June 2017

Grandsire Caters: a little more practice needed

We rang the opening section and the first A block quite well, but came to grief in the first turning course. On the positive side, it does seem achievable, if we can become more familiar with the handstroke home position and the transition between tittums and handstrokes.

It's on the list of unfinished projects.

No more handbell ringing for three weeks, as we are going to visit Tina's parents in the USA. The next plan for when we come back is a peal of Yorkshire Royal.


Preparing for Grandsire Caters

This week we're going for a peal with a new combination of people: Mike Clay, Ian Bell and Julia Cater. Also a new method: Grandsire Caters. This plan kills several birds with one stone. We want to continue ringing with Mike and Ian; Julia is keen to come and ring in Glasgow more regularly; I have been thinking that it would be a nice change to try something other than Surprise; and we want to get back into more 10-bell ringing.

Grandsire is not often rung on handbells, at least not for peals or quarters. Odd-bell methods are less popular anyway, and within the odd-bell sphere, Stedman is dominant. Tina and I rang a few peals of Grandsire Triples and Caters in the late 1990s, before we moved to Glasgow, but we have hardly rung it since. Other factors in its absence from Albany Quadrant are that I have never been much of a Grandsire conductor, and Jonathan has an aversion to ringing it even in the tower. 

A couple of years ago we attempted a peal of Grandsire Caters at Inveraray, which I was conducting. I chose the following standard composition by Albert Tyler, partly because it is well known as a fairly straightforward one, and partly because Mike Clay gave me a set of notes by Roy LeMarechal on how to call it and follow the coursing orders.

5039 Grandsire Caters
Albert M Tyler

23456789  1  2  3  4     
32654     -  -  s  s
43256978  -        s   
24356     -  -  -      
32456     -  -  -      
52436     s              
23456        -  -  -   
42356     -  -  -      
34256     -  -  -      
63452     -  -  s        
35462        -  -  -     
43562     -  -  -     |
24365     -  -  s     |
52463     -  -  s     |
45263     -  -  -     |
24563     -  -  -     |
32465     -  -  s     |A
53264     -  -  s     |
25364     -  -  -     |
32564     -  -  -     |
43265     -  -  s     |
54362     -  -  s     |
35462879  -     -  s
54362        A
45362978  -     -  -
53462        A
45362879  -     -  s
34265        A*  
A* = A omitting last course.

So, what do we make of this composition? The main structure is the four A blocks, which alternate between the tittums position (978 at the end of the change) and the handstroke home position (879 at the end of the change, producing 789 roll-ups at handstroke). In the A blocks the 6th is always in 5th place at the course end, which makes the 6th a natural bell to conduct from in the tower, and suggests conducting from 5-6 on handbells, which is what I am planning to do.

There is also an irregular-looking block at the beginning, but it does contain some regularity with several courses called 1,2,3, and six course ends of the form 1xxx569780.

When calling Grandsire, one needs to be aware of how long each course is, because courses containing calls are shorter than the plain course. In this composition almost all the courses are 5 leads. The exceptions are the very first course, which is 4 leads; the second course (1,4s), which is 6 leads; the 5th course (1s), which is also 6 leads; and the last course, which is called 1,2,3s but produces rounds at handstroke at the 4th lead end, one lead before the course end.

The first block just has to be learnt, but it's helpful to note what happens during these 10 courses. The first course (1,2,3s,4s) is just a little bit of padding, I think. The second course (1,4s) puts the back bells into the tittums position. The transition from the coursing order 897 to 789 is achieved by putting the 7th into the hunt with a bob at 1, and leaving it there until it overtakes the 8th and the 9th in the coursing order; then the single at 4 brings it out of the hunt while the 8th dodges 6-7 down.

This produces the course end 1432569780, which is the first of what Roy calls the "out of course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home. "Out of course" means that one pair out of 2,3,4 are swapped with respect to rounds. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and have the effect of rotating 2,3,4 to produce the course ends 1243679780 and then 1324569780. Roy explains that the 3rd being in the hunt at the course end is the signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different.

The next course has only one call, a single at 1 which puts the 5th into the hunt. It's a six lead course, but it's best to just ring until the course end, rather than count the leads. The course after that is called 2,3,4, which produces the first of what Roy calls the "in course" tittums course ends with 5-6 home: 1234569780. The next two courses are each called 1,2,3 and produce the course ends 1423569780 and 1342569780. The 3rd is now in the hunt at a course end, which again is a signal to stop calling 1,2,3 and do something different: in this case, call 1,2,3s instead. Finally, the 10th course of the initial block is another 2,3,4 course, which puts the 6th into 5th place at the course end; this is where it will be for the rest of the peal.

