Not the Guild Dinner

In the absence of a formal W&P Dinner this year, the Winchester District Chairman, by popular request, decided to organise a substitute. A big thank you is due to all those who made it a great success. The largest share of work fell on the shoulders of the Chairman, Mick Thomas and his wife Margaret. They had chosen the hotel and the menu, so had all the worry of whether it would be all right on the night and they had also printed tickets and menus and done the seating plan. Wendy Bishop and Colin Rogers, the evening's speakers, had come with well prepared contributions. A peal had been organised at Bishopstoke (although somehow Tony Smith only heard about it after it was meant to start so it was a bit late). Roy Le Marechal arranged for handbells to be rung (cleverly managing to exclude himself from actually ringing) and Wendy Ling had advertised it, and along with Roy, sold tickets.

All their efforts culminated in an excellent dinner at the Moat House Hotel on October 14th. Fifty-nine people came, and Winchester District members were very pleased to welcome friends from all of the other mainland districts, especially the Master, Barry Fry, who said grace. The food was imaginative and beautifully presented (all the courses were very good and the almond ice cream was especially delicious).

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was a "presentation" by Wendy Bishop - one time ringer at Winchester Cathedral - who had collected together 18 photos from the past of well-known ringers (to the evident surprise of some of those featured), and prepared them for an overhead projector with very amusing results. They included childhood photographs of John Colliss obscured by his shock of hair (greeted by "oh how sweet"), an endearing Mark Esbester, Julia Cater at nine behind a pint of beer celebrating winning a skittles match and hardest to recognise, Chris Kippin in short trousers on a beach somewhere. From the hippie era was Roy Le Marechal with very long hair, Tony Smith also with long hair (but you couldn't see the sandals), and Bob Cater in his Buddy Holly glasses and a bright orange boiler suit claiming to be a civil engineer. A photo of the ladies' peal band in their bikinis during Guild Centenary Year was featured. There were photos taken at past District Socials and the finale showed Martin Waldron and Roy Le Marechal in all their glory at a Vicars and Tarts party of yesteryear (it was a rare picture of Martin SMILING and he wasn't dressed as a vicar). Wendy then proposed the toast to the District.

Mick then introduced Colin Rogers, an erstwhile colleague at Lansing Bagnall, who at one time had been the head of department to which Mick was promoted. Colin promptly left. Though perhaps not so well known at the dinner, Colin typifies the majority of our District members in that he is a loyal and regular ringer on Sundays and practice nights. His home tower is Wonston.

Colin thanked Wendy for her marvellous presentation and said that they had in a way chosen to talk about the same thing. Wendy had recalled some of the District's recent history and Colin intended to consider our ringing in a much wider context, successfully conveying even more of a sense of history. Starting with his own tower, Colin mentioned Nesta Smith, described as an "exquisite ringer" whose certificate of Guild membership from 1937 was framed in the tower. It was just the same as the more recent one, so there was continuity there. It was in our Guild that Alice White had made history by being the first lady to ring a peal, in Basingstoke in 1896. Colin quoted a manager of the Whitechapel Foundry, "Long after I'm dead, bells will be ringing out. It doesn't give me immortality but it gives me the next best thing". Colin finished with the words of Bernard Levin:

"Well, now, I know of no era or culture which, having the technology to make bells, did not do so. They are, indeed, one of the oldest symbols of mankind's feelings; bells, almost since time began, have accompanied solemn ceremonies and governed scenes of rejoicing, marked notable days and laid down the hearers' duty, warned of attack and signalled victory, roused the sleeping, harried the lazy, informed the unaware and, above all, called the faithful to prayer."

Thus we all make our contribution Sunday by Sunday, even though Colin felt that he personally probably deserved the District prize for "Least Improved Ringer"!

Mick brought the dinner to a close by expressing the hope that the Guild Dinner would be an annual event from now on and thanking all those who had made any contribution to the evening, in particular his wife, Margaret. Tony Smith then said a few well chosen words to thank Mick for being the driving force behind the Dinner. Many people stayed on for another hour enjoying the congenial company.

The Ringing World No. 4412, November 17, 1995, pages 1170 to 1171