Lamlash church bells to ring out in celebration

Councillor Timothy Billings with bellringers Maureen Pattison and Alison Page outside Lamlash Church.

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The bells of Lamlash parish church will ring out at noon tomorrow (Saturday) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the invention of the Ellacombe chiming apparatus that was originally invented by the Reverend Henry Ellacombe.

Lamlash will be joining rings of bells from as far afield as New Zealand to Canada, while closer to home in Scotland – Dunblane, Edinburgh, Inverness and Dundee – will also chime their bells at noon local time.

There are nine bells in Lamlash tower, all cast by John C Wilson & Co, Gorbals Brass and Bellfounders, Glasgow, in 1886 and it is thought that the original eight bells is the largest single ring of bells by this founder, with the same founder adding the ninth bell in 1913.

The church and five of the bells were a gift to the people of Lamlash by the 12th Duke of Hamilton and it opened on Sunday June 6, 1886. The three other original bells were a gift James Auldjo Jamieson, the Duke of Hamilton’s Commissioner.

The bells are rung by use of an Ellacombe chiming apparatus, which works by striking stationary bells with hammers. The bells are kept static, or ‘hung dead’, and a hammer strikes against the inside of the bell. Each hammer is connected by a rope to a fixed frame in the bell-ringing room. When in use, the ropes are taut and pulling one of the ropes towards the player will strike the hammer against the bell.

The chiming frame was invented by the Rev Henry Ellacombe, who was a keen bellringer and vicar at Bitton, Gloucestershire. However, he had inherited an unruly band of bellringers that had the only key into the church tower and would ring at any time of the day, were often drunk and generally obnoxious.

In order to get back control of his church’s bells he devised a chiming apparatus that only needed one person to ring all the bells, rather than the normal practice of full-circle ringing that needed one person per bell. So he could kick out his unruly ringers and still keep the bells ringing. It is pleasing to note that once he had restored order, he did allow the ringers back and his set of bellringers’ rules can still be seen in Bitton church.

One feature of the Ellacombe apparatus is that it enables tunes to be rung on bells, rather than the familiar change ringing normally heard from church bells. The Lamlash church’s three bellringers, Maureen Pattison, Dorothy Noyle and Alison Page, have been ringing for many years, and it is thanks to them that we continue to enjoy the bells ringing out across Lamlash.

The sound of the bells reminds us all to pause and consider the spiritual side to our lives irrespective of our religious beliefs and we look forward to hearing the bells for many years to come.

                                                                                                                  Timothy Billings