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Southminster Tenth Anniversary

by Don Morrison

October 5, 2012 was the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the eight bells at Pittsburgh's Southminster Presbyterian Church. To celebrate, we hosted a weekend of ringing, and rang a celebratory peal, a first peal for two of our local band, Mary Bragdon and Skip Peters. We were joined for the weekend by ringers from New York, Toronto and Washington, DC. The event was reported in the local press (note that there is also a video at the end of that article).

Between 2000 and 2002 eight bells, tenor 8 cwt, 21 pounds, were installed in Southminster church’s tower, the Peace Tower. Southminster is located in the suburb of Mt Lebanon, a few miles south of the city of Pittsburgh. The bells were provided through the generosity of the late Helen Ruth Henderson. Ms. Henderson was a Pittsburgh native, civic activist, and advocate of peace. The word “Peace” has been engraved or cast in two different languages on opposite sides of each bell. Hence, sixteen languages are represented, Native American Cheyenne, Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili. The bells were dedicated on October 5th, 2002, making this year, the one hundredth anniversary of Mt Lebanon, also the tenth anniversary of Southminster’s bells.

The back six bells originally hung St John the Evangelist Church in Preston, England, as the front six of ten. Of these six, four were cast in 1814 and two were cast in 1934. The final two were cast in 2000 for Southminster. All bells were cast by the Whitechapel Foundry. Since their dedication there have been 30 peals and 130 quarters rung on the bells.

The first to join us for the weekend was Arthur Crumlish, from New York, who arrived in time to join our weekly practice Thursday, and ring in a quarter in memory of Mark Rizzo.

Martha Partridge, also from New York, and David Hawkins, Mike Hinton and Rebecca Melen from Toronto. increased our numbers on Friday evening. We spent two hours ringing, which gave members of the local band valuable opportunities to ring on more bells than we usually manage our own. and then attempted a quarter of Grandsire Triples, which, while not successful, afforded excellent practice covering to our newest ringer, Nick Wells. This was especially welcome practice for him as we never have the oppurtunity to ring methods on eight with just the local band. The evening ended with beer, wine and nibbles at the home of Elizabeth and Esther Boyd, and Don Morrison, a two minute walk from the church.

Six ambitious ringers got up and going early enough Saturday morning to ring a 9am quarter of Cambridge Minor, a first of surprise for Martha. Then more general ringing. Later in the morning we were joined by three Washington, DC ringers, Rob Bannister, Quilla Roth and Beth Sinclair.

Over our lunch break we attempted two further quarters. The first, of Bob Minor, was unsuccessful, but gave another of our newer ringers, Vivienne Shaffer, her first opportunity for extensive minor ringing, our local repertoire being limited to doubles at present. The second, of Plain Bob Triples, in memory of Margaret Miller's father, Ned Miller, was very well rung, and was a first on eight for Skip, who had only rung his first blows inside on eight a few hours earlier.

With the full complement of visitors, our afternoon ringing became more adventurous, including a lot of surprise major, with courses of Cambridge, Yorkshire, Cornwall and Cassiobury all being rung, some multiple times. Just as Cornwall was added to several North American bands' repertoires over the past few years, there is currently activity trying to add Cassiobury as well. It'll be great if we see it being rung at more North American towers when strong bands assemble together over the coming year or two. The afternoon concluded with two quarters of surprise major. One, of Cambridge, was Mary's first of surprise major. The other, of Cornwall, was a first in method for David, Rebecca and Beth.

Saturday evening we all dined together at the Walnut Grill, just a few minutes walk from the tower. Mike had sneakily informed the staff there that it was Rebecca's birthday, which was then also suitably celebrated!

The first touch for Sunday service ringing, rung as worshipers were leaving the church, was a long one of Grandsire Triples. It was well rung, and probably some of the best ringing members of the church have heard on their bells to date. It was followed by a variety of further service ringing.

Sunday afternoon a good peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung, without any difficulties. It was a first peal for both Mary and Skip, both of whom rang well, and seemed to enjoy the experience more than many first pealers do! The band also included Ross Finbow and Quilla Roth, both of whom had rung in the first peal in the tower.

In addition to tower bell ringing, we also managed to squeeze in some handbell ringing over the weekend, involving Arthur, Martha, Quilla and Don. Despite an attempt, no quarters were scored, but a lot of valuable practice was had.

Posted Oct 10, 2012


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