Saturday, October 31, 2009

L to R: Jay Williams, Diana Witt, Kathryn Tucker, Alice Heilker, Sally Karkula, Charley Heilker and Derek Wilsden

On a rainy, misty, spooky Halloween day, seven ringers gathered at St. James Marietta to attempt two different quarter peals: Grandsire Doubles and Grandsire/Plain Mixed Doubles. The first of Grandsire Doubles was being conducted for the first time by Kathryn Tucker, and it was Sally Karkula's first attempt inside. It was a valiant effort, and the striking was particularly good, but the conductor had a tough time keeping track of her 120's! "Stand" was called and a short candy break was enjoyed by all.
The second quarter had Jay Williams on the treble, a first for him - he has previously rung a successful quarter as tenor behind. Once again, the striking was good, but the ghost and goblins of this day seemed to be especially mischievous - the ringing never solidified, despite a couple of fresh starts. When Jay's wife Kathy showed up with pie and cake for Jay's birthday, we were all more than happy to trot down to the parish hall, sing "Happy Birthday" and dive into the goodies.
Thanks go to all the ringers who showed up on this haunted day and battled the ghoulies in the belfry - it was good practice for everyone!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Young Ringers' Wednesday Practice

It's not just school that has recommenced. We welcomed Chris, Will, Emma, and Kevin back to Wednesday's Young Ringers' practice. Although regular practices had halted for summer vacation, Will and Kevin kept their skills up by helping out with Sunday service ringing and ringing for weddings and funerals. With so many ringers traveling this summer, their help was essential in making all our ringing commitments. Emma and Chris, who spent much of their summer traveling and not ringing, had no problems getting right back into the swing of things. The group is keeping us busy as they tackle Plain Hunt and Plain Bob Doubles and continue ringing the Treble and Tenor during methods .

We just found out that the video about St. James and Change Ringing that Will wrote and produced for the contest Reflections placed first at the state wide level. To learn about the history of St. James Tower Bells and to watch and listen while they are rung, you can view Will's award winning video below. Will is also helping with the Children's Sunday School tours of the bell tower.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

End of Summer Signals Return of MMI Practices

Summer vacations sent our band all over the world. You can read about Cathy and Derek's ringing vacation in England and Mary Platt's ringing trip to South Africa in earlier blogs entries. Between family vacations, visiting family and attending CCCBR meetings in England it has been hard to know exactly where Kathryn was at any given moment. She is our Carmen Sandiego. Sally 's family visited relatives in Sienna Italy where they had a glorious time and glorious weather. Sally got a family photo in front of the Colosseum in Rome. Dianna does so much exotic traveling during the year that she vacationed in New Hampshire for a change of pace.
So vacations are over and everyone has returned from the various ringing workshops/weekends in Pittsburgh and Hendersonville and the AGM in New York. Now that we are all back, we will be resuming our usual ringing schedule and that includes regular MMI practices. So advanced ringers, please CHECK OUT THE MMI PRACTICE SCHEDULE!!

Monday, August 31, 2009


Yes indeed, and this year's Butler Tour undertook the challenge to ring all 8 of the change ringing towers in this vast and distant land. The tour, organized every year by Bruce and Eileen Butler of Philadelphia to visit and ring in as many of the thousands of bell towers around the world, included 7 other ringers from the US and Ireland for a 2 week adventure.

We gathered August 1 in Cape Town to officially begin our travels in and around the Western Cape. Our first towers were St. Marys (8 bells), Woodstock, and St. Georges Cathedral (10 bells), Cape Town for Sunday Services August 2. After several days of long drives through the wine country and lots of wine tasting, "hand-to-trunk holding" with elephants, petting big cats, and wonderful food at the area's many fine restaurants, we headed east toward Grahamstown. Our journey took us along scenic seacoast roads with a bit of whale watching, and more fine food in the delightful sea side town of Wilderness. In Grahamstown we shared a wonderful practice with the young ringers in their local band and enjoyed the bells of the Cathedral (10 bells) and then the monastery of the Order of the Holy Cross in Hillendale (6 bells). For all of us, these towers provided our first opportunity to ring quarter peals on the African continent.

