Sgurr a'Chaorachain

Submitted by Simon on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 20:38

Sgurr aChaorachain

Sgurr a'Chaorachain Surprise Royal is basically a ten-bell version of Zanussi Surprise Maximus. It has gained some popularity in recent years and we have had some success ringing in in the tower at Scottish Association practices. It has just appeared on the menu for the Five o'Clock Handbell Club, at my suggestion, and I've signed up for a quarter peal attempt next week.

It's a method with a clear structure consisting of a backwork based on simple rules, a block of frontwork based on another simple rule, and several "twiddly bits" at the transition between the backwork and the frontwork. The backwork pattern consists of hunting to a point as in Bristol, reverse hunting to another point, then treble bob hunting until it's time for a pair of points towards the end of the lead. The main part of the frontwork is like Bristol with points before and after the half lead, but with a dodge at the half lead. Something that isn't immediately obvious when looking at the grid, is that around the half lead the bells in the frontwork are moving in reverse coursing order, whereas in Bristol they would be in coursing order.

As a step towards Sgurr a'Chaorachain, Simon Humphrey came up with a new delight method with basically the same backwork and a simpler frontwork. A band that I wasn't in rang it to a quarter last week, and named it Munrung, which is a Terry Pratchett reference as well as being something of a pun on "unrung". I was in another attempt this week, which we didn't get because of internet problems. I think it's worth another outing though. During the conversation afterwards, it emerged that David Brown was the composer of Sgurr a'Chaorachain (it's named after a Scottish mountain, which I haven't climbed yet - maybe one day). This was interesting to discover because the composers of methods, unlike the composers of peals, are not recorded in the Central Council method collections. Apparently the Central Council decided at an early stage not to record the composers of methods, on the grounds that they are mathematical constructions that are selected rather than composed. That might be true for surprise minor, for example, where there is a relatively small number of methods that are easily tabulated, but on higher numbers there is a significant aesthetic component in the process. To my mind, it would be worth recording composers of methods for posterity.


Anyway, back to the methods. Munrung is a good example of a rule-based method in which the rules are a little more complicated than Kent, say, and different rules need to be combined to cover different parts of the grid. The rule for the backwork is two "big points" and then treble bob hunting. This is easy at the beginning of the lead, but towards the end of the lead it's worth noting that the first point is on the treble's handstroke in 3rd place before dodging 3-4 down. Although these points are a block of wrong-place work, it's localised and not much more difficult than Kent places.

The frontwork is a bit like Kent except that when the treble is in 5-6 and 7-8, the place notation is 34 instead of 12. Also the half lead is 30. Some place bells turn round in 3rd place, like in Norwich, and some go all the way to the front. I couldn't quite decide whether to ring it purely by the structure or whether to remember where each place bell turns round. In the end it was a combination of both, and I think I was getting it until we fell apart after some internet delays. I would like to try it again, and maybe we will, but meanwhile we have Sgurr a'Chaorachain itself to try.