Society of Royal Cumberland Youths

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Centenary of first peal of Surprise by a lady ringer

You could be forgiven for not realising the historical significance of a peal board in the corner of the tower at All Saints, Edmonton, North London, as over the years the writing has faded. However, the board records details of two peals rung in 1909. The first is as follows:

Society of Royal Cumberland Youths

On Saturday May 1st, 1909

In 3 hours and 37 minutes

A peal of Superlative Surprise Major

Joseph Waghorn


Edward F Cole



Miss Edith K Parker


Wilby J Hazell



James Saxby


James Parker



George A Card


George Paice



Composed by H Dawes

and Conducted by James Parker

Not especially significant so far, as the Edmonton band was a noted peal band at the time, until that is, we read the footnote:

Miss Parker's first peal and the first Surprise peal ever rung by a lady ringer.

Edith K Parker (later Edith K Fletcher) was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers of women ringers. Aged 18 when she rang her first peal, she went on to achieve many notable "firsts", including the second performance recorded on the peal board, rung on December 4th 1909, with Edith K Parker ringing the same bell. The footnote to this reads:

First peal of London Surprise ever rung in which a lady has taken part.

Her first peal as conductor was also at Edmonton and rung for the Cumberlands; Stedman Triples in June 1910, called from a non-observation bell. Her exceptional progress was marked by an article in the second only edition of the Ringing World in March 1911. Another achievement worthy of mention was ringing in a Sunday-service touch of Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral at a time when relations between the Cumberlands and College Youths were less than cordial! In addition to her ringing achievements on both tower and handbells, Edith Parker was the driving force behind the formation of the Ladies Guild and served on the Central Council for many years.

To mark this significant anniversary, a peal attempt by members of the Cumberlands was arranged and duly rung in the same method and at the same tower, almost 100 years to the day that Edith Parker rang her first peal and became the first lady ringer to ring a peal of Surprise.

Society of Royal Cumberland Youths
Edmonton, London N6
All Saints
Saturday, 2 May 2009 in 3:06 (15-3-9)
5184 Superlative Surprise Major
Composed by: A J Cox
1 Janet E Archibald
2 Christine M Carter
3 Joanna K Dorling
4 Catherine N Merlane (c)
5 Penelope J V Sharpe
6 Janet E Menhinick
7 Linda M Garton
8 Mary E Holden
For the 100th Anniversary of the first peal of Surprise rung by a lady. Edith K Parker rang Superlative S Major at Edmonton on 1st May 1909 for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, this being her first peal.

Photo of the 2009 peal band
Back (l-r): Penny Sharpe, Cath Merlane. Front (l-r) Jo Dorling, Mary Holden, Janet Menhinick, Chris Carter, Janet Archibald, Linda Garton.

Biographical details taken from "Giants of the Exercise II" Dr John Eisel