The main part of Roy LeMarechal's notes deals with how the calling of the A block works. At the beginning of the block, the course end is 1354629780. What's of interest is the coursing order of 2,3,4,5, which at this point is 3542. The key point about Grandsire is that bobs don't change the coursing order, but plain leads do because the hunt bell moves relative to the other bells. After the bobs at 1, 2 and 3, the 4th is in the hunt (note that this is the third bell in the 4-bell coursing order 3542). Each plain lead moves it one position earlier in the coursing order, so we get first 3452 and then 4352.

Now Roy explains a rule that can be used to call the whole A block without having to remember whether each course is 1,2,3 or 1,2,3s. If the 5th is in one of the last two positions in the coursing order, then call 1,2,3s. The single at 3 swaps the last two bells, producing 4325. Then the two plain leads change the coursing order to 4235 and then 2435. As the 5th is now in the last position in the coursing order, the next course is again 1,2,3s, and this is what will produce the pattern in the A block of the two types of calling alternating in pairs. The single at 3 produces 2453 and then the two plain leads result in 5243. Continuing in this way, eventually we reach the coursing order 5432, in which the 2nd is in the final position. This indicates that the A block has finished and it's time to turn the back bells.

The course 1,3,4s has two effects. It changes the back bells from tittums to handstrokes, and it rotates 3, 4, 5 so that the coursing order is again 3542. The next A block is called in exactly the same way as the first one, and then there is another turning course, which this time is 1,3,4 to put the back bells back into tittums. This time, however, the 3rd and the 4th are the other way around, and the coursing order at the beginning of the A block is 4532. This doesn't affect the rules for calling the A block according to the positions of the 2nd and the 5th in the coursing order. After this block, the back bells are put into handstrokes again. The final A block starts with the coursing order 4532.

A point of interest for handbell ringing is that 3-4 ring each A block in the same way, except that the 3rd and 4th blocks have them the other way round than the 1st and 2nd blocks. This might give the ringer of 3-4 the benefit of a certain familiarity with the sequence of work. Similarly, 1-2 and 5-6 will each experience the same work in every block.

What about the work of 7-8? They spend most of the time in either the tittums position, in which they are coursing, or the handstroke home position, in which they are coursing one apart. I hope the turning courses won't come as too much of a shock.

A couple of weeks ago, Tina, Mike and I were all in Tulloch for an SACR weekend focusing on Lincolnshire Maximus. We took the opportunity to recruit a couple of assistants to ring the first few courses of the Tyler composition of handbells. It went well once we got into it. One pitfall we noticed is that in the tittums position, it's quite tempting to dodge too soon at the lead end before the course end. Here is how the roll-ups occur.

312456978  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
one lead
142356978  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356978  backstroke roll-up

The temptation is to dodge on the roll-up, the first time it occurs. We didn't practise any of the handstroke home position, but I think there might be less temptation in that position. Here is how the lead ends and roll-ups occur.

312456879  backstroke roll-up before the lead end
134265789  handstroke roll-up
413265789  handstroke roll-up
142356879  backstroke roll-up at the course end
421356879  backstroke roll-up
243165789  handstroke roll-up

The handstroke roll-up is the more distinctive change, so it might feel more natural to dodge on it at the 4th lead end and not at the course end. Time will tell.

The key to success will be accurate hunting, staying in the right positions, and dodging at the right time. I will report back next week.

100 Scottish Association Handbell Peals

The 100th handbell peal for the SACR has just been rung - Plain Bob Major, which was Isabella Scott's first peal. Congratulations, Isabella! To mark the occasion, here's a review of the history of Scottish handbell ringing.

The first handbell peal was in 1932, of Plain Bob Major. The band was Robert Preston, Stephen Wood, Henry Sargent and William Pickett, who were all Glasgow ringers. The peal was rung at 66 Hillhead Street, Glasgow. By checking the historical electoral registers I discovered that they rang it in Stephen Wood's flat. There was a previous peal by the same band at the same address, in 1931, which was the first peal by the St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, society, and predated the formation of the Scottish Association. We rang a peal for the 80th anniversary of the 1931 peal, using the same composition. I would also like to ring a peal at 66 Hillhead Street one day. The building is now owned by Glasgow University, where I work, so it should be possible to get access if I can find the right person to ask.

The next two peals, in 1936, were both rung at Kilmory Knap, in Argyll, at a house called Dun A' Bhuilg. It seems to still exist as a holiday house. The peals were on consecutive days in August with very similar bands, including Chris Woolley who wrote the Central Council booklet on handbell ringing. They rang Plain Bob Major and Plain Bob Royal. The Bob Major is claimed as the first peal in the county of Argyll, which is interesting because most peals in Argyll are tower bell peals at Inveraray. The Bob Royal was the first 10-bell peal for the association.

