The sound of pealing bells will ring on Easter Sunday this weekend as part of a musical tradition kept alive by a small but constant community of bell ringers in WA.
The St Martin’s Society of Change Ringers is a small collective of musicians from across the Perth metropolitan area who have taken up the call as safekeepers of WA’s inherited practice of change ringing, which dates back to 15th century England.
The current cohort of ringers, established in the 1960s, regularly gather to sound the bells at eight towers around WA, including the Perth Bell Tower, St George’s Cathedral, Claremont, Mandurah, Rockingham, York and Bunbury.
St George’s Cathedral tower captain Ian McLeod says the Easter bell ringing pays tribute to the period of reflection encapsulated by Lent for Christians.
“Bell ringing is quite an extraordinary activity because the bell is silent until you grab hold of that rope, and working as a team, ring out the bells to let that sound go out into the world,” Dr McLeod says.
“You just never know what sort of message that sound is giving to people.
“We try to let those feelings of joy out. To say that there is hope, there is love and forgiveness. That’s what ringing at Easter is all about.”St George’s Cathedral tower captain Ian McLeod
Perth’s iconic set of 12 bells was inherited from London’s Church of St Martin in the Fields in 1988. After sitting in disuse for twelve years, they finally found a permanent home at the Perth Bell Tower with its opening in 2000.
Perth Bell tower captain Michael Collinson says he’s proud to see the enduring artform bring people together.
“We’re a pretty odd mix of people,” Mr Collinson says.
“Some of our youngest ringers are around eight years old, up to about 16 years old. The older ringers, well, they’re probably towards the 80s.
“There aren’t many of us — and we’re getting old.”
But with only 30 active bell ringers in the state, Mr Collinson says the society will be looking to implement more recruitment programs to boost interest in the practice in WA.
“I suppose one of the many reasons why there aren’t that many of us is that we’re all so busy bell ringing that we don’t really think about recruiting new people,” he says.
“But the Bell Tower itself is a fairly significant civic asset and we’d love to ring for things that are relevant to the city and the state.”