Great Bowden bell ringer Ray reflects on 60 years at village church

Bellringers at St Peter and St Paul Church in Great Bowden (Photo: Peter Crowe)
Bellringers at St Peter and St Paul Church in Great Bowden (Photo: Peter Crowe)

A Great Bowden bell ringer is celebrating 60 years of pulling the ropes at St Peter and St Paul Church.

Great Bowden’s Captain of Bells Ray Martin.

Ray Martin (Photo: Peter Crowe)

Ray Martin (Photo: Peter Crowe)

While others may claim similar longevity in their ringing careers, very few can claim to have been ringing continuously at the same church for such a long period of time.

Ray’s family is rooted in Great Bowden and it was his brother Edward who persuaded him to start ringing the bells aged 14. As Ray says the rest is history. In 1971, Edward left to live in the United States and Ray became Captain of the Bellringers in Great Bowden.

The fact that Edward left was the result of a ‘ringing romance’. Ray said: “Edward read a piece in the Ringing World magazine from a lady in Washington who was looking for help with the recently-installed bells in their Cathedral. Edward responded, they met and fell in love and Edward moved to the States as a result.”

Ray is proud to have rang the bells week in, week out for daily worship at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, but also recalls some specific occasions with great pride. In 1967 on the church’s patronal festival (the day the church remembers the saints that it is named for) Ray led a team using the full peal of six bell for the first time.

They rang for 2 hours and 44 minutes, ringing every bell in every possible variety of combinations known as a ‘Cambridge Surprise Minor’ and adding up to 5040 rings.

At the Millennium he helped the village to see in the new century by ringing the bells and was amazed to descend from the tower to a crowd of people gathered around the church.

In 2012 Great Bowden was one of 47 churches in the Welland Valley that rang their bells to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen.

During recent changes at the church the belfry has been greatly improved and stairs have replaced an iron ladder, making access much easier.

The bells themselves, which were refurbished in 2000, are a great part of the church’s Christian heritage with the oldest one dating back to 1599.

Ray says: “It’s amazing to think that Christians in Great Bowden would have been summoned to church more than 400 years ago by one of the bells we are still using today.”

Ray himself is a great testament to the way that bellringing helps to keep people fit in mind and body. The ringers at Great Bowden are happy to show anyone around the belfry and welcome new recruits to a band that currently covers all ages.