In last week’s post, I mentioned that York Minster had fired its volunteer bell ringers. It was a small part of the post, but the comments it provoked have been fascinating. So first—because, admit it, you don’t actually read every golden word I publish, although I can’t think what else you have to do with your lives—let me draw your attention to a few of the comments.
John Evans wrote a first-hand explanation of bell ringing, and that was followed by several other comments that are also worth reading, for both the mechanics and the politics of it all. I won’t give you a separate link since they’re all grouped together.
John also sent a link to a bell ringers’ publication. What could I do but follow it? I was rewarded with a statement from the York bell ringers, setting out their side of the story. John did say bell ringers are a tight-knit group, and this seemed like proof.
Who knew bell ringing was so interesting?
Then on Google+, which I’ve never understood but manage to use very marginally, Anita wondered about the sort of injuries bell ringers might get. Since York Minster cited health and safety concerns as a reason for firing the bell ringers, the question made sense, although I had cheerily assumed that since the bells are on one end of the rope and the ringers are on the other, everything was pretty much foolproof. But Anita’s question sent me to the internet, the source of all things informative and bizarre.
It turns out that if you punch bell ringers and injuries into your friendly local search engine—well, actually I don’t know what’ll come up on yours, since search engines gear themselves not only to what country you live in but also to what they think you want to hear, thereby confirming every reckless and ridiculous belief you may hold, political or otherwise.
So instead of talking about what you’ll find, let me tell you what appeared on my search engine. And let me state for the record that as far as I know I haven’t demonstrated any beliefs, rational or otherwise, about bell ringing and injuries in any places where search engines would pick them up, so we can pretend that what I found is completely free of prejudice.
I mean, yes, I’ve voiced a reckless and ill-informed opinion or two, but not in a search engine.
But no one’s entirely out of sight anywhere these days, are they? And whatever you believe about that, a search engine can help you confirm it.
Anyway. PubMed reports that “Seventy nine injuries [among bell ringers] were identified both from review and by advertisement in Ringing World. The incidence of injury among 221 ringers identified by postal questionnaire was 1.8% a year.” It concluded that “Although sonerous, bell ringing can be dangerous and occasionally even fatal. Doctors should be aware of the dangers to which campanologists expose themselves.”
And medical researchers should be aware of the danger of not using a proofreader, because that should be sonorous. And seventy nine should be hyphenated. Take your questions about injuries to these people, but don’t ask them about spelling.
That incidence of injuries is probably why the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers takes the trouble to explain which bell ringers have liability coverage where and under whose insurance. I’d explain it to you, but I became comatose early in the first paragraph and only survived because one of my faithful dogs brought me back to consciousness by insisting on being fed.
After I fed the dogs (the other one got interested when he heard the sounds of chow being dished out), I found an article about a group of bell ringers in Somerset who had to run for it after a bell broke loose and crashed through two floors of the bell tower. They’d noticed that one bell—the big one, which John Evans tells me is called the tenor bell—was hard to ring, so they gave its rope a good hard yank.
Which turned out not to be a great idea. Remember that, everybody.
It’s not a great piece of journalism, but the picture of the bell stuck in the ceiling beams is impressive.
Next up was an article about a bell ringing captain who fell off a bell frame while trying to fix a frayed bell rope. She had to be winched to safety. After that came one about a bell ringer who caught her trousers—if you’re American, that’s pants; if you’re British it’s also pants, but not literally—in the rope and ended up dangling three feet off the floor with a broken collar bone. She had to be lowered through a trap door.
I know this stuff isn’t funny, but having typed up accident after injury after warning, I can’t help wanting to giggle. It’s like watching cartoons. Tee hee, look what happens next.
Sorry, everybody. I’ll get a few of my worst instincts back under control and go on.
That bit about the trousers needs an explanation if you’re American. Or possibly if you’re any other sort of not-British. In the U.S., pants are what you wear over your underpants. In other words, they’re outerpants. In Britain, pants are underpants and you wear them under trousers, which are what you call your outerpants if anyone actually used the word outerpants. But if you want to say something’s lousy, you can say it’s pants. So getting your trousers caught in the bell rope? Yeah, that’s pants.
It’s probably funnier without the explanation. .
D. and D. just informed me that women’s pants are called knickers. Usually. If I live in this country a hundred years, I’ll never get it all sorted out.
But enough fun. We have work to do. I also found a site about safer places of worship. It covers bell ringing, bouncy castles, cyber cafes, and face painting, along with a bunch of other stuff. Religion’s a dangerous business. No wonder people kill each other over it.
And that exhausted my limited patience. I did look up face painting injuries, but most of what I found explained how to paint injuries onto a face, not how to prevent them. Maybe it’s all more hazardous when a church gets involved.
Now, before we pick up our toys and go home, kids, let’s ask ourselves what we learned today.
No, that’s a good guess, but it’s not that pants are funny. It’s that bell ringing’s dangerous. Don’t try it at home.
And finally, an update on the York bell ringers’ firing. A recent article reports that the lead bell ringer was suspended from his job as a teacher after claims of indecent assault. The police initially said no charges would be filed but later applied for a sexual risk order. The application was dismissed last December. The minster banned him from its bell tower in July. The bell ringers weren’t happy about it, and from there on everything just escalated.
I have no idea what did or did not happen, but everybody involved seems to have lawyers.