Band of brothers

Brothers Helen, Rudd, Gay and Linford

During the pandemic I found myself regularly ringing online with a band containing three Simons: Rudd, Gay and Humphrey. We conceived the idea of ringing with a band consisting entirely of Simons, and worked our way up to a quarter of Little Bob Fourteen. Some time later we thought of ringing a Simons handbell peal, in person, and 23-spliced suprise major seemed like an ambitious but reasonable goal. It took a while to find a date, which was some way in the future, but eventually it arrived and was yesterday.

When ringing with the Simons, we are addressed and referred to as Brother Gay, Brother Linford and so on, to avoid the obvious ambiguity. It's difficult to stick to this while ringing! The handbell band consisted of Brothers Gay, Linford, Rudd and Melen. Along the way we decided to make a weekend of it by recruiting four more Simons for a tower bell peal. Apart from anything else, ringing the composition on tower bells is the perfect way to polish up the methods for a handbell attempt.

We therefore went to St James Garlickhythe, in London, on Saturday and rang a good peal. The other members of the band were Brother Bond (a member of the Oxford handbell band but not in our handbell peal band this time), Brother Davies (who I used to ring with a lot in London in the 1990s; he is still my leading tower bell peal ringer and third overall on my list of leading peal ringers), Brother Woof (who I had not met before), and Brother Lee. The latter was recruited to ring the treble at a relatively late stage. He is 10 or 11 years old, I forget which, and it was only his third peal. He did very well. The peal was a good achievement and quickly rose to number one position on BellBoard.

The brothers dispersed from London and four of us reconvened on Sunday in Birmingham, at The Woodman pub. The pub is closed for refurbishment, but we were able to ring there because Brother Linford owns it. And then we sat down and rang 23-spliced again. I think we all found it a difficult challenge, but we stuck to our work through any rough patches and came through well. The band placing was determined by various factors - I asked for 5-6 because it's the only pair I hadn't previously rung the composition from. We had an online practice on the previous Thursday, and as we were getting ready to ring, I asked whether we had a conductor, because I didn't remember it being discussed. "Yes - you!" they chorused. OK then!

I said before the peal that I wouldn't be able to do anything with coursing orders, so my conducting was limited to structural comments, which I think were considered helpful. I feel I'm a long way off being able to transpose and use the coursing orders in that peal, when the methods take so much concentration.

So, a successful weekend. I checked the list of 23-spliced performances in PealBase and found that the last time I had rung it on tower bells was in 1998, and even my previous handbell peal was in 2016. I completed the pairs for the composition and Brother Rudd also rang a new pair. Somewhat surprisingly it was Brother Melen's first peal of 23-spliced on handbells, but he reminded us that he has rung it on two tower bells, which is an achievement on a completely different level.

There have been numerous "name" peals in the past. There is a list of tower bell peals on PealBase, but no list of handbell peals. I don't know whether that means that ours was the first. There have been two previous Simons peals, which I wasn't in, both in 2015: one of Bristol Maximus, and one of London Royal that I now know was the result of meeting short for Bristol Maximus. What next for the current Simons? Someone on Facebook suggested that two of us could ring 23-spliced on four bells each, but I don't think that's very likely! The arrangements for yesterday's handbell peal included finding a backup date in July, so we might try a peal of royal or maximus if we can recruit one or two more of the brothers.