The Winchester and Portsmouth D.G. Eight-bell and Inter-District Striking Competitions were held at Romsey Abbey on 17th May, judged by Roger Bailey with me, Alison Surry, as his assistant. My initial fear that my roots in the area would enable me to recognise the various bands proved unfounded as my guesses were wildly inaccurate. I say this just to point out that the results - the winners being my ex-home tower and ex-home district - were completely unbiased.
The competitions were both well-supported, with eight tower bands and all the districts except the Channel Islands entering. The tower competition was held first and the ringing ranged from call changes to Surprise, though most bands stuck to Grandsire or Plain Bob Triples. A few of the bells obviously needed some effort but none of the ringing was bad and in nearly every case the end was better than the beginning, which was encouraging.
For the Inter-District competition the test piece had to be Major which we thought would present quite a challenge to bands inexperienced on a 24 cwt. eight, and in fact five of the seven bands rang Plain Bob presumably to play safe. After three bands had rung we had a break for the duration of the Abbey evensong and joined everyone else in the hall where tea and biscuits were most welcome. The Guild Master, Gilian Davis, introduced us (quite a few new faces have appeared since I left, though it was good to see many old friends) and Roger announced the results of the tower competition, first explaining his method of judging which incorporated both the number of faults and the overall effect of the ringing. There were only two cases where Roger's number of faults and my assessment of the general impression differed: confident, rhythmical Surprise which picked up faults from method mistakes, versus Plain Hunt by a less experienced band who seemed to find the bells more difficult than the method. As the marks for these bands were very close we placed them equal, then found they were from the same tower: very diplomatic! The results were: 1st - Winchester, 2nd - Eling; 3rd - Basingstoke; 4th - Southampton University "A"; 5th (eq) - Romsey "A"/"B"; 7th - Lymington; 8th - Southampton University "B"; with the first two bands in particular showing a high standard.
We then went back to listen to the last four District bands: three touches of Plain Bob with some competent ringing but nothing to match the winners of the earlier competition, then a course of Cambridge which was probably the best ringing of the day and an excellent finish. Rather dazed we returned to those still patiently waiting in the hall - it was now some 4 hours after the start - to give the results: 1st - Winchester; 2nd - Alton & Petersfield; 3rd - Basingstoke; 4th - Portsmouth; 5th - Christchurch & Southampton; 6th - Andover; 7th - Isle of Wight.
So, congratulations to the winners and thanks to Terry Collins and the Striking Competition Committee for inviting us - despite the mental effort required, listening to Romsey Abbey bells is no bad way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon.
The Ringing World No. 3924, July 11, 1986, page 612