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Society of Royal Cumberland Youths

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Muriel Reay's 90th Birthday, a Cumberland perspective

The peal band

On Saturday 11th October 2008 friends and family of Muriel Reay gathered to celebrate Muriel's 90th Birthday which was exactly one week before. In the morning a good peal of 5090 Stedman Caters was ably conducted by Mark Eccleston.

Muriel was the first lady to ring 1000 peals, as well as being in the now famous George Fearn's Thursday night peals at Birmingham Cathedral, and being the only lady member of the prestigious Bull Ring Sunday service band for some years (to put that in perspective I believe the next was Fran Dodds).

Muriel was secretary of the Bull Ring band for many years, as well as peal secretary of the St Martin's Guild. Even in later years when she was unable to ring very much due to arthritic hands, she still came to the Bull Ring to do the register, sort out peal fees, to support the band and occasionally ring.

Muriel was also an active member of the Cumberlands, and I remember her arranging Cumberland peals for peal weekend, on suitably light towers even in fairly recent times. Her penultimate peal was a Cumberland peal rung at Shirley on 15th November 1997, and her last peal also at Shirley for the St Martin's Guild in 1998. She still donates her Ringing Worlds to the Cumberlands for binding.

Muriel has always been hugely supportive of younger ringers. She came to Northfield to help young people, including myself and my sister, as we took our first steps in Surprise Major ringing.

The birthday cake

The party itself was a grand feast. Margaret Edwards prepared a splendid buffet of cold meats and salads, very much like the one she prepared for the country meeting at Northfield a few years back, and the party was held in the same venue, the Pastoral Centre.

Margaret's main helpers were her daughters Anthea Edwards and Fiona Wheeler, fellow local Cumberlands Chris Mills and Sarah Vernon (nee McArdle), prospective member Clare McArdle who made the stunning cake, and Mike Rigby who helped Clare lift the cake!

People in Muriel's 1000th peal - including Derek Sibson

John Anderson made a speech and toasted Muriel, and Muriel stood up, made a short speech herself, and thanked everyone for coming. Margaret had done a lot of work ensuring that all Muriel's neighbours, friends (many from the National Trust), relatives, and ringing friends that she particularly wanted there were invited. Some travelled a long distance, and I know she was particularly pleased to see Derek and Jane Sibson and John Barnes. Derek was in Muriel's 1000th peal, and took part in the photograph of the people in attendance who were also in it: Muriel, Maurice Edwards, Rod Pipe and Derek Sibson.

Everyone at the party had a wonderful time celebrating this momentous occasion, and it was good to see those who hadn't known Muriel as well (Charlie Linford!). Muriel left the party tired but very happy.

Fiona Wheeler

Photo of the band
Back row (l-r): Alison Regan, Claire Roulstone, Rebecca Cox, Pauline Champion, Linda Garton, Frances Dodds.
Front row (l-r): Jane Sibson, Yvonne Towler, Shirley McGill, Muriel Reay, Pat Newton, Jenny Town, Catherine Merlane.

Society of Royal Cumberland Youths
WORCESTER, All Saints (20)
Saturday, February 24th, 2007
In 3 hours 14 minutes
5042 CAMBRIDGE S MAXIMUS
Composed by R W Pipe
1. E Jane Sibson
2. Yvonne A Towler
3. Shirley E McGill
4. Patricia M Newton
5. Jennifer A Town
6. Catherine N Merlane (c)
7. Frances Dodds
8. Linda M Garton
9. Pauline C Champion
10. Rebecca J Cox
11. Claire F Roulstone
12. Alison K Regan
Rung by a band, all of whom have rung 1000 peals, to mark the 30th anniversary of Muriel Reay's 1000th peal - the first lady to reach this total.