Interview with Simon Melen

Interview Banner

Simon Melen is famous for ringing several peals on four handbells, including Orion Surprise Maximus.

Where are you based?

Ticknall, Derbyshire, England

When and where did you learn to ring handbells?

I was taught to ring handbells by my, then, father-in-law, David Marshall in Long Eaton, Derbyshire in about 1983.

Who has influenced your handbell ringing?

Obviously in teaching me, David Marshall was a big influence, and he also introduced me to the two main groups of peal-ringing handbell bands in the area both of which were headed by Robert B Smith, who, together with John M Jelley, was very influential. I was fortunate to be asked to plod along on the tenors to some amazing peals including the first handbell peal of Orion with some truly inspirational ringers, including David C Brown and John Hughes-D'Aeth.

Blue lines, place notation or structure?

When I first started, I carefully learnt pattern of both bells together. Abel didn't exist, so I used to count up to 8 (or 10 or 12) in my head and use my thumbs! The more I ring working pairs, the more I now find myself ringing by structure.

Trebles or tenors?

Luckily the trebles were very rarely available to me, because we had a superb handbell ringer on the trebles with Rupert Clarke. I began on the tenors, gradually working my way on to n-2,n-3 - and eventually started having a go on 3-4 and 5-6.

Quarters or peals?

Almost invariably peals.

What is the most unusual place in which you have rung handbells?

We rang a peal on a very hot day on the edge of a cliff at Berry Head in Brixham. We found a shady spot underneath a tree to all sit down. After an hour, the sun had moved and the shade disappeared. We all ended up sunburnt!

What is your favourite handbell-ringing anecdote?

So many! But to name just one: in lockdown we were ringing a peal in Paul Jopp's garden - Bristol Maximus I believe. I, as usual, was ringing with my eyes closed. After a while things started to feel a bit peculiar. I opened my eyes to find myself looking, instead of at the rest of the band, up into the night sky. My back chair legs had disappeared into the damp soil underneath Paul's lawn. My situation was clearly not going to improve unless I took some action. I waited until my bells came into course, and, much to everyone's amusement, started trying to pull the legs out of the ground whilst still sitting in the chair. Hilarity followed together with an almighty fire-up. If the situation happened again, I would certainly approach things differently. I would start by ringing standing up, and then try and sort the chair out afterwards. It seems obvious to me now!

Any further comments about handbell ringing in general? 

In an exercise where the average age is increasing and numbers of ringers are dwindling, it is so good to see that a lot more people are taking up ringing handbell peals. It is, and always will be, a difficult mental challenge, but it is great fun trying to improve.


Next time: Mary Jones