A highlight of our trip came next, as we turned our attention to the long awaited safari experience. We spent 2 days in the "wilds" of Kariega Game Reserve rumbling over the landscape in a huge open land cruiser in search of giraffe, cape buffalo, rinos, hippos, lions, warthogs, every sort of antelope and bird imaginable, and much more. We learned so much about the wildlife and the environment of South Africa from ranger Shaun's vast knowledge and experience, and even better, no one was eaten alive.

After a day and night in Port Elizabeth and more scenic seascapes, we flew up the coast to Durban. There the ringers of St. Mary's Grayville (10 bells) welcomed us warmly at their evening practice. Sadly the bells of St. Pauls were not available. But we found much to see and enjoy in the city in a whirlwind tour of the Indian Market and the Botanical Gardens and more with our enthusiastic guide Just-Us.

From Durban, we headed north and inland for the last stop on our travels. We drove the long 8 hours through the Drakensburg Mountains and beyond to Johannesburg. After ringing in Fourways Gardens at All Saints (6 bells) and St. Georges (8 bells), Parktown, and facing yet another rental car breakdown, our 3rd car swap and traffic that makes Atlanta seem lightweight, we spent our last day together learning as much as we could about this "city of gold." Yet another outstanding guide, Kaeren, made the most of a morning drive through the downtown areas of the city, into Soweto and the Hector Pieterson museum, the Mandela home and much more.

Finally, it was time to end this "trip of a life-time," get in line for my 16 hour non-stop flight home, and hope for a return visit to grab that Durban tower we missed and once more enjoy the fine food, wine, land and sea scapes, and gracious hospitality of the South African people.

Mary Platt
August 29, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hendersonville Ringing Weekend

St. James church in Hendersonville celebrated their tower's 31st anniversary with a ringing weekend that started Friday, August 14 and ended Sunday when the last of us finally called it quits and adjourned for one final meal at Hannah Flanagan's. Bob Aldinger , who organized the ringing, made sure we all had plenty of rope time by keeping the bells ringing nonstop. He moved us in and out of the ringing room so deftly that it was like passing people while plain hunting. Sally Cook hosted us for a Saturday evening bash and the band provided a most elegant potluck.

It was Jay's first Ringing Road trip and I don't think he was disappointed. The bells in Hendersonville have a longer draft than our home bells and ringing them was something of a challenge for Jay. By Sunday I think he was hoping he could blend into the walls and wouldn't be asked to ring again. No such luck. Ever the perfect host Bob made sure that everyone got to ring on Sunday. Jay was surprised to see that the instruction Derek and Bob had given him on long drafts had paid off and his Sunday ringing was much smoother and controlled. He ended his Hendersonville ringing on an up note.

Jay loved his accommodations at the Waverly, a Bed and Breakfast, across the street from the church. Each morning he would describe his breakfast in loving detail. I was always amazed he could eat lunch. I think everyone who stayed there gave it a thumbs up and would recommend it if you are passing through Hendersonville. And you just cross the street to get to the bell tower - how easy is that.

Like Jay, I am relatively new to ringing road trips but I can sure see why ringers love them. I went for the ringing but I loved seeing everyone in the Hendersonville band again and seeing ringers I had met in Charleston. Everyone in the band worked together to make it a perfect weekend and Jay and I were impressed by how warm and welcoming everyone was.We had a great time and hope that they will do it again next year.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Perfect Holiday

Marietta ringers and members of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, Derek Wilsden and Cathy Brown, along with spouses Jan and Chris (also Marietta ringers, though of a less avid variety than Derek and Cathy), set off on July 7 for a trip to England which included some interesting ringing and a big first for Cathy. The destination was Lincolnshire, where the SRCY held one of its two annual Country Meetings. The foursome arrived in Stamford, Lincolnshire, at lunchtime on Thursday July 9th. Instead of resting, Chris and Jan dropped Cathy and Derek off at Market Deeping and then took off for the Fen Country to do some exploring. Cathy and Derek met up with Derek and Jane Sibson, plus Alan Regin, Jo Dorling, Janet Menhinick, and Michael O'Callaghan (the band is pictured above) for an attempt at Cambridge Surprise Major. The bells at Market Deeping were nice, but a bit heavy-going, and the temperature in the ringing room was a bit on the warm side. Despite these (minor) discomforts and their jet-lagged state, the peal was a success and a pleasure to ring.

