The 200th handbell peal in Scotland

Earlier this year, Simon Aves alerted me to the fact that the number of handbell peals rung in Scotland was approaching 200. We have a complete record of handbell peals by the Scottish Association, but finding all the peals rung for other associations takes a lot of work - which Simon has been doing, following on (I think) from the research for his book on the history of change-ringing in Scotland.

So, at the end of July, I thought the total was 197, but then Simon emailed to say that he had found two more peals from the 1980s or 1990s, meaning that the total was already up to 199 and the next peal would be the 200th. We organised an attempt last Monday, which unfortunately I miscalled (breaking our perfect success record for Cambridge Royal), but tried again on Monday this week and succeeded.

Of the 200 peals, I have rung in 67 which is almost exactly a third, making me the leading ringer as well as the leading conductor with 59. The leading venue is 1 Albany Quadrant with 56 peals.

The list of 200 peals excludes a few that also have a Scottish connection:

Some points of interest from the list:

  • The first handbell peal in Scotland was on 20th November 1903, in Edinburgh, so there's an opportunity to mark the 120th anniversary later this year.
  • Two peals in 1936 and one in 1957 were rung in Argyll, at a house formerly known as Dun a'Bhuilg and now called Loch Sween House, which was owned by Central Council president Edwin Lewis. I have written about that location before and will have more to say next year because it is now available as a holiday house and I've booked a week there in April.
  • In 1974 there was a peal in Stromness, Orkney. On the way, the band rang a peal on a boat in the Pentland Firth, and on the way back they rang two peals on a train (completely in Scotland).
  • There have been a few peals at various addresses in Inveraray, probably in connection with tower bell peals.
  • As well as Orkney, there have been a couple of peals on Skye, but not any of the other islands.

I was keen to ring 5200 but it's an awkward length. Also I wanted to ring royal to include the whole band, and at least 5200 is a whole number of leads. The compositional idea I came up with, for Cambridge Royal, was to start with a longer composition and reduce some courses to 5 leads by plain hunting at one of the lead ends. Under older rules (sorry, "decisions") about the description of compositions, this would have had to be described as spliced Cambridge and Primrose. The current decisions, however, don't require a bob to change the coursing order, so plain hunting at the lead end can be described as a "big bob" with place notation 10.

Here's the composition.

5200 Cambridge Surprise Royal
Composed by Charles Middleton
Arranged by Simon J Gay

23456   M   W   H
42356       x   –
34256       x   –
24653   –       x
43562   –   2   s
45362       x   s
35264   –       x
56423   –   2	
46325   –       x
62534   –   2	
52436   –       x
23645   –   2	
63542   –       x
23456   –   2   –
x = 10 Big bob.

Basically it's Middleton's (2M 2W repeatedly) but with only one block of 3H, in Johnson's variation (starting with 2H). Then to get the right number of courses there's a pair of singles Home. After that, 8 courses are reduced in length by plain hunting at a lead end: every course with just a call at Home has plain hunt at the first lead end, and every course with just a call at Middle has plain hunt at the last lead end (jumping to the course end).

I want to ring another 5200 next year for Lord Kelvin's 200th birthday, so we might give this composition another outing or possibly try Bristol instead.