Changing the Guards at Otley tower
Meg Morton grew up within the sound of the Shelford church bells in Nottinghamshire but became more curious about bell ringing after hearing the bells of St Magnus church whilst on a visit to Orkney. However it was not until after moving to Otley in 1980 that 2 years later she and husband Tom started learning to ring and by the late 1990’s Meg became tower captain.
The band for many years was strong and well peopled. Ringers would come from other local towers to join in on practice nights and ring for weddings. Meg organised ringing weekends all over the country and on New Years Eves the old year was seen out on half muffled bells and the new welcomed in on open bells followed by shots of whiskey for the ringers!
Gradually over the years as younger band members moved away or took up other interests and older members went – we hope (!) - to glory, numbers began to dwindle so that often there sometimes only 2 or 3 people ringing. However Meg always ensured that there was a Sunday bell rung, believing as she did that if the sound of bells ceased, the bells which have rung out over Otley for at least three centuries, would fall silent for ever.
However in 2012/2013 there was a renewed interest in bell ringing at Otley and by the time of the Grand Depart in Yorkshire for the Tour de France in 2013 all 8 bells were rung by an Otley band as the cyclists rode through the town.
-------- and now – post covid (or nearly we hope) all the ringers are back, ringing for practice nights, Sunday service and weddings again. After over 20 years as tower captain at Otley All Saints, Meg Morton is passing the baton on now to Julia Thornely. At a service on Yorkshire day Aug 1st, Meg was thanked for her service and Julia introduced to members of the congregation.
Of course Meg will continue to ring at Otley, help to teach new ringers and advise on all those tower matters about which she has such wisdom and knowledge. The ringers, church and community are immensely grateful for her long and committed service to the tower and wish her all the best with new ventures.
Meg’s byword has always been tower safety and good striking so as to give pleasure primarily to those listening outside the tower. We in the tower aim to continue that legacy.
Thank you Meg
The ringers at Otley Parish Church have been suffering untold withdrawal symptoms during our long drought since Spring 2020, when all ringing of church bells had to stop until further notice.
Eventually we were allowed to dong one bell on Sundays, or two where it was two ringers sharing a household. But that’s not very challenging or stimulating, and some ringers were not in a position to do even that. There was some solace in ringing online thanks to a clever website called Ringing Room, but it didn’t suit everyone - and it wasn’t real bells.
Some of us were distinctly nervous about handling a bell-rope again, but as we found out at our first ‘silent’ practice on in late May 2021, using our simulator, it really is like riding a bike! When you’ve learned to do something that takes several weeks to master, it stays put in the little grey cells. Remembering the more complex patterns that we use to vary the changes takes a bit longer, but we’ve made a start.
Our practices on Thursday evenings (7.30-8.15pm) will now go on as normal, apart from only having six ringers present, lasting for only 45 minutes and having to comply with all the hygiene regulations. It’s not too easy communicating against the sound of the bells (the door to the belfry open for ventilation) when wearing face-masks!
There will also be ‘silent’ practices using the simulator when we need them - e.g. for any aspiring new learners out there! We can ring for weddings as well, and when things ease up further we will have an Open Tower Day to welcome visitors to the bells again.