The next morning, more refreshed, but still very nervous (at least, Cathy was), the same band gathered at Harmston Church to attempt the much-anticipated peal of Bristol Surprise Major. Harmston, a tiny village just south of Lincoln, is a charming place with a charming church and very sweet bells; however, it lacks the convenient pub (with toilet) of Market Deeping, a fact which led to a fresh new way of looking at the church yard--but that is another story. Anyway, thanks to the competence and patience of all the other ringers, Cathy got her much-anticipated peal of Bristol and was very happy. The following day, Derek and Cathy participated in a "tower grab" of several local towers, all of which were 6-bell towers. They rang quite a bit of Cambridge and London Minor. They also met up with Katy Idle, who had rung with the North Georgia ringers in Marietta/Atlanta during the 2007 school year, and her parents, who are also ringers. That Saturday evening, the Wilsdens and the Browns attended the SRCY's "Quiz and Curry" evening at Edensham village hall. The curry was delicious; unfortunately, the quiz was a challenge for the Marietta visitors, who were all on the same team, and who knew very little about local towers and pubs and celebrities and sports teams. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.

On Sunday morning, the 4 adventurers left Stamford to begin the next phase of their trip, a visit to the Lake District. On the way out, they stopped at the delightful little parish church of Great Casterton, where Derek and Cathy were privileged to ring for services on the very easy-going 6. They then attended the morning worship service, which was followed by a coffee hour right there in the nave, and were treated to the very best of British hospitality. This wonderful, friendly reception was certainly the defining characteristic of the entire trip, and we shall be eternally grateful to all the bell ringers and other friends who made this adventure so enjoyable.

After visiting the Lake District Chris and Cathy traveled to France, while Derek spent the some of the remaining two weeks of his and Jan’s three weeks ringing at 7 more towers. Cathy and Chris ended their second week of the trip in London, where Cathy got the opportunity to ring a bit for Sunday service at the SRCY home tower St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church at Trafalgar Square—a fitting end to her Cumberland ringing odyssey, which had begun with the Country Meeting.

Of Derek’s second seven towers, four were in the Reading area of Berkshire for the “43’ers” annual reunion where he was without doubt the youngest among the 25 or so ringers there who had started ringing in 1943 All four were on the Thames river, in the picturesque (aren’t they all?) villages of Shiplake, Streatley, Pangbourne, and Purley-on-Thames - an 8 and three 6’s. The remaining three were nostalgia towers: St Etheldreda, Hatfield - 10, 23cwt (for practice and service times)and a nearby 4cwt six at Lemsford - both on Hertfordshire, and the 21cwt ten at Ash-next-Sandwich in Kent which had to serve as second choice to Derek’s Alma Mater St Dunstan, Canterbury. The band there decided to have their annual picnic instead of practice that Friday. Making up for the disappointment, Jan and Derek did however meet, dine, and ring with Derek Chatfield, a co-starting ringer in ’43 with Derek. In spite of the availability of 10 bells in two towers, (and Derek really enjoyed doubling on the Sally for raising that 23cwt tenor and then ringing it cover to 10-bell call changes for Sunday service ringing), most of the ringing in these three towers was on six, with lots of very welcome touches of spliced minor of up to 7 methods.

Through being fortunate enough (retired!) to be able to spend a third week, Derek was able to fit in significantly more ringing; and the extra in-between times were filled with visiting relatives and friends and plenty of plain relaxing at the home of the Withers - who, incidentally, are oft times visitors to Marietta - though non-ringers, can you believe!

