SRCY Tour of Australia in 2011
The SRCY Tour to Australia started with us leaving London at Friday 18 February. Everyone got to the airport on time with everything checked in, we had time to wander around and get a bite to eat before our lunchtime flight on one of the new A380s. Was it any surprise then that the last person to board the flight was Penny Sharpe, who was standing just outside the plane on the gantry on the phone to someone?
During the flight the first incident happened, with JJ trying to get out of the way ended up throwing his red wine all over Clare McArdle in the row in front of him (she wasn't even sitting directly in front of him!). Fortunately the Qantas staff were very helpful and got something for Clare to wear for the rest of the flight. Everyone was looking forward to the trip, and settled down for the long leg to Singapore. We only had a short stop at Singapore (1 hour) and we were pleased to see in Perth that not only did all the ringers make the connection, but so did all of our luggage!
We arrived in Perth on the 19th of Feb in the early afternoon, and we were welcomed to a red hot day to make us realise we were still in the tail end of summer. With no ringing planned for the day we arrived, people did their best to acclimatise to the weather. Some people were up for going out for dinner that night, and they ended up celebrating JJ's birthday with him.
On the Sunday we helped out with service ringing at the Cathedral before joining the locals at The Bell Tower (aka Swan Bells) for their monthly 10 and 12 bell practice. Some of them got to try their hand at things they don't often get to ring (eg Bristol Max) which they seemed to appreciate. While 8 ventured to the Cathedral for a peal the rest either went to explore the city, or went to the Lucky Shag for a refreshing drink or two. In fact some of us decided at this point we had time to ring a QP before heading to the Cathedral for Evensong, so an impromptu QP of Grandsire Triples was rung (well) on the back 8. We were invited to Evensong at St George's by Graham Napier, who had recently moved to Perth from Westminster Abbey, so he was used to dealing with ringers, and we were suitably supplied with refreshments after the service. We finished off the evening back in the Lucky Shag, where someone else decided that Clare needed to wear their drink as well. She was starting to get a reputation at this point!
The Perth weather was as predicted, and for the most part was fairly warm. Perhaps this with some jetlag was the reason a couple of peal attempts were lost, but others were scored as well as a few QPs, and we went to some of the local practices to help out. During our time in Perth we heard of the earthquake in Christchuch, and we dedicated our ringing on the Tuesday to victims.
On a lighter note we found some people didn't have their heads screwed on for their belongings - Penny losing a hat at Mandurah, Peter leaving a pair of sunnies behind at the same tower (later recovered), and Aunty Laura even returning his RW diary at Perth airport(!!), but the biggest shock was the Powells who couldn't find their passport as we were due to leave the hotel in Perth. The searched and phoned everywhere, and eventually they discovered their passports had been found and returned at Perth International airport! So when we went to leave Perth they popped over to pick up their passports from the International terminal. It's just as well this was discovered while we were still in Perth, and not as we were going to leave Brisbane!
We then flew to Adelaide on the Wednesday, where a number of the party were surprised that we had to move our clocks forward by 2.5 hours (not 2 or 3 hours). The Master eventually gave up trying to explain why this is the case and just ended up saying "because it is". On the Thursday and Friday we had some publicity for our trip, and the upcoming Adelaide Challenge, so the Master was brought a quick wardrobe change by his sister so he looked (more) presentable for television! We were also welcomed by said sister and her husband (Michelle and Matthew Sorell) to their place on the Thursday night for a pool party with BBQ. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves (some more than others, judging by the time and state they left). On the Friday night we were joined by the other society at the Queens Head by St Peter's Cathedral, where the draw for the Adelaide Challenge was made.
For those who haven't heard about the Challenge yet, the idea was to get the members of both Societies to ring at all five Adelaide towers on the same day. As some of the teams had more members than others, we had at least two touches at each tower, with the proviso that everyone was meant to ring at each tower. The rules for the judging were a bit complicated at times, but that was left to the Chief Judge (Chris Kippin) to work out. As we had a peal attempt at Walkerville during the morning of the competition, some of that band were judges in the afternoon. The locals told us we had to get to the first of the city towers, and then we would be transported around for the rest of the day. It worked like a charm. During the competition there were updates on the Adelaide bellringers Twitter account, including the views of "Young Fred" Smeaton (Adelaide's 101 year old ringer). The competition finished in time to get ready for dinner in the evening.
