The bells are alive!

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A PASSIONATE music man who brought hand-bell ringing back to Clifton is set to launch a book about the history and art of the tradition.

Peter Fawcett has spent the last 35 years travelling the country, and thousands of hours trawling through archives and microfilms in libraries to compile his book ‘Ringing For Gold’.

The journey started in 1975 when he first read about the Clifton Handbell Ringers and discovered 156 hand bells at the Lister Wire Mill. From then he formed a committee and reformed the Clifton group.

Mr Fawcett, from Cleckheaton, said the purpose of the book was to help promote the art.

“No-one has ever told the whole story before of hand-bell ringing until now,” he said. “I have done research from Edinburgh to London to Dublin.

“People have said that you have got to be bonkers doing something like this but I think I have got a lot of patience as I used to be a gardener so I am used to waiting before seeing things grow.

“I spent five years playing with Clifton and got a junior section up and running. It gives me great satisfaction and I get quite emotional when they play because it is almost like a child you have seen grow up.

“It’s important that the main stays like Clifton, Beverley and Eccleshill in Sheffield carry on the movement and I hope to help with the publication of the book to bring it back.”

Included in the book is what is thought to be the earliest written hand bell music - a tune jotted down in a 1734 gentleman bell ringer’s diary and details of the tune ringing contests held at Belle Vue, Manchester in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Also featured is one of the renowned bell ringers in the early 1900s, Fred Squire, who was a wood machinist and lived in Clifton.

Philip Bedford, one of the leading figures in the world of hand-bell ringing, helped edit the book.

“For thirty years my brother Don and I have produced and published hand bell music, mainly in the UK and the Australian markets,” he said.

“Some time ago we were approached and asked if we could edit and publish a book on the history of hand-bell ringing written by Peter, which he had been researching for 35 years.

“Normally Don and I only publish music, but when we read Peter’s manuscript we could not refuse. The book just had to be published.”

The hard-back, 350 page book contains 150 historic photographs and illustrations as well as a comprehensive appendix of winners from the Great Britain contests.

It is set for publication in summer to tie in with the International Hand-bell Ringers Symposium at a price of £38 plus £4.90 postage (UK), bit is offered to sponsors at the pre-publication price of £30 plus postage (UK). The offer closes on May 1.

A full list of sponsors will appear at the front of the book.

Orders with a cheque for £34.90 to Don Bedford, Penrhiw, Llwyn-y-brain Hill Ciffig, Whitland, Carmarthenshire, SA34 0NG. Or call 01994 240 593 or contact akaneandphilip@yahoo.com.au