Written by Cathy Brown and Derek Wilsden

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Retirement Quarter Peal for Ray Gotko

On July 26th the Reverend Doctor Raymond M. Gotko retired after seven years of service as the Associate Rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta. The Parish had a farewell party for him on Sunday and on Monday he celebrated with the St. James' band by tenoring in his first Quarter Peal. We dedicated the QP of Plain Bob Doubles to Ray and his new venture - retirement. He and his wife Linda have moved to Sewanee, TN, where he will finally have plenty of time for golf and RINGING!!

Jay Williams , who recently scored his first QP and is in the picture on the right, took the photo of the QP group.

July 27, 2009. 1260 Plain Bob Doubles
1. Alice Gough Heilker 2. Sally Karkula 3. Charley Heilker 4. Kathryn E. Tucker 5. Mary Platt (C) 6. Raymond M. Gotko.
First Quarter: 6

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4 Ringing and Partying St James Style

For all who attended and enjoyed hamburgers, hot dogs and pot
luck at Cathy and Chris Brown's home yesterday evening, I want to say
what a great occasion it was. Thank you so much to the Browns for
hosting and grilling and so much more. We all had a wonderful time
creating a grand family gathering out of the many generations
represented for what has become an Independence Day tradition.

The BBQ followed an afternoon of ringing at St James, which was full
of firsts and lots of "well done's." After birthday boy Charley
Heilker sounded the tenor 13 times at 2pm, and some lovely call
changes, Derek Wilsden conducted a QP Plain Bob Major, noteworthy in
that the band included our guests from the UK, Michael and Sheila
Cotgrove, and also our newly-returned-from-a-year-on-
the-continent Emily Heilker. Welcome Home.

Then, following a brief recess, Cathy Brown conducted a QP Plain Bob
Triples, featuring Jay Williams on the tenor (a first QP for him) and
Alice Heilker on the treble (first on 8 for her). Well done Jay and
Alice. Not even 1 do-over was required.

I'll leave the QP official details to the conductors to report. But
leave it to say, that St James Marietta marked the nation's 233rd
birthday with a joyful noise.

Friday, June 5, 2009

If at First you do Not Succeed, then Try, TRy, and yes, TRY again!

Gathering together on a specific date to ring a Quarter Peal commemorating a specific and important event on that day is a good recipe for anxiety. I as conductor certainly felt that way. It was a warm occasion; certainly in the day's temperature (a bit over 90F) but certainly also in fellowship, with a nice balance of Birmingham, Atlanta, and Marietta ringers as can be seen in the QP report below. Our first foray into the method came unstuck after one of the six parts (the old faithful 'bobs in, home, and two at fourths: Diary p. 53). We put it down to "practice", and started again. A nicely struck and confident 5 parts later it/we failed again - and I should have been able to quickly put it back onto the tracks - but failed. A 10-minute rest left us just enough time for one final try - and bingo! Craig's tenor-covering drove us expertly and remorselessly to completion, and the rest of us complimented that, to a man/woman, with a solid rhythmic piece of ringing. At the call of 'that's all', only three minutes remained before the start of the six o'clock Vespers in the very-nearby Cathedral! The early anxiety was well repaid.

Birmingham, Alabama
Cathedral of St Paul
Sunday, 31 May 2009
1260 Plain Bob Triples
1 Lyn Barnett
2 Catherine P Brown
3 Jennifer Johnson
4 Ted Clark
5 Bill Buckner
6 Jeremy Johnson
7 Derek J Wilsden (C)
8 Craig Lagrone

Rung on the Solemnity of Pentecost for The Celebration of The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Ordination to the Priesthood of The Very Reverend Richard E. Donohoe, S.T.L, Rector. Rung in
gratitude for his inspired leadership which was the impetus for this beautiful ring of tower bells being in Birmingham.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wandering in Worcester

Worcester was the venue for the 2009 annual meeting of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers and as I am one of the NAG representatives to the CCCBR, I had the privilege of attending the meeting.

