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A very different All Saints

Travel often helps give one a different perspective on things. Most years I attend the Inveraray ringing festival at the end of July. It’s a 900 mile round trip, which might seem a lot just to ring bells, but with 8 hours of ringing over the weekend on glorious bells (the world’s second heaviest ring of ten) in an idyllic setting by the side of Loch Fyne it is well worth it. Inveraray has a population of around 600 so it’s no surprise that ringers outnumbered the locals by five to one at the Sunday morning service. The Episcopalian church and the Catholics share All Saints church building, which is tucked away behind the tourist car park, and smaller than the Church of Scotland building in the middle of the main street. However, the massive bell tower dwarfs everything else in the town.

At the service on Sunday, the priest reminded us that we reflected the worldwide Anglican Communion. He was born in Australia (with Scottish roots), two of the ringers came from Australia, the visiting priest assisting him was from America (over here researching the Campbell archives) and one of the local congregation was born in South Africa.

The 10th Duke of Argyle erected the tower and bells as a memorial to members of the Clan Campbell killed in the First World War. It was a massive act of faith, and in the sermon we were reminded what an extravagant, even pointless, gesture it might have seemed at the time. A tiny community can’t sustain a local band of ringers, especially when the nearest tower with bells and ringers who might help is 50 miles away in Glasgow. The bells are looked after by members of the Scottish Association of Change Ringers, who travel to Inveraray, often in harsh weather, to do all the maintenance, and they are rung by visiting bands through the year. The contrast with Wokingham could not be more stark.

  View of Inveraray

John Harrison (September 2015) 

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