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The Butler Bell Tour of Massachusetts

or Philadelphia Guild of Change Ringers invades New England

by Brian Zook

Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight....oh wait that is a different story.

But on July 9th four Philadelphia ringers and three from Virginia were encamped at the uber trendy Aloft hotel in Lexington, MA. Close at hand were three more Philadelphia ringers and a couple of Western New York ringers too. This was the first overnight trip for the Philadelphia Guild of Change ringers. Years ago, we used to rent vans and travel en masse to various locals, Washington, New York, Brewster and Kent but this was our first trip that involved a hotel stay. After a leisurely repast at a Thai restaurant in Lexington most of us retired after a little night cap in the trendy wxyz bar at the hotel.

In the morning we were off to Groton to ring there on their lovely ring of ten bells. Bruce rented a mini van and Bruce and Eileen chauffeured around Roy and Eileen Latham and Terry Glab and myself. Jim Snyder drove Tom Miller. He and his wife Barbara drove up were staying close by at another hotel. Barbara took the car and explored the countryside while Tom rang with us. Russell and John Torrey drove up and were staying close by with relatives and Chris and Hellen Haller were somewhere in the vicinity too. Groton is a lovely place. The chapel at the school are really beautiful and the bells were nice to ring too. Laura Dickerson was the ringing leader and she saw that we all got to ring rounds on ten. We also did some hunting on nine and ten and I think there was a little ringing of Grandsire and maybe Stedman. While we were there, there was a rain storm and I got a great video of the gargoyle spitting out water from the top of the tower. After ringing there till 1 p.m or so, then we were off to ring at Hingham. There were ringers at Groton from Smith and Boston and Washington.

After a quick bite to eat at Wendy's we were off to Hingham. A big rain storm happened while we were at the Wendy's and that caused a bit of a foul up. Traffic around Boston was a mess. We had planned on getting to Hingham by 3:30, but with the traffic and the road conditions, we didn't get there till around 4 ish. We did get there in time to ring for a wedding at Old Ship Church, which was letting out as we arrived. We were joined by local ringer Dorcas and a couple of other Hingham ringers. Dorcas rang with us, but the other ringers chose to listen outside, I guess. We rang the ten bells to some rounds call changes and some methods. It was interesting to ring there. I had heard that they were a terrible set of bells. I didn't find them so bad. I had rung before at Burlington, NJ and Mitchell in Chicago. The only complaint I could say against the Hingham ring is that the bells are dangerously loud. Anyone who rings there with any regularity should have there hearing checked often or wear ear plugs.

After Hingham we drove back to the hotel in Lexington, it didn't seem to take nearly as long to get back to the hotel from Hingham as it did to get to Hingham. After cocktail hour, we all went to eat at a restaurant in Lexington which featured organic food. We were suspicious at first, but we all had a pretty good dinner there. Even the libations are certified organic. Nightcaps were had by some at the wxyz and off to bed.

(See picture of some of us eating at the "refuel" at the trendy Aloft in Lexington)

Sunday, morning and we had to have our bags packed and ready to go to Boston to ring at The Advent and The Old North Church. I had rung both towers in 1997 as a side trip to the Smith AGM. I am not sure whether the bells had been worked on a bit since then, or I was just a bit more seasoned as a ringer now. Both sets of bells rang beautifully. Much better than I recalled, but I was a novice ringer in 1997.

I took a quick walk up to the top of Beacon Hill after ringing at The Advent, to take a look at Louisburg Square, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the country.

Louisburg Square

We rang at The Old North, it was nice to ring on the oldest set of change ringing bells in the USA. As we came down the tower, another rain storm popped up, though this time few of us had umbrellas. We had to wait it out. Finally it slowed up a little and there was a shop across the street, we all went in to buy umbrellas. By the time we came out, the sun was shinning.

Back to the van and the trek to Orleans, on the cape. We were expected at Orleans around 3:30. It was going to be close. Off we trekked in the van. Jim and Tom were in the car and the Haller's were driving too as was John and Russell Torrey in their car.

There is a ringer, who we know, who often tells us, “Lunch is a non event” and contents himself by eating an apple under a tree. If only we had that apple with us on that day. We never knew that lunch today was going to be a real “non event.” This is totally out of character for a Butler trip. Lunch is usually carved out of the schedule with a pint of beer and a little snack at the Chestnut Grill or Black Sheep. Wendy's on Saturday was out of the ordinary, but we had to keep moving, but Sunday was a day of fasting for this group.

We finally arrived at Orleans and the Community of Jesus and their beautiful set of ten bells. We were all happy to be there and ring. The bells rang so nicely and sounded so heavenly. The people at the Community of Jesus were very hospitable and friendly. To the hungry they gave cookies and lemonade. We were happy to also have Cally Perry and Elaine Hansen, who were vacationing on the cape that week stop by for a ring with us.

Many people from the Community of Jesus came out to watch. It is a cool ground floor ring out in the open, so people can sit outside in the grass and watch the ringing. The ropes have to be pulled up and put away after ringing so that people don't just come by and try to ring the bells. A very cool trap door in the ceiling which works by remote control opens and then a very sturdy aluminum ladder is lowered and then the ropes are taken up along with the boxes and ringing mats. Even the holes in the ceiling are plugged with rubber stoppers to keep vermin out of the belfry. Many of us got a tour of their beautiful sanctuary, The Church of the Transfiguration, it is a remarkable structure and worth a trip to Orleans to see in its own right. It would be a beautiful place to hear a concert of attend a service of worship.

Nave of the Church of the Transfiguration at the Communithy of Jesus

We spent the night at a Travel Lodge in West Dennis, not an uber chic place compared to the Aloft, Lexington. We went back to Orleans in the morning to ring a little before heading back to the airport to get our flights back home. We arrived with hours to wait at the airport and ended up waiting at the Legal Seafood in the Logan airport. We had a nice lunch in Hyannis and I figured I would be home in Philadelphia by 7:45 and could eat at home. Bad idea. Our 6:30 flight boarded and then we were told that there were no flights landing in Philadelphia, due to a storm. We waited and waited at the gate. A lot of people left the flight. We ended up leaving from Boston at 9:30. On that day “Dinner was a non event too.” Thank you mother nature and USAirways.

All and all though, the ringing was great. Boston towers do lack something we have in Philadelphia, air conditioning. Groton, Hingham and both Boston towers were sweltering. Orleans was pretty hot too, but a nice breeze did feel refreshing at times though there were some insects biting.

Where will the Butler's and the Philadelphians end up next time. Stay tuned to find out. And next time I am packing my own lunch!

Posted Aug 04, 2010


Dianne S P CermakAug 05 2010, 3:30 pm

What great photos! Thanks, Brian for the prompt report. The Advent bells did have major maintenance work done by Whitechapel, including the installation of new clappers, a couple of years ago. (See the photos at <>)

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