For what is probably the first time in living memory, both Societies hosted a dinner. It was definitely the first time that such a dinner was hosted outside the UK, and it was in the Banquet Room in the Adelaide Town Hall. There was a QP to welcome us, followed by some general ringing for those who weren't in the competition and wanted to grab the tower. After a quick drinks reception we went to our seats to be welcomed by the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, whose entertaining welcome helped the night flow on extremely well. There was one moment when the mayor innocently made a comment about the lovely bells he had in the Town Hall, so was a little perplexed by the laughter he got in response. He was quickly informed that he had the best Warner 8 in a Town Hall, which no doubt has since been explained to him properly. David Bleby, a well known local ringer in Adelaide, made the first of the short speeches during the night, followed by both Masters who each welcomed everyone to the dinner and also thanked all the hard work the Adelaide ringers had put in to making the weekend happen. There was also a moment's silence for those in Christchurch, as it was a year to the day since the last peal was rung on the bells of Christchurch Cathedral, and some of the band - as well as the conductor, Derek Sibson - were at the dinner. Mike Clayton had to leave the CY tour in Sydney so he could go back to Christchurch to be with his family. There were some handbells as part of the entertainment, where some Maximus was rung by the CYs. The results of the Adelaide Challenge were also read out by the Chief Judge. We knew we didn't field the strongest bands possible, as we were split between the SRCY Master's and SRCY Secretary's bands, while the ASCY fielded Masters, Secretary's and Junior Steward's bands. When the results were read out both Masters felt a little sheepish as they were both beaten by their respective teams! The winners in the end were the ASCY Secretary's band, and they were presented with certificates acknowledging this. The other highlight of the evening was when the Masters took wine with x, y and z, but at one point they took wine with all those who had been members of their Society for 50 or more years, and about 8 of those present stood up. They then took wine with all those of 75 years members, and Fred Smeaton stood up and was given a standing ovation.
On the Sunday, perhaps to help people recover from the excellent dinner, we all went down to David Bleby's place out in the bush (Inman Valley to be precise) where a BBQ was put on for us. While some didn't enjoy the 1 hour bus journey, they felt better once out in the fresh (and cooler!) air and got some food in them. As well as the usual meat there was some crocodile on the menu that people could try. As well as someone bringing more handbells, people went for a walk in the countryside and meeting some of the wildlife in the flesh. Everyone survived this without being bitten by any of the legendary nasties in Australia, but that's why we were told to go there in closed footwear!
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Adelaide and head off to Sydney. Again we had the day we arrived as time to get used to our surroundings and different climate. Quite a few people went to the practice at St Andrew's Cathedral, but the Master wasn't able to as he was told that one of the peal attempts for the following evening needed to be rescheduled to the morning. After some poring over spreadsheets he made it to the practice to let those there know of all the rearranged plans, and then hunt down those who weren't there. Fortunately the rearrangements had no negative effect on the ringing, and both peals were scored. Wednesday was a busy day with 5 QPs planned, but due to a late start there wasn't time to ring one of the QPs due to a service starting. All others were scored, even if a stand-in was needed at Burwood as JJ's car had a flat tyre and it meant his passengers weren't able to get there in time (although JJ was hardly to be seen while the tyre was changed). I guess that's one of the dangers about grabbing a tower, you never know when you might end up ringing in the attempt as you're there! In the evening we went to Jordon's in Darling Harbour for Geraldine Forster's birthday. Over 20 of us were able to make it and everyone had a really good time, enjoyed the food and the wine, and loved the spectacular views we had of the harbour. The rest of the week was at a much gentler pace, and most people had a day off to go and explore the city. We attended several of the practices, again with helped the local ringers to be able to try something they may not usually be able to attempt. We had a couple of unfortunate losses along the way with peals, but in one of the scored peals the Master called his first peal on 12 (Stedman Cinques). On our final night we met up with some local members at the Australia Hotel on Cumberland Street (how appropriate) to say thanks for their welcome and how it was good to see them againOur departure from Sydney was fortunate in that we managed to leave, as not only did Qantas initially lose half of our bookings, but Christine Carter's luggage didn't get processed correctly and if it wasn't for the quick actions of Derek and Jane it could have been blown up by airport security!
