THE Bishops of Portsmouth and Southampton were present at the first annual dinner of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild held at the Royal Hotel, Southampton, on March 22nd. All the 98 tickets available were sold, and about 30 people were disappointed. The Bishop of Portsmouth, joint president of the Guild, was in the chair.
The toast of "The Church" was given by Mr. Arthur Davis, which he said headed the list at various Guild dinners. Was the toast just a selfish thing to keep the clergy happy, or an apology for the ringers of a bygone age? He thought it was because ringers and ringing were an integral part of the Church. Today ringers served the Church in a diversity of ways, from the humble P.C.C. to the Church Assembly.
In the past bells had exercised a strong influence over the community. Two of the bells in his own church, Christchurch Priory, had proclaimed the Christian message since 1370, and in spite of the noise of the motor car and the jet plane their message got through today.
A reply, in which humour was mingled with sincerity, came from the Bishop of Southampton. The laity were as much the Church as the clergy, he said, and if they thought the clergy were a rum lot it was because they came from the laity! Despite difficulties, the Church was in very good heart; more and more of its activities were becoming less parochial, and he was glad to see that their Guild spanned two dioceses. The Winchester Diocese had been going strong for 1,300 years, and was broken up in 1927 with the formation of Portsmouth and the "Gin and Jaguar" diocese of Guildford, which had its own association.
A course of Grandsire Caters followed, the band being R. R. Savory 1-2, T. H. Francis 3-4, K. S. B. Croft 5-6, D. J. Forder 7-8, M. J. Butler 9-10.
The toast of "The Guild" was proposed by Mr. Frank Darby, Master of the Surrey Association, who brought fraternal greetings from his committee. In the 1968 Christmas bells, he commented, how well the W. and P. had been represented by Eling. A recent event which created some sort of a record was when the Guild Master and general secretary, with the aid of their wives, produced daughters within two days of each other!
In reminiscent vein he recalled the valuable work to the Exercise of the Guild's immediate Past Master, Canon Felstead, as one of their leading historians and statisticians, and the work of George Williams and Fred Rogers.
Coupled with the toast was the name of Canon Felstead, who said that much had been achieved in the 90 years of the Guild's existence. The first peal was not rung until two or three years after its formation. In 1879 there were no rings of 12; now there were two and five tens. Last year, for the first time, 100 peals were rung for the Guild. George Williams, who was Master for 30 years, was the first to conduct 1,000 peals on tower bells.
The toast of "The Visitors" was drunk on the call of the Master (Mr. Roger Savory), and Mr. Alan Carveth, president of the Truro Diocesan Guild, in response, said visiting was the life blood of the Exercise, and an active interchange between belfries was the only way to further their art.
This concluded the formal proceedings. The encouraging support portends that the dinner should certainly become one of the Guild's major annual events.
The Ringing World No. 3028, May 2, 1969, page 339