Looking after number one


Martin Kitson, Teacher at Bottisham, Cambridgeshire


It’s often the case that many novice ringers are never told how to lead, just told to do it. OK … so, how do you lead? Here are some tips for getting to grips with just that.


The first thing to get to grips with is the rhythm. You pull off on a handstroke and when you pull the next stroke – backstroke, there’s no pause.

However, when you get to the next stroke – handstroke again – you have a tiny pause. If, say, you’re ringing on six bells, it’s like this:

123456123456 (pause) 123456123456 (pause) 123456123456 (pause) – and so on.

The pause is as long as the ‘dings’ that make the rest. It’s as if you had a 7th bell popping in every other stroke like this:


Right-oh then, to get a feel of what it sounds like, clap your hands together 12 times, say to yourself “pause”, and then clap again 12 more times. The time it takes to say “pause” to yourself should be the same as the time it takes to clap once.Keep doing it until you feel confident about it. Next, try it for real.

We all know the lines we have to say before pulling off, but it’s worth getting this right too:

  • “Look to.” Look around and check that everyone is ready to ring. Then bring your bell to the balance.
  • “Treble’s going.” Start pulling the bell off.
  • Then, “She’s gone.” just as the bell starts its swing.

This first bit is crucial. Practise pulling the bell gently from the set position to the balance.If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask someone to show you so you can feel what it’s like. It will feel very different to when the bell is set.

So, why bother? Reason is: it’s very easy not to start pulling until you’ve said “she’s gone”. Even if the bells are not deep set or heavy, there can still be too much of a delay while you heeeeeave the bell off.

So now you’re actually ringing. You pull off at handstroke, and the backstroke follows. That’s OK – but how do you stay in the right place and lead correctly? It’s a combination of looking and listening.

LOOK for the last bell down; in rounds of course this is the tenor. You’ve just completed your backstroke and have caught the sally. As the last bell down completes the backstroke and has caught the sally, you pull off your handstroke lead. The timing will be nearly right, and there will be a gap between the last bell’s ‘dong’ and your ‘ding’.

But now you really need to LISTEN. Can you hear that rhythm with the gap – what I call that imaginary bell? If not, watch the last bell down at backstroke and pull off a bit earlier or later, as need be. You may well need some help from your Ringing Teacher or a sympathetic person to help you here, until you get it right.

As with everything in bell ringing, it’s all about practice. Don’t worry if you have bad times when it just doesn’t seem to go well.This happens! Remember a famous sportsman was once interviewed on TV and the interviewer said, “yes, but isn’t your success just luck, really?” The famous sportsman replied “Oh yes, it is luck, but you know, the more I practise, the luckier I get”.