The Ancient
Society of
Est. 1637

381st Anniversary Dinner
3rd November 2018

(Report by Ryan Noble, pictures by Mark Esbester.)

The Master accompanied by his Stewards.

This year's annual dinner was held at the Grange St Paul's hotel, once again a great venue for our large gathering of 340 members and guests. Our guests to the top table this year included clergy members from Southwark, St Paul's, Jewry, Bow, Cripplegate and Cornhill. Fortunately, everyone came suitably dressed for the occasion, with outfits ranging from the traditional suits and dresses through to bow ties, "dog collars" or bright pink dresses with many sequins!

The usual pre-dinner socialising occurred after several peals were scored in the morning and ringers met up in the Rising Sun before moving to the hotel to sit down for the dinner. Once the Master, Officers and guests were seated, a menu consisting of Mushroom and Butternut squash tart - the Master's favourite - followed by a large serving of lamb shank and bread and butter pudding to finish was all served in good time.

During the dinner several toasts were made including for those with more than 50 and 60 years membership. There were also a few extras at the request of the Master, one of which being a toast for all those who had completed the Inveraray Triathlon and also those who had completed the Oxford Ring Road Challenge. It is not known how many stood up having completed both of these!

After a short break to allow for refuelling, The Master took to his feet to propose the toast to the Church and Clergy. He spoke about experiences of ringing at St Paul's Cathedral as a member of the Guild and remarked that the bells will soon once again be making a majestic sound. The Clergy were thanked for the support they give us and for allowing us to have practices and ring peals on their bells - particularly noting an occasion when Rev'd Katherine Rumens at Cripplegate turned up with a set of keys when we were locked out. The Master also had a second chance to retell a joke from his time as Master of the OUS 15 years ago about how you would empty a bath tub given a spoon, egg cup and bucket could determine your sanity level. Whilst several people said it wasn't quite the same joke from the OUS dinner it certainly went down well and was met with laughter and applause.

Mike Clay proposes the toast to the Society.

The Rev'd Rosemary Morton, Succentor of St Paul's, gave the response, highlighting particularly on her musical links with the church and again also mentioning about the publicity of the bell restoration project at St Paul's had played over the last year in the life of the cathedral.

The Handbell touch was an entertaining part of the evening, the amusement coming before the touch began when it was quickly realised that Paul Mounsey had the wrong combination of treble bells. After a brief rearrangement, a neat composition of Cassington Little Bob, Ariel, Bristol and Asaph Hall was rung by Paul Mounsey, Graham John, Tom Hinks, John Hughes-D'Aeth, David Maynard and Paul Carless. (The handbell touch can be viewed here).

Mike Clay then spoke about his 34 years of membership with the society and of course a big part of that had been the last 22 years which he has spent living in Scotland and raising the profile of the society as well as 12 bell ringing and peal ringing for many living north of the border. He summed up members of the society as people who take great pride in their ringing and ambitions and people who are "rather sociable" - hitting the nail right on its head.

The Secretary reported on an excellent year of society activities, including the Informal Dinner and Country meeting in Sunny Cardiff, the society's entries to the National and London 12 bell competitions and the Master's challenge which was kindly hosted by the Guildford ringers. The 8 ringers present who had reached their 50 years membership during 2018 were invited to receive an illuminated certificate from the Master. The Secretary thanked Henry for his "unique style" and hard work during his year as Master and also mused on whether the tone for the next Master's year was to be set by going to Bristol Zoo for the 2019 country meeting.

The final toast of the evening was a traditional one, which we drink in silence. It was to the fragrant memory of the Masters from 300, 200 and 100 years ago, the only of whom we know being Albert Hughes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry who was Master from 1914-1918 during World War One.

After the formal part of the dinner was over, it would be fair to say that much drinking, merriment and mischief went on late into the night. An excellent evening's dining was surely had by all those who attended and thanks should be recorded to the Secretary and Officers who have organised the dinner this year.

  • The handbell touch.

  • The Master congratulates Andrew Wilby on completing 50 years membership.

  • Lizzie and Edd Colliss, Alan Reading and Lucy Warren.

  • Caroline and David House with Beth Sinclair.

  • Chris and Katie Poole.

  • Philip Saddleton, Anthea Edwards, Chris and Liz Hutchieson.

  • Helen Maynard, Nigel and Jenny Herriott.

  • Hannah Taylor and John Thurman.

  • Saskia Coggill, Becky Sugden, Dave Bassford, Jill Parker and James Watkins.

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