Society of Royal Cumberland Youths

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If at first ...!
Cumberland ladies succeed at Exeter

Back in the mists of time, the early 1990s to be precise, I had a bright idea! With a ladies peal at York recently under our belts, how about a peal with a similar band at Exeter Cathedral?

A peal attempt of Stedman Cinques with two on the tenor was duly arranged for April 1994. After a couple of hours of very good ringing, the attempt went the way that Stedman sometimes does, with a small hesitation on the front ending up in a heap! Undeterred, and confident that we could ring the bells well, the attempt was re-arranged for the following year. Again, a couple of hours of excellent ringing ... miscall! Disappointment prevailed, enthusiasm waned, several key members of the band started their families and we discovered that, had we scored, the composition would have been false anyway! The project was put on indefinite hold!

Time passed ... a decade or so. We got a bit older. The odd grey hair appeared. The children grew up. We gradually started to have a few conversations of the "We really ought to go for that peal at Exeter again." variety. Howard Egglestone, supportive of the project from the outset, reminded me several times of the deadline dates for applications for peal attempts at Exeter Cathedral.

So eventually, the letter was written and the bells were duly booked for a peal attempt in September 2007. A practice quarter was successfully completed, with a couple of boys ringing round the front to help us out. They acquitted themselves quite well. We were looking forward to ringing a good peal. However, once again it was not to be! Work on the tower over-ran, so with a few weeks notice the attempt had to be cancelled. This did resolve one dilemma. It transpired that Julia's family was not quite complete and though some people do manage to ring peals right up to the arrival of their baby, these are not usually on a 72cwt bell. Julia had been wondering how to break the news that we were a tenor ringer short. Problem solved!

The attempt was re-scheduled for a year later. So, 14 years after our first attempt, we congregated once again outside the West front, munching our bananas. The 2008 band included about half of the original band and certainly one ringer who probably hadn't even learnt to ring back in 1994! The supporters club had gathered in force. John Loveless' role was to explain the musical qualities of the tittums course end to interested members of the general public. 7 month old Paisley and big sister Bethany would be listening to make sure that Mummy and Alison were spot on with the tenor. 10 month old Toby would be making sure that Auntie Linda kept her backstrokes up on the treble. We were especially pleased that Dennis Beresford was able to come along to listen too, though possibly with a slightly more critical ear! Master of the Cumberlands back in the 1960s and 70s, Dennis still takes a very keen interest in the Society. By 4.00pm a crowd of several hundred had gathered on the grass outside the Cathedral to listen to the attempt ... or maybe it might have had something to do with the glorious sunshine! Whatever the reason, we would have an audience. No pressure then!

After a very brief false start of a few sixes, when nerves got the better of us, we pulled off again very positively. This time no hesitations, deviations or repetitions and the peal came round in 3 hours 55 minutes in fine style. Although it was a real team effort, the ringers round the back deserve special mention. They were awesome, and made it look effortless, even though it certainly wasn't!

So, job well done (at last!) and a peal of which we, and the Society, can all be very proud! As one member of the band said afterwards, "Thanks girls! It was a blast!"

Linda Garton

Photo of the band
The peal band, from bottom right clockwise:
Linda Garton, George Unsworth, Shirley McGill, Andrea Beaumont, Geraldine Forster, Catherine Merlane, Maggie Whiteley, Mary Holden, Rebecca Cox, Pauline Champion, Claire Roulstone, Alison Regan, Julia Cater.

Society of Royal Cumberland Youths
Exeter, Devon
St Peter's Cathedral
Saturday, 27 September 2008 in 3:55 (72)
5007 Stedman Cinques
Composed by: Robert Dennis
1 Linda M Garton
2 George Unsworth
3 Shirley E McGill
4 Andrea B Beaumont
5 Geraldine R Forster
6 Catherine N Merlane (C)
7 Margaret A Whiteley
8 Mary E Holden
9 Rebecca J Cox
10 Pauline Champion
11 Claire F Roulstone
12 Alison K Regan / Julia R Cater