Even with an afternoon landing we still managed to get to Holy Trinity in time for a Quarter Peal, and to meet Penny Sharpe who rejoined the tour briefly after having spent some time with her family. People then went to St David's Cathedral to help out with their practice. St David's is currently having some work done in the porch, and we were warned to take care there. Unfortunately one of the locals didn't remember this warning and she ended up breaking two bones in her ankle. Forunately for her there were five members on our tour with medical experience, so she was looked after and given the right advice. The rest of us still went out to the Ball and Chain where some had been before, and those who went for the first time found out why the others wanted to go back there. The next day most people went to Port Arthur (did some try to leave the Master there?) and in the afternoon a peal was scored at St David's, and most of the group went out for dinner at a well known seafood restaurant. We had some spare time (!) on the Wednesday before the flight back to the mainland so various cars went to Mount Wellington for a 360°C view of cloud, or Mount Nelson for a better view of Hobart. Some went to view waterfalls, others to 7 Mile Beach, others to Penny Sharpe's sister's place! People had a nice time in Hobart, and it was great to have local Cumberland Doug Nichols involved and in the peal at St David's.
Melbourne was a bit of a rush, and perhaps it showed that we had a lot to do in not a huge amount of time. It started with Derek leaving his suitcase behind as he changed the hand he was using to carry his luggage, just as he stepped on to an escalator. It ended up with him travelling down on the escalator and his luggage remaining at the top! Fortunate Christine Carter was right behind him and managed to bring it down for him. As we left the airport we were greeted with some very British weather (ie pouring rain), and the short walk to the hotel not quite being as short as it could have been, but we settled in and got ready for the next day. With QPs in the morning and peals in the afternoon, it was going to be a bit of a long day, with some bells that were a bit more difficult to ring than what we'd be ringing recently. All QPs were scored, with some enjoying the challenge that was thrown at them. The afternoon didn't go so well, with the attempt at West Heidelberg having outside influences affecting any chance we had of ringing a peal there, given a power blackout that covered several suburbs that stopped the ringing.
After a delay in leaving Melbourne we were running late for our first ringing engagement, but fortunately the local ringers were able to push things back for us. 12 of us quickly checked in to the hotel and rang a QP at Brisbane Cathedral, and we were joined by the others and some locals for some general ringing. Afterwards we went for a meal at a recommended pub, but unfortunately for us the pub is a nice, quiet pub most of the week, but not on a Friday night when we were there. On the Saturday our last peal and QP attempts were rung and scored. We had a BBQ lunch on the grounds of the Cathedral which was put on for us by the local ringers. We then went out to a nice restaurant for our farewell meal, as on Sunday lunchtime we flew out from Australia. During the meal the Master said a few words to thank everyone for coming along and hoping they enjoyed themselves - and everyone did. There were some presents given to the Master for organising the flights and towers and to Derek Sibson for sorting out the accommodation and hire cars.
Those of us going straight back to the UK had some time in Singapore where some went to see the city, some just wandered around the airport, and some went for a swim on top of the airport. Everyone returned back home safely without incident, with a few hardy souls going to work the day they landed back in the UK.
A few words from the Master
I would just like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who came along on the trip. As I've said before, it was not just a peal tour but an opportunity for people to go and see Australia as well as doing some ringing, including local ringers where we could. I have already heard a lot of good feedback from the local ringers we met, and I hope that we have helped them out while we were there. The organising of this was a big job, so I'd like to thank people for being flexible when things had to be changed at the last moment. I trust everyone enjoyed themselves, and I'm glad you were able to be there for an unique opportunity.
Adelaide Dinner group photo
Where we were
We were in Perth from Saturday 19 Febrary until Wednesday 23 February.
We were in Adelaide from Wednesday 23 February until Monday 28 February.
We were in Sydney from Monday 28 February until Monday 6 March.
We were in Hobart from Monday 7 March until Wednesday 9 March.
We were in Melbourne from Wednesday 9 March until Friday 11 March.
We were in Brisbane from Friday 11 March until Sunday 13 March.
- "Bell Boys" - Southern Cross (February edition)
- "Adelaide shows London the Ropes" - Guardian (Adelaide), p.4
- "Beyond the Adelaide Fringe festival to a creative invasion" - The Australian
- "The bells! The Bells! The bells are ringing!" - Adelaide City Council press release
- Channel 7 Adelaide news (digital copy not available)
- BTN (Behind The News) - ABC1 (please note that this is a rather simplistic explanation of ringing, as it's aimed for children)
- "Ring them bells" - Adelaide Local ABC Radio (audio goes for 6'22")
- Brits ring St Patrick's bells - Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne
View photos from this event in our gallery.