Burradoo Journal

By Burradoo

Ringing the changes

 Another walk, another ‘Conversations’ podcast, this one an interview with Paul Livingston. Paul is best known as an Australian comedian, particularly in his persona as Flacco. But he is also a bell ringer, and his account of change ringing is highly entertaining as well as informative.

This took me back to when my friend Pam and I joined the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers. I think it was 1962 or 1963. It’s fair to say we didn’t show much aptitude, and our attempt to learn to ring was fairly short lived. Change ringing is, though, a fascinating and ancient art. It’s almost entirely an English tradition. According to Wikipedia there are over 5,000 bell towers in England (and 61 in Australia).

Change ringing isn’t really about music, it’s about mathematics and patterns and rhythm and discipline. The changes are almost endless, and it can take several hours to ring a complete peel. The Australian and New Zealand Association of Bell Ringers says, ‘Sometimes we ring for several hours without ever repeating a sequence already rung. It would take over 30 years non-stop to work through all the possibilities on 12 bells!’ Which may help to explain why Pam and I didn’t last as bell ringers. But we have lasted as dear friends.

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