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St Andrews ringing the changes

Friday 10 September 2010

Scotland’s first University will break a new record and be the first University in Scotland to have a full ring of bells suitable for change ringing - with the installation of four new bells in the University’s chapel tower.

St Salvator’s Chapel has stood proudly at the centre of the University of St Andrews for 550 years, with its tower one of the highlights of the famous skyline. However, until now it has only housed two bells – three short of the minimum of five bells to make a ring of bells, and to allow a peal to be rung.

The new bells will be used to announce services and celebrate special occasions such as weddings and graduations, and will bring the total number of chapel bells to six in time for the University’s 600th anniversary.

The Rev Dr Jamie Walker, University Chaplain, said:

“The bells are a wonderful addition to St Salvator's Chapel tower, to the University and to St Andrews, as the University approaches its 600th anniversary. We are immensely grateful to all those involved in gifting and installing them, and in all the preparations involved.  It is very special, as we celebrate the 550th year of the dedication of the Chapel, that the bells will be calling people to worship, leading us in our celebrations.”

Work to install the bells will begin this weekend, with the temporary closure of North Street on Sunday 12 September, from 6am to 1pm, to allow the bells to be lifted up into balcony and into the belfry by crane.

The project is made possible by generous donations from J Michael Buchanan, the After Many Days Club, the Keltek Trust and the St Salvator’s Chapel Bell Ringing Society - allowing the purchase and installation of three second-hand bells and one new bell at a total cost of £56,000. Two of the second-hand bells originate from the Free Middle Church in Greenock, dating from 1912. The third is a 1939 bell and comes from Cradley Heath in West Midlands. The new bell was cast on August 5 by John Taylor & Co in Loughborough.

The new bells will join the existing bells, Katharine and Elizabeth, in time for the 550th anniversary of St Salvator’s Chapel on 3 October, 2010. Their installation will include fire safety work and sound control features for practice times.

The existing bells are currently rung by a group of students and staff, of whom few have change-ringing skills. The challenge will be to train a team of ringers in time for the anniversary. The Scottish Association of Change Ringers has offered assistance, by making experienced ringers from Dundee and Edinburgh available to help at practices.

Rachel Wetherfield, University of St Andrews student and Tower Captain, said:

“I feel very privileged to be Tower Captain on such an interesting and historic occasion, and would like to thank all previous Tower Captains and ringers for helping to keep the ancient art of bell ringing alive in St Andrews and thank in advance those who will help our Society thrive and become the first Scottish University to have its own peal of bells.

“We welcome anyone who is interested in bell-ringing, which is unique in the way it can unite people within the community and provide a welcome break from studying, while continuing to stimulate the brain and body. Listen out for us and get in touch!”

Bell-ringer Dr Roy Dyckhoff, a Senior Lecturer in the University, said:

“It is wonderful to have the chance to ring properly at last for services, weddings and other special events, with an opportunity to draw in as ringers not just students and staff but others from the town and elsewhere in Fife. Ringing six bells full-circle, as will now be possible, is eminently suitable for young and old, affording simultaneous physical, musical and intellectual exercise.”

Change-ringing is a musical and traditional form of bell ringing. It is an important part of the heritage of church music, beginning in the late 17th century. It also has connections to mathematics, especially group theory, one of the University of St Andrews’ specialities.


Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact; Emma Shea, Communications Manager on 01334 462 109 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk