallery, where a small exhibition of special concern to ringers had been arranged by John David of Vale Church. This referred to the Rev. Lukis of Guernsey and included a notebook which attracted special interest. Coaches then transported everyone to St. Martin's Hotel where the Master welcomed her Guests and presided over the Festival Dinner attended by over 130 ringers and friends. After the Loyal Toast had been honoured Peter Clarke, of the St. John's, Jersey band, proposed The Church, the response being given by the Rev. Canon K. W. H. Felstead, a former Guild Master. The Dean of Guernsey, the Very Rev. John Foster, proposed the toast to The Guild, the Chairman of the Alton and Petersfield District, Bill Harris, responding. Michael Hilson proposed the toast to The Visitors and the Guild Secretary, Derek Jackson, suitably replied. In rounding off the evening, the Master expressed her delight in having two Past Masters at the Festival - Canon Felstead and Roger Savory, who had specially made the trip from the U.S.A. where he now lives.
As we now made our way to the coaches to take us back to our hotels, the proprietor of St. Martin's and his wife were at the door to bid us farewell - none other than Ronnie Ronalde (remember him whistling "In a Monastery Garden"?).
On Sunday morning Vale Church was packed for the Festival Service which took the form of Sung Eucharist. Vale ringers rang the bells before the Service, visitors rang afterwards and the Master was invited to read the Epistle. A strong feeling of comradeship and sincerity pervaded the Service and many of us will not forget the voices which nearly raised the roof during the singing of the hymns.
And so to home; many were delayed by the backlog at the Airport caused by overnight fog, but for some there was still one more bonus in store. On arrival at Bournemouth Airport we found ourselves on the inside and therefore free spectators of the TVS Airshow.
All in all, this had been a memorable event in the history of the Guild and served to strengthen the link between the mainland and our members of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney who did so much to make us welcome wherever we went.
We shall all have our own particular memories of the Festival - here are some of mine:
Having to be at the Airport by 7.30 a.m. for the flights to Jersey and Alderney and the panic stricken efforts by some to beg or borrow alarm clocks.
The Churchwarden's wife in Jersey who whisked three of us off to her home for a cup of coffee when she learnt that we had had such an early breakfast.
The visit to Le Tricoteur where over one third of us purchased genuine Guernseys … "By their Guernseys ye shall know them …"
Receiving a constant up-date on the plight of the fog-bound travellers whilst completing my own tour of Guernsey.
The pride of scoring a "first quarter" or a "first" in a peal.
Hearing the ringer who had vowed never to allow his feet to leave the-ground announce that he would like his own 'plane.
The warm welcome from Channel Islanders, ringers and non-ringers.
My story starts a long time ago just after the W & P Guild said they were going to hold a ringing festival on the Channel Islands. We talked about it in the pub one night after ringing at St. Thomas's in Salisbury and decided we would go, but as three of the band were keen sailors, we would sail across and combine our hobbies. We then discovered that Bill Harris from the W & P was also going to do the same. Having got in touch with Bill and found out that his was a larger boat it seemed to make sense for us all to go together. This we did.
The plan was that we would set sail for Alderney at 1 a.m. This was not to be: the wind was on our nose so we had to go to Cherbourg and spend the night there before going on to Braye harbour in Alderney on the Sunday morning.
We went ashore to deliver the W & P Guild reports (Bill being the report editor) to John Styche in St. Anne, then on to ring for Sunday service on the six bells of St. Anne. Amazing! "What would you like to ring," they asked, "Cambridge Surprise?" And so we did. When you consider that the island is one mile wide by three miles long and they do not see many visitors it's wonderful what they are ringing there.
The next day we walked around the island looking at the wild flowers and inspecting all the old forts. On our travels around Alderney one thing struck us all: Why does every home have a cement mixer? In the evening we went to the practice: Cambridge, Norwich, Oxford, Kent, etc. were rung.
On Tuesday we set sail for Guernsey in the morning and arrived in time for tea, tied up in the Victoria Marina right in the centre of St. Peter Port. Wednesday was spent on an organised trip to Guernsey Brewery and on Thursday we explored St. Peter Port, the covered market, shops and the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club bar. Then at long last it was the first official event of the Channel Islands ringing festival: a Wine Tasting at the premises of Bucktrout and Co. Ltd. Very nice! We then went out for a wonderful meal then on to "The Dorset Arms" for an informal get together.
On Friday we arranged to ring a quarter peal at St. Pierre du Bois so that Peter and Jane Le Conte could ring their first inside to Cambridge S. Major. Then on to Ste Marguerite de la Fôret so that four members off the yacht Tanya of Sandbanks plus Michael Hilson and Bridgitte Smith, a young lady from Lockerley, just outside Salisbury, staying with the Hilsons could ring her first quarter peal. She is believed to be the first person from the mainland to ring her first quarter in any of the Channel Islands.
Back to the boat, then on to look at the unringable bells at the town church in St. Peter Port. These bells were cast in 1913 to the same sizes as the 1736 ring which they replaced. As a result the two trebles weigh 2 cwt and the tenor is 19 cwt (not good). A peal attempt by a band from Bristol in 1913 ground to a halt when the bearings dried up after about three courses.
Saturday was the day it was our turn to go on the ringing tour of the island, this really was outstanding, three towers in a day and a four course lunch as well. The things I remember are: whether to stand on the font step or not at Vale; the lunch; on the ten at St. Pierre du Bois three people seemed to be ringing the tenor to Erin Caters (much shouting going on); and at Forest there seemed to be more people in the tea shop than ringing (perhaps three towers a day is too much for them).
In the evening it was the Vin d'Honneur hosted by the States of Guernsey (the wine flowed) then on to the Festival Dinner at St. Martin's Hotel. Quotes from speeches were Michael Hilson on The Visitors: "Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter". Derek Jackson "Exodus 3. And the Lord said to Moses go down and lead, and great confusion was caused".
On Sunday we went to the Festival Service at Vale Church and it really was a great feeling of togetherness by all those present. After the service a picked band rang us out, but the organ was so loud you could not hear the bells until you got outside. Back on to the boat, quite quickly as we had a tide to catch. Arrived home on Monday morning feeling fit and well after a great time with great friends.
To sum up I would say please take everything I have said with a pinch of salt, it really was fantastic. We in the S.D.G., the port and claret brigade, had a wonderful time: You are so well organised in the Channel Islands and most of all, so very, very friendly.
One more quote to finish with: Victor Hugo once described the islands as "Fragments of Europe dropped by France and picked up by England". So, so true.
Guernsey, C.I. (Ste Marguerite de la Fôret). 30 May. 1260 Doubles (2m): Bridgitte Smith (1st Q), W A Harris 2, A J Howes (C) 3, M Hilson 4, R C Harvey 5, Gretta Harvey 6. For the Channel Island Ringing Festival. Bridgitte Smith is believed to be the first person from the mainland to ring her first quarter peal in the Channels Islands. The ringers of 2,3,5,6 are off the yacht Tanya of Sandbanks moored in St. Peter Port Marina.
The Ringing World No. 3924, July 11, 1986, pages 607 to 608