Winchester and Portsmouth Guild ringers, looking unfamiliar dressed up for the Annual Dinner, converged on the Vine Inn on the edge of the New Forest on Saturday, May 7th. The social committee had managed to perform the difficult task of providing a memorable sense of occasion for this, the 25th annual dinner of the Winchester and Portsmouth Guild. The event included speeches and food in the traditional way, but was innovative in having live music and dancing until late.
The dinner was held in very pleasant surroundings, the tables being beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and 25th anniversary balloons. There were over 80 people present. It was an evening of great joy for the Master, Barry Fry, presiding over the gathering and ensuring that everything went smoothly. After three leads of Kent Treble Bob Royal rung by Gail Cater, John Colliss, Chris Kippin, Roy Le Marechal and Andrew Craddock, and the now familiar words from Ecclesiastes which the Master favours as being particularly apt for Guild occasions in the 1990s, everyone, except possibly the speakers and the organisers, was free to enjoy the meal. (The handbell ringers usually have to moderate their alcoholic intake and suffer being slightly on edge until after the meal is over).
The Master introduced the guest speakers: Roger Savory, who as Master of the Guild in 1969 had inaugurated the W & P Dinner 25 years before; and Alan Carveth, Master of the Truro Cathedral Company of Ringers, who had also made a speech at that very dinner. The event brought back many memories for Roger, from his apprehension in organising that first dinner in the Royal Hotel in the face of less than enthusiastic support, "Folks down 'ere don't go in for that sort of thing", to the individuals who did support him, such as Canon Felstead and Arthur Davis. At one of the early dinners he recalled the outbreak of hostilities between two members of the Andover District, and Derek Jackson's diplomatic skills being used to defuse the situation before the visiting clerical dignitaries saw too much! … Roger was sorry that Geoff Dodd was not at tonight's dinner. Roger went on to mention some of the innovations of the Guild over the last 35 years, since he had first become involved as General Secretary, such as the Bell Restoration Fund, the striking competitions and education courses and now the purchase of the Bagley Ringing Simulator all of which help in that most important aspect of our ringing, excellence in striking. The innovation which he particularly appreciated now that he was living in New Jersey was the Guild Newsletter. He loved the contributions from Geoff Dodd, and was incredulous that according to Geoff those first dinner tickets cost only 7/6d! also expressed his appreciation for the way he is always made so welcome, with Charles and Jessie Kippin always ready to give him a bed, and Roy Le Marechal making sure he is included in any peals going. Roger finished by asking everyone to rise and drink a toast "to ringing friends throughout the world".
Alan Carveth began by asking if anyone could remember what was the issue of the day on that first dinner, on March 22nd, 1969, and went on to surprise everyone by revealing that it was whether a tunnel should be built under the Channel! The Pascoe brothers of Penryn, Cornwall, had put in a tender to do the work, planning on one starting one side and one the other. Asked what would happen if they didn't meet in the middle, their reply was that it would be a bargain because there'd be two tunnels for the price of one! Alan went on to reflect on "visiting", which he sees as "the lubricant of bellringing". Every week The Ringing World gives accounts of ringing outings by all means of transport possible, but it is not able to report on what must be the thousands of individual visits made every week, where ringers make new friends and almost always receive a sincere welcome. He finished by bringing greetings from the Truro Diocesan Guild of Ringers and wishing prosperity to the W & P.
Many members, though a bit rusty, now enjoyed themselves on the dance floor, quickstepping, jiving, rocking, twisting and smooching to "Cascades U.K." A room next door had thoughtfully been made available where people could sit and chat, but still see what was going on. Of all the people there, it must have been a great evening for the Thomas family. Mick Thomas had been at that first dinner, helping to make the arrangements, and 25 years on he and Margaret were there with their son, daughter and their spouses. In 25 years time, I wonder how big a table they'll need to fit on the grandchildren as well!
The Ringing World No. 4338, June 17, 1994, page 608