The title of this post is apt, since I did a fair amount of wandering - Worcester is a small city and easy to explore on foot. During the times I wasn't attending official functions, I let my feet wander where they liked; I walked along the Severn River while listening to a peal being rung in the Cathedral (photo above), I shopped along the High Street and even took a quick train ride to nearby Pershore. It was in Pershore that I visited the most unusual ringing room I'd ever seen - suspended high above the floor of Pershore Abbey, it is not for the faint of heart. I took some video with my camera of the ringing "cage", and posted it on YouTube - the link to see that is: Or just go to and in the search box, type "Ringing at Pershore Abbey" - my video will be first in line.

The meeting itself took place on Monday, May 25th and it lasted (with a couple of breaks) from 10 am to 6 pm - another activity that is not for the faint of heart! But learning more about how the Council works, and witnessing the enthusiasm that the members have for ringing, makes me even more dedicated to being the best advocate for the Exercise that I can be.

I'll be writing a more detailed article about the weekend's activities later - watch for it in your next issue of "The Clapper".

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rounds on Six

Last night at the St. James' regular Monday evening practice, a group of ringers rang rounds on the back six of the eight bells. "So what?", you say. Well, these rounds were a bit different - ringing the fourth of six was Jay Williams, one of our learners. He's been working with Derek Wilsden for a couple of months, along with assistance from Cathy Brown and Kathryn Tucker. He's learned handling, ringing one bell while listening to rounds on Abel, and has even done a bit of plain hunt on six with Abel. He's intelligent, funny, creative and is wildly enthusiastic about learning to ring.
And he's blind. Since birth.
He got his first pull on a bell at Grace Church, Charleston, courtesy of David Porter. When Jay and his wife moved to Marietta, he found out that a local church had change ringing bells and inquired about learning to ring. Derek was consulted, and after some discussion, it was decided that we would give it a try. And last night was the happy beginning of what we all hope will be a long and fruitful ringing career for Jay.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

St. James AGM

Despite a small group, the St. James AGM was very productive, though there was so much food on the tables that we were tempted to set up an ad-hoc restaurant outside the church! Lots of business was discussed and most importantly, elections were held. The officers elected for the year 2009/2010 are as follows:

Tower Captain: Mary Platt
Ringing Master: Kathryn Tucker
Secretary: Alice Heilker
Treasurer: Chris Brown

Thank you to the past officers, Derek Wilsden and Diana Witt (Ringing Master and Secretary, respectively) who stepped down after much hard work. And thank you to Chris Brown who, despite his protestations that he'd be ever so willing for someone ELSE to be treasurer, just keeps getting elected year after year!

We very much missed the presence of Derek Wilsden, Jan Wilsden and Alice Heilker. Alice continues to recover from lung surgery, and Jan Wilsden was taken ill on the day of the AGM and was in the hospital with her husband at the time of the meeting. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Heilker and Wilsden families. We treasure them dearly.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Surprise Major Weekend Workshop

St. James and St. Luke's jointly hosted a Surprise Major workshop over the weekend of Feb. 27 to March 1. Out-of-town folks gathered at St. James on Friday for an open practice with locals; many went to the Marietta Diner afterwards for a bite to eat - as always, those who have never been there before were astonished by the size of the menu and the size of the cakes!
Early on Saturday morning the attendees gathered at St. James for the serious work of learning Surprise Major methods; one group focused on Lincolnshire, Cambridge and Yorkshire, the other on Bristol and London. Paul Graupner (he of the 'bunny ears' in the photo above) led the first group and Alan Regin (the tall man in the back right of the picture) led the second group. Much ringing was done, though a mid-afternoon funeral necessitated a break in the course. A very nice quarter peal of Cambridge Major was scored after the 5:30 service and a Chinese dinner was enjoyed by all at the end of the day.
On Sunday, a surprise snowstorm hit Atlanta, and the ringing at St. Luke's, as well as a peal attempt at St. James, were canceled. Both groups stayed at St. James, though three helpers hightailed it early out of town by car - many flights were canceled that stormy day!
We may try again next year, and will endeavor to make the weather behave - naughty, naughty weather!