After that there is nothing until 1946, when there was a peal of doubles (Plain Bob, Grandsire and Stedman) at No. 4 Meiktila Camp, Kalyan Bombay Province, India. The band was the Reverend Captain Albert F Sargent (surely related to Henry Sargent), Captain John F Banks, and - wait for it - Wilfred F Moreton, who is better known as the organiser of the Hereford ringing course for many years. He is also known for teaching handbell ringing by the method of getting all the students to ring the same pair simultaneously in a mass participation exercise.

There is then a gap until 1978, which was the beginning of the first phase of regular handbell peal ringing in Scotland. From 1978 to 1990 there were a total of 30 peals, with a gradually changing population of ringers. Some of them were spending a few years in Scotland as students or for work; others were long-term residents who are still here. Activists included Steve Mitchell, who Tina and I did a lot of ringing with in Middlesex during the late 1990s; Nigel Booth, who is still around and has been to a couple of our handbell days; and Margaret and Martin Whiteley. One of the peals has a footnote for the first birthday of their son David, who we met much later while climbing David Brown's last Munro (we rang a course of Yorkshire on the summit). The peals during this period were mostly Plain Bob, from Minor to Royal, with occasional Treble Bob Major and some of Minor in several plain methods or including some Treble Bob. There was a peal of Cambridge Minor in 1987, which was the first of Surprise in hand for the association. The venue for a few peals was the Permanent Way Engineer's Office at Aberdeen Station, which would be another interesting one to try to get for a repeat performance.

From 1990 to 2007 there was another gap, interrupted by a single peal in 1999, of Plain Bob, Kent and Oxford Minor. In 2007, Mike Clay started ringing with Jonathan Frye, Lizzie Frye and William Dawson, who were students at Edinburgh University. Mike conducted several peals of Plain Bob and one of Kent, also bringing in Robin Churchill and Peter Williamson. I got involved in 2007 when we decided to practise 3 leads of Bristol to perform at the SACR 75th anniversary dinner - we did this with Mike, Jonathan and Lizzie.

Tina and I spent the autumn of 2007 in Lisbon, and when we came back, Jonathan Frye and Angela Deakin said they would like to start ringing handbells regularly. Our adventures from that point on have been well documented in the blog, and once we got up to peal standard with the Albany Quadrant band, I hope it's not too boastful to say that we advanced Scottish handbell ringing to a new level. We're still not so good at Royal and Maximus, but when it comes to Surprise Major, we can now ring anything on handbells that has been rung by the SACR on tower bells. We have also helped to develop other ringers, with several firsts of various Surprise Major methods.

The number of peals per year is fairly modest - so far, 2015 has been the peak with 11 peals. The number of ringers involved is also relatively small, with a peak of 13, also in 2015. The conducting is seriously unbalanced: since 2007 there have been 36 peals conducted by myself, 13 by Mike Clay, and 12 by Robin Churchill. The only other resident members to have conducted peals during this period are Dan Smith and Peter Kirton with one each.


Time to reach 100 peals: 85 years

Number of ringers: 58

Leading ringers: Simon Gay:40, Tina Stoecklin:36, Jonathan Frye:30

Number of conductors: 21

Leading conductors: Simon Gay:36, Mike Clay:13, Robin Churchill:12

Longest span of peal ringing: Ian Bell and Stephen Elwell-Sutton, 37 years

Leading methods: Plain Bob Major:24, Plain Bob Minor:13, Yorkshire Major:9

Number of venues: 27

Leading venue: 1 Albany Quadrant, Glasgow, 31


A Peal of Yorkshire

Yesterday we rang our peal of Yorkshire, in a rather echoey room in the buildings of St James' Leith. I called the Bernard Taylor composition, and it went smoothly, although at one point I did indeed become slightly confused about the positions of my bells vs. the positions of the tenors at a middle. The peal was somewhat slower than we usually ring, because of the difficult acoustics. However, we had a good standard of ringing and it was satisfying to be able to score a peal at the first attempt with a non-standard combination of people - it's four years since we rang a peal with that band.

The next SACR handbell peal will be the 100th. We have heard that a St Andrews band are going for a peal on Friday, which will be a first for Isabella Scott, so good luck to them.

Handbell Compositions: 5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major (No. 2) by Peter J Sanderson

In the previous article, about Bernard Taylor's composition of Yorkshire, I quoted his comment that Peter Sanderson had produced a similar composition. I think it must be this one, which is also in the handbell compositions section of www.ringing.info.

5152 Yorkshire S Major (No.2)
Peter J Sanderson

23456   M  W  H
35264   2  2
56423   -  2  3
25463      -
63254   2  -
52436   -  -
23645   -  2
63542   -     3
42635   2  -   
23456   2  2  3

Here are the coursing orders.

