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What’s in a name?

One of the things non-ringers find quaint about ringing is the names that we give to the methods (tunes) that we ring. Nearly all methods have a three-part name, a bit like the scientific names for plants. There is a specific name, then a type name then a stage name.

Taking them in reverse order, the stage is the number of bells. At All Saints, we commonly ring Major (8-bell) and Triples (7-bell) methods, but there are names for all stages from 3 to 16. The type relates to the method’s structure. The types we most commonly ring are plain methods (type name Bob) and surprise methods (type name Surprise). The specific name can be anything – whatever first band to ring it wishes to call it. Many methods are named after places, but they can be named after all sorts of things.

Why am I telling you this? On 18th September, the morning of Andy and Cara Smith’s wedding blessing, we rang a peal to mark the event. To ring the peal, Andy invited a band from the Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers, of which he is a member, and he specified five methods whose names were special for him: Cambridge Surprise Major, Wokingham Surprise Major, Trafalgar Square Surprise Major, Canada Delight Major and Edmonton Bob Major. Fortunately, the band included a talented ringing composer able to splice this unlikely combination of methods together into a musical peal. The significance of the names is: Andy grew up in Wokingham, studied in Cambridge, proposed to Cara in Trafalgar Square and now lives with her near Edmonton, Canada.

For more information on method names, see ‘About ringing’ on the tower website 

John Harrison (September 2010)


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