That's dedication - bell ringer Paul celebrates his 6,000th tower, and counting
- Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant
Suffolk bell ringer Paul Stannard has visited an amazing 6,000-plus towers in the UK and Ireland - plus more in other countries.
The 63-year-old, from Barrow near Bury St Edmunds, rang for the first time as a child 50 years ago.
He has now rung the bells at 6,000 towers in the UK together with the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.
He is a member of the bell ringers at Barrow and Horringer Churches, and, showing his love of church music, he has also been organist at Denham St Mary for nearly 50 years.
"I'm just happy to keep on ringing - I must be the most travelled bell ringer in Suffolk," Mr Stannard said.
A member of a bell-ringing family, Paul is glad to get back to ringing after Covid lockdowns, and said it is good exercise.
Many bells were silent for up to 18 months, and were only allowed to be rung again when restrictions were eased from July 19.
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"We have had a very lean time with not being able to travel to ring," he said, adding that a planned tour in March 2020 had to be cancelled at the last minute.
However, Paul is now able to travel and ring bells once again, accompanied by fellow-ringers.
" I have just been to Sussex to ring on two three-bell towers, and a restored and rehung six-bell tower at Rodmell that had been unringable for many years," he said.
"Ringers travelled from as far as Exeter, Devon and me from Suffolk to ring there and add it to their list."
The family bell-ringing tradition goes back to Paul's great-grandfather, James, who was sexton of Brome and Oakley, near Eye.
His grandfather, William, was born at Oakley in 1885, and rang bells there and at other locations, including the Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds, where he conducted the peal rung to celebrate VE Day in 1945.
William's three sons, Paul's father Jim and his two brothers Charlie and Dick, were also accomplished bell ringers.
Paul said: "I used to go with my father to the Norman Tower on a Sunday evening, when the ringers rang for 6.30pm evensong.
"I would sit in the tower and watch the ropes and listen to the ‘tenors’ coursing each other. I learnt to handle a bell in 1970 and rang my first peal at Lakenheath on January 6, 1973."
Paul himself rang bells at the Norman Tower for 25 years, 12 as captain.
He has also arranged bell-ringing tours and outings and has previously served in different roles with the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, including as treasurer.
Including churches abroad, he has so far rung at 6,242 towers altogether.
The most unusual was probably a tower on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean, where he travelled with fellow bell-ringers.
"We went on a cruise specially to get there," he recalled.
He has also rung the bells at Washington Cathedral and recently travelled to Forres to ring on the most northerly "mini-ring" that's in a private house, together with David Hird of Exeter Cathedral.
Paul has donated bells in memory of family members over the years.
"With my parents, I was instrumental in raising funds to rehang the bells at Barrow from 1991-1996,. My father died in 1993 and my mother and I gave and dedicated a bell to him.
"When the 10 bells at Bury St Edmunds were augmented to 12, I gave the second bell in memory of my grandfather and members of my family who had rung at the Norman Tower since 1923. I also sponsored ‘half a bell’ for the new ring of bells at Horringer, 2017-18."