On Saturday 9 November 50 members, partners, friends and guests of the Worcestershire & Districts Change Ringing Association (eventually!) took their seats for the Annual Dinner. For the third year running the dinner was held at the Valley Suite of the Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster, the Valley Suite is the function room on the station concourse at Kidderminster and seats about 75.
The term "eventually" refers to one train driving member who was running to time until a points failure near Smethwick delayed his arrival until dessert was being served.
There was a tinge of sadness for some involved in the organisation of the dinner due to the sudden demise, at a very young age, of the Catering Manager Lee Andrews but Gavin and his catering team delivered an excellent meal and many commented that it was "the best meal we've had here". In the morning two quarters were rung at Pershore Parish Centre for the dinner and one included a dedication to the memory of Lee.
During the meal there was a table quiz to entertain the diners that, aptly, involved guessing the locations of various UK railway stations. The Master, Paul Marshall proposed the loyal toast, a toast to absent friends and introduced the guest speaker that most entertaining raconteur and keeper of the "London Crypt", Michael Uphill. He reminisced about his first W&DCRA dinner some 45 years ago at the Co-op Hall where the dessert was described as "Deep apple tart", Michael suggested that had the shallow end! There were memories of recently deceased members Jim Attwood and Bill Berry and entertaining stories about Tudor Edwards and Wilfred Williams. He referred to August 6th, 1964 which was significant for Worcestershire and for a lost peal attempt at Pershore Abbey which included Geoff Hemming who, in the Abbey Tearooms afterwards recounted a story involving Wilfred, Sid Holt and a lost peal at Claines. "About 40 years ago I had the pleasure of calling a peal of Stedman Triples at Claines in which Sid took part but, shortly afterwards, managed, by missing a bob at 16, to miscall one of Stedman Caters in which Sid was also ringing. When Wilfred was not himself away peal-ringing he would make it his business to keep up with what was going on from the phone box opposite his flat in South Lambeth. One of his calls that night was to Sid and the following Sunday morning, halfway up the stairs at St Paul's Cathedral a voice from a few steps below me called out, "found that 16 yet?"
He likened bell ringing to cricket and here is the significant event for Worcestershire on August 6th. "It was the day upon which Tom Graveney scored his 100th first class century. It was also the day upon which I rang with the East Riding ringers at Worcester Cathedral. Watching the local news later that evening, in the Cattermole house at Droitwich, there was Tom Graveney giving an interview at New Road with the Cathedral towering in the background and, softly, behind the interview, the sound of Worcester Cathedral bells - our ringing earlier in the day." He continued the analogy,
"There are, aren't there, striking parallels between cricket and ringing? In cricket, the batting side has openers, a middle order and tail enders while we in ringing have the front, middle and back end. Graham Gooch was referring on the radio only yesterday to the rhythm required both by bowlers and batsmen - a rhythm also required by ringers...George Pipe, in his foreword to my book, "Tales from the London County Crypt," a few copies of which I just happen to have here - come and see me afterwards if you'd like one - wrote, "Ringing is in many ways like cricket a team thing, sometimes very public, statistics, personalities, amazing performances, service and yes, tensions too."
Tom Graveney's 100 first class centuries contained many amazing performances but the very fact that he was playing for Worcestershire when he scored that 100th came about through tensions arising from his replacement as captain of Gloucestershire, something a super-star such as Tom could not quite cope with and the resultant bust-up, resignation and move to Worcestershire. "Top Dogs" like to be "Top Dog" don't they! As I said, so many similarities between cricket and ringing! No particular inference to be drawn there but I chuckled, quite recently, when reading a line from "Driving Ambition," a new book by the former England cricket captain, Andrew Strauss, published only last month in which, writing about the England team's resident prima donna, Kevin Pieterson, he said: - "There were question marks about his commitment to the team. He was very much the superstar, and superstars often like to separate themselves from mere mortals". I'm sure we will all know a ringer or two about whom those words might have been written.
They raise a serious point though. If we are to believe what the statisticians say about the demographics of ringing today, the number of towers able to hold regular Sunday service ringing, or practices in ten years' time - perhaps even sooner - will leave whole swathes of the ringing exercise struggling to survive, particularly in rural areas such as this...
So as I conjure up a mental picture of that loveliest of views, with New Road cricket ground in the foreground and the magnificent Worcester Cathedral in the background and think about the parallels between cricket and ringing, I am drawn to those stirring words for which Sir Henry Newbolt is probably best remembered. He was born, you may recall, about 18 miles north of here, at Bilston, just north of Dudley, your northern-most tower, so they could almost be, for you, couldn't they, a guiding, north star.
There's a breathless hush in the close tonight
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumpy pitch and a blinding light
An hour to play and the last man in.
As you carry your bat out to that bumpy pitch that is the art of ringing today, and take your guard for that vital last wicket partnership, what kind of innings are you going to play? Will you be a Bill Berry, or a Jim Attwood, calmly, quietly, dependably and solidly keeping up one end while the shots required to steer the team to victory are carefully selected by the player at the other end, a player who might just be a team-mate or perhaps the club secretary or the club captain. Or will you be the one, patiently selecting those shots and by that example encouraging the rest of the team to go onward to even greater and better things? Or do you fancy yourself as the match-winning super-star? Yes, super-stars can be match-winners but also, alas, as Andrew Strauss wrote, there can be question marks about their commitment to the team. They often like to separate themselves from the other members - the mere mortals. They are perfectly capable of course, of carefully surveying the scene and then knocking two sixes straight back over the bowler's head to achieve that victory. But they can just as easily, can't they, in their quest for glory, whack the first ball straight up in the air, not knowing where it might land or who it might hit or hurt on the way down and find themselves caught out - at silly point. Sir Henry had a few words of advice for such a player - indeed for all of us, in the closing lines of that verse.
For it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame
But his captain's arm on his shoulder smote
Play up, play up and play the game."
Michael then proposed the toast to The Association (almost exactly 30 years to the day since he last did so) to much applause. There was much chat and catching up with old friends and new ones, a raffle draw, the final draws for the year of the W&DCRA 300 Club and some ringing of handbells. All in all a most successful and enjoyable event and a fitting end to a year of ups and downs.
Document last modified 14-Nov-2013