The 24th Annual W & P Dinner was held at Marwell Zoo on 24th April - an enjoyable return to this venue after two years and some improvements to the facilities (notably indoor toilets!).
Eighty-five members and visitors sat down to a very enjoyable five-course meal at tables for 10, set around a large room with everything needed for the evening. The Master, the Rev. Barry Fry, thanked the outgoing social committee for organising several excellent dinners, and presented the convener, Margaret Aylieff, with a bouquet. He took wine with the member who had rung his 1,000th peal for the Guild on a recent tour of Ireland, our very own Geoff Dodd, with the ringers from Bishopstoke and with Bob Cater, our new Guild Hon. Gen. Secretary. He then introduced the first speaker, Dr. Phillip Barnes from Oxford, and a ringer at St. Martin's, Birmingham (16), to propose the toast to the Guild.
In a funny speech, Phillip told us he had heard via Julia Cater how carefully he had been selected after the late cancellation by the Provost of Portsmouth, Peter Niblett, had left a message on Bob Cater's answering machine saying he had managed to get some bloke from Oxford. As Peter is his brother-in-law he promised revenge in the form of cymbals and drum set presents for his nephew.
From the 1965 and 1991 Guild Reports that he had read in preparing for the speech, he detected that there was a continuing commitment to restoration, and also that the leading peal ringer was the same in both years: a certain John Wayne impersonator from Bishopstoke, Roy Le Marechal.
He expressed pleasure at the Winchester augmentation to 14, and the two peals since rung on the 14. He cautioned us, however, to "do it well", and not to remain satisfied with poor acoustics or other problems, otherwise Winchester and Birmingham would remain oddities, and not be the first of many. He remarked that the W & P is good at winding-up the Central Council - we have finally got 9-bell peals accepted, though not ceramic-bell peals, and we have wound-up the Methods Committee with method names such as "Barry Peachey's Dog".
Referring to topical matters, he said that the recent restoration at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire was ill-conceived and urged ringers to refuse to be party to such schemes. And regarding the division in the Church of England over ordination of women priests, he urged ringers to conciliate, saying that a weakened Church would lead to a weakened Exercise. Phillip concluded that W & P was a First Division Guild - a toast to which we all drank heartily.
Malcolm Powell, chairman of the Portsmouth District, thanked Dr. Barnes on behalf of the Guild. He said that the Provost of Portsmouth's excuse was so bizarre it just had to be true - something about Russians getting married in Portsmouth Cathedral. Malcolm looked back over 30 years to his first connection with the W & P as a student at Southampton University, and visiting St. Michael's, Southampton, when Canon Felstead, Roger Savory and Chris Kippin were all ringers there.
A short touch of handbell ringing is a traditional part of the Guild Dinner, and this year Gail Cater, John Colliss, Andrew Craddock, Chris Kippin and Peter Niblett did the honours, ringing three leads of Kent Treble Bob Royal.
Commander Bill Harris, who could have a meal ticket for life by telling stories of the building of the Channel Tunnel, proposed the toast to the visitors. He amused us by evoking images of flying to peals using jet-packs to avoid the traffic there would be in the future, and anticipating that once the Chunnel was in use, ringing would spread under the channel to France. His Chunnel anecdote was that near the undersea border between Britain and France a worker had proudly written "This tunnel was built to British Standards", and that some wag had added "Yes, and so was the Titanic".
No doubt with more than half an eye on the sparkling dress of the next speaker, Bill said that visitors added colour to the proceedings, and introduced Angela Newing to respond on behalf of the visitors. Angela, who is known to all Telegraph and Ringing World readers for her puzzle columns, reassured us that she rarely spoke for more than an hour, and remarked on the Guild's distinguished membership - Tony Smith of Methods Committee fame, Bob Cater (Education Committee) and Derek Jackson. True to form, Angela offered a small prize of one of her puzzle books for the first correct solution drawn to a puzzle well suited to being solved in the relaxed environment of the dinner.
Winding-up the proceedings, the Master recalled Bishopstoke's successful fund-raising karaoke evenings, and offered the use of the microphone for some unaccompanied karaoke singing. Fortunately no-one accepted the offer, but most people stayed on till long after the bar had closed to talk to friends.
IAN McCALLION, P.R.O.
The Ringing World No. 4282, May 21, 1993, page 491