Dewsbury Minster’s bell ringing hope for Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

DRIVING FORCE: Bell ringers Derek and Ronalda Johnstone practise at Dewsbury Minster. (d27011270)
DRIVING FORCE: Bell ringers Derek and Ronalda Johnstone practise at Dewsbury Minster. (d27011270)

CHURCH bells will be ringing across the country in June to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee — and Dewsbury Minster hopes to have its own team of ringers in place to play its part.

The number of ringers at the Minster has dwindled so low that ringers from outside the area have to be brought in for special occasions.

The Minster is trying to rebuild its team now through introductory and practice sessions on Monday evenings.

And there was an encouraging response to the first session last month when four new members took part.

“We decided to have a bit of a push to recruit more members,” said Minster bell captain Jill Flynn. “We want to have our own band in time to ring for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.”

She added that the ‘driving force’ of the project was congregation members Derek and Ronalda Johnstone.

“They are experienced ringers and teachers. They’ve got the knack,” she said.

It only takes a few minutes’ talking to Derek Johnstone to be captured by his enthusiasm for campanology — the art of bellringing — and feel an inclination to have a go yourself.

Derek and his wife live in Snydale, near Pontefract, where he was bell captain at All Saints’ Church for a number of years.

Three years ago they joined the Minster congregation.

“I was born in Dewsbury, worked at Dewsbury hospital for 30 years and was also a member of Dewsbury Road Runners for a time, so I have strong links with the town,” Derek said.

Bell ringing has played a major part in his life for nearly half a century.

“I began ringing in 1963 as part of a scouting badge and towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award,” said Derek. “Although I didn’t complete the award, I carried on bell ringing and it is one of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed for nearly 50 years.”

Ronalda has been bell ringing since the couple married in 1971 and shares the enthusiasm, joining Derek on bell ringing holidays.

Derek said: “There about 7,000 churches in England that do ringing and I have rung in around 4,000 of them.

“It can become very addictive, it doesn’t suit everyone — but until you try it, you don’t know.”

Having taught more than 150 people the basic art of bell ringing during his time at Pontefract, Derek is keen to teach more at the Minster.

“It takes between 12 and 20 hours to achieve the control to be able to ring,” he added.

l Contact the Minster on 01924 457057.