  M      W      H
53624  36524
65243  52643
       26543  25463
65324  53624
53246  32546
32465  24365
43652         46532
43265  32465
32546  25346
       53246  52436

Indeed it is very similar - also a palindrome, and with the same handbell-friendly properties (12 courses of coursing for 3-4 and 5-6. The difference is that there is only one block of 3 wrongs in each half, and it has a block of 3 homes inserted into it instead of the other separate block of 3 wrongs. I think I prefer Bernard Taylor's composition, because it's a little more regular. Let's see how it works out in practice.

Handbell Compositions: 5152 Yorkshire Surprise Major by Bernard H Taylor

I was looking for handbell-friendly compositions of Yorkshire in the collection at www.ringing.info, and I noticed this one by Bernard Taylor.

6048 (5152) Yorkshire Surprise Major
Bernard H Taylor
23456   M   W   H
56234   2   -
35264  (3)  -
25463   -   3
45362   -   3
63254   -   -
52436   -   -
34625   -   -
23645   3   -
42635   3   -
62534   -  (3)
23456   -   2   3
Omit both (3) for 5152.

Bernard's description of the composition is included:

Difficult to believe this is original, but have been unable to find it elsewhere. Peter Sanderson has published something similar, though this was arrived at independently. It is delightfully easy to call, with the position of 5-6 making it obvious what to do. All 12 courses of 5-6 coursing are the 'right way round' (6 before 5) and 3-4 have 12 coursing courses too.

At a casual glance, the composition looks like a series of wrongs and middles without a great deal of structure or pattern. But the claim that it is "delightfully easy to call" sounds attractive, and in line with previous articles about compositions in which the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling. So let's unpack the composition and see what it's all about.

We can ignore the blocks of (3), because I don't think there's much demand for a 6048. Here is the first section, written out with the coursing orders in the positions of the bobs.

  M      W
53624  36524
65243  52643
65432  54632
65324  53624

The composition starts with 2M 2W, the classic "Middleton's block", which is equivalent to a before and produces the coursing order 65324, with 5-6 coursing. Notice that between the two middles the coursing order is 53462, with 3-4 coursing, and between the two wrongs it is 36524, with 5-6 coursing.

Next comes M 3W M 3W M. This is 3M with blocks of 3W inserted. The coursing order at the beginning is 65324, so the 3 middles are on 2,3,4. This means that at the bobs, the lead ends will be familiar changes: 1423xxxx, 1342xxxx, 1234xxxx, where the xxxx is 5867. If calling from 5-6, one has to not be confused by the fact that becoming  5th and 7th place bell at a bob might feel like calling a wrong.

In the blocks of 3 wrongs, 5-6 are affected in the same way that 3-4 are affected in a block of 3 homes from the plain course. They ring two courses of coursing and one course of the 3-4 position.

The third middle returns to the coursing order 65324, and then a wrong and a middle return to the plain course. These final bobs at wrong and then middle complete the 2 wrongs and 2 middles from the beginning of the composition. Overall this is a round block that inserts 10 courses into the plain course, including 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing.

The composition as a whole is palindromic. It's easiest to see this at first by ignoring the 3 homes at the end. The symmetrical point is the half lead in the middle of the plain course (reverse rounds). The second half of the calling is the mirror image of the first half. Wrongs and middles become interchanged, because a wrong is the same distance after the midpoint as a middle is before it. On the page, rotating the first half by 180 degrees produces the second half.

M   W                M   W
-----                -----
2   2                    -
-   3                -   -
-   3       ->       3   -
-   -                3   -
-                    2   2
-----                -----

Here are the coursing orders for the second half.

  M      W
32465  24365
24365  43265
43265  32465
32546  25346

It's the same idea with middle and wrong exchanged: calls at wrong affecting 2,3,4, and blocks of 3 middles in which 5-6 are affected. This section also has 5 courses with 3-4 coursing and 6 courses with 5-6 coursing. Finally, the block of 3 homes adds another 2 courses with 3-4 coursing.

I wondered whether there would be any benefit in starting with one or two homes, instead of having all three at the end, in order to get more of the 5-6 position for 5-6 out of the way early on. It turns out that doing this reduces the amount of coursing for 3-4 from 12 courses to 10, because the two middles at the beginning and the two wrongs at the end no longer contain courses with 3-4 coursing.

We can see how the coursing order is a mnemonic for the calling by looking at the first half, and then the same reasoning applies in reverse for the second half. Each block of 3 wrongs finishes when the coursing order is 65xxx, and the enclosing block of 3 middles finishes when the coursing order is 65324 (a rotation of the plain course).

So it should be straightforward to call, and in particular the three consecutive courses all called M W no longer look like a section that has to be counted through (it's always best to avoid counting if possible). The main pitfall I can see is forgetting that middle and wrong are consecutive leads.

We have a peal attempt of Yorkshire booked for the week after next, so I will give this composition a try.