Monday, February 9, 2009


Sawyer Gosnell, Alma Johnson, and St. Luke's bells

[February 8, 2009 excerpt from "Bob!", Alma's ringing blog. Click on title above to see the entire piece, "Hunting Season."]

Today I received permission to set my bell.

In my tower, this is a right of passage. Permission is granted when the ringing master determines a learner's skill has reached the point where they can be trusted to handle bells without further close supervision, and are ready to handle the responsibilities of being a learner on their own. So today after the first round of service ringing when the conductor called us to stand - I did!


Yesterday morning I went to practice at my tower, and did a respectable job of tenoring for a method, I think it was St. Simons or maybe St. Martin's. I don't remember, I was just keeping time while everyone else rang the method. And it was fun. Really fun.

Then I had a chance to lead rounds and some call changes. Well, I thought I was being asked to lead because I knew I had made errors in tenoring and maybe the ringing master was trying to find something else I might do better, but I should know better than to listen to my inner monologue. It's a paranoid and neurotic product of Catholic Schools, whose first response to almost anything is Mea Culpa. Anyway, I said the magic words: Look to which means ok, everyone, pay attention, we're about to ring, Treble's going which means get your bell to the balance and get ready to pull off, then, Treble's gone as the bell comes over and the rest of the band cascades into place after you, into rounds.

Now, there is this thing you do in ringing called the "handstroke gap". Everyone does it all the time anyway, it's just how you ring. You pull the sally, the rope goes up, then you pull the tail, it comes down and you catch the sally. There is a little pause right there, before you pull the sally down again, and that is the handstroke gap. When you don't have that little gap in timing after that second stroke you end up with this continuous ringing, called cartwheeling by some, which can be a real problem sometimes but is always technically incorrect. If you ring by ear at all, it makes it really tough to know where you are, and it plays merry hell with timing. And if you're ringing call changes, it can make lots of different bell combinations sound indistinguishable from each other. But when you ring it is the most natural thing in the world to have that little gap, and it is what you want to achieve especially when you are ringing lead.

I have been told that some people find it difficult to establish and maintain the handstroke gap and don't lead well, or just don't like leading. But nobody told me it was difficult before I was asked to do it, so not knowing any better I just did it. Oh, it was off at first, but then I realized that no matter where in the order I rang it was how I had always rung, so then it fell into place. If you don't tell me something is difficult and it truly is, I will find out for myself shortly. But if something is difficult and you tell me, chances are it will be, whether it truly is or you just think it is.

It is pretty cool to find out whether you can do something or not without having pre-conceived notions affecting you. I will have to remember when the time comes for me to pass my knowledge on to another learner not to burden them with my prejudices or limit them before they show me what they can do. I'll be a better teacher one day for it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Update on Katy Idle

Alice Heilker recently got this update from our old friend Katy Idle. The following is from Katy:

“ I've graduated last week from Sheffield and am going to grad school at Loughborough in September. If you're interested, pics are on the link below. “

I already got my Masters in ME - am doing another one in Renewable Energy!

We wish Katy the best in her graduate studies, and hope she can visit us again soon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Day Date Touch

What kind of photo is that?? Well, it's the kind of photo you take when there isn't an extra person to take the picture, and you can't figure out how to use your camera's auto-timer! This crazy picture was taken just after completing a date touch on New Year's Day. Here are the details:

1 Jan 2009, 2009 Doubles
(4m: 2 ext Stedman, 4 ext Plain, 4 ext St Simon's, 6 ext plus 89 changes Grandsire)

1. Derek J Wilsden (C)
2. Mary Platt
3. Charley Heilker
4. Kathryn E Tucker
5. Cathy Brown
6. Judith Smith

To welcome the New Year.
Most changes of doubles all ringers.