Ringing Roger – Pam Booth

“He’s late again”  said Bill with a sigh.   The other five ringers were all assembled in the belfry before Sunday morning service.  “He’d be late for his own funeral “  Jenny said.    It was ten past nine and the bells had all been rung up and Roger still hadn’t arrived.   “Do you think he is OK”  offered Julian, scratching his beard, “after all he is getting on a bit “.

The bell ringers at St. Michael’s were a mixed bunch, and Roger was by far the eldest.   At 84 anything could have happened.   “I can see him coming now, at least I can see a bike coming like the clappers down the road” shouted Chris, who had been looking through the louvers to the road below.

“Thank goodness” said Bill the Tower captain then we can get ready to go.  “Stand by your bells”.    Sam, the youngest bell ringer clutched his rope.  His treble bell was the most important as he had to start the change.   It was inscribed in Latin “From the sincere goodwill of those who live here”.   Roger came through the great oak church door as though the hounds were after him.    He climbed the stairs 2 at a time.  “Sorry, sorry, sorry,  the cat got stuck, right I am ready”.

“Just get your breath back for two moments” ordered Bill.  “We don’t want you collapsing in the tower, too complicated”.

He nodded to Sam “Look to!”  he called and started to pull “Treble’s going”  Sam shouted and as the bell swung down “She’s gone!”

The other bells fell into place, playing a scale over and over again.  Once this had been established Bill called “Go, Grandsire triples”.   All was going well,  and as the congregation began to arrive they were all in full swing.

Many people stopped to watch the ringers as they pulled at their ropes  making the glorious sound that echoed around the village calling everyone to church.   Roger by now had gathered himself and was ringing to the well known pattern.   He lost himself in the rhythm of the movement and felt at one with his bell.   His bell number 3 and was inscribed Gloria in Excelsis (Glory to God in the highest.

As he rang his mind went back over the years.  He had been ringing in this same church for seventy years.   He had been the youngest then, only 14 years old and rang the tenor bell at 15.   His father had died during the war and the other ringers had been father figures to him.   No female ringers then, although the two that rang now were really OK  and kept very good time.

He had been a bit of a radio ham in those days too.  He had become a Voluntary Interceptor once he had reached the age of 16 and any messages that were of interest to the Government he passed on to the local Police.  He had felt very important that it was his war effort.   It had been very exciting being a sort of spy.  Of course he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, but one day he couldn’t help it.   The news had been expected, but the world awaited a radio broadcast by Winston Churchill.   Everyone was crowded around their wireless sets.   Except for Roger who was hunched over his radio in the bedroom.  R4BFZ.   He heard the message that the war had ended and that the Germans had surrendered before anyone else.   Rushing downstairs he ignored his mother and brother and made for the Church.  He wanted to be the first bell to sound the news that the war was at long last over.   He had a keys to the great oak door and the Tower  in his pocket and climbed the steep twisting steps to the belfry.   He rang up his bell and began to ring.   He rang as though his heart would burst.   He rang for his father who had died to save his country, and for all those others who had done the same.   Villagers began to appear and they cheered and applauded him.   He didn’t know when to stop and as tears streamed down his face, the Tower Captain of the day, Fred Greystone gently took the bell from him and continued the ring.   The other ringers arrived and gradually a full victory peal was chiming throughout the church and through the whole country.    He’d been know as Ringing Roger ever since.

“Rest your bells”  came a voice in the distance.   Time to stop, he didn’t want to rest.   He broke the pattern by not stopping with the others, but was forgiven, for no one had ever forgotten why he was called Ringing Roger.

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