Ringing-In the New Millennium
First published in August 2002.
At the Annual General Meeting of St James Bell Ringers, Mangotsfield on 12th November 1999, it was noted that our Vicar, Revd Keith Boxall, was planning to hold a short service in the church at midnight on Millennium Eve (31st December 1999). In response to this we decided that, if enough ringers were available, we would "ring-in" the new millennium at midnight. We were already planning to ring the bells at midday on 1st January 2000 as part of the national RING in 2000 scheme, when all the ringable bells across Britain would be ringing to celebrate the new millennium, and Keith would hold a service in the church for the ringers shortly before the midday ringing started.
RING in 2000 had been widely advertised since 1997 in conjunction with a massive recruiting drive to train the thousands of ringers needed in time for the Millennium celebrations. Everyone who participated received a badge (pictured left) and a certificate signed by the then President of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, John A Anderson (pictured right).
Millennium Eve soon came around and so, just before midnight, a group of our ringers convened in the Ringing Room to prepare to ring-in the new year. As the bells were set ready for ringing, the clock's striking hammer had to be pulled clear to allow the Tenor (biggest) bell to be rung. So when midnight arrived and the clock striking mechanism started whirring, it was my job to toll the Tenor bell twelve times for each stroke of midnight as if the clock was striking the hour. Immediately after the twelfth stroke, all the other bells started ringing in rounds. We had a rather shaky start but it soon settled down to a steady rhythm.
Our Deputy Tower Captain, Antony Jefferies, called some call-changes to break up the rounds, then after almost ten minutes' ringing he called "Stand!". However, the ending wasn't a lot better than the beginning as neither I nor the ringer of the sixth bell managed to stand our bells. Well, it added a bit of variety, I suppose!
A short excerpt of the Millennium Ringing at Mangotsfield, including my tolling the twelve strokes of midnight, can be found on my dad's Colin's Audio Odds 'n' Ends web page. The recording was made from the car park opposite the church, so expect the usual fireworks and such like that accompanied the Millennium celebrations.