The Ancient
Society of
Est. 1637

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Saturday, 6th November, 2004
Photos by Dickon Love (more by Robert Lewis below). Click image to enlarge.
Report by Simon Linford.

The Master, Colin Newman, delivers his speech... ... while the room listens attentively.
Listening to the Master's speech. The Rev'd George Bush, Rector of St Mary-le-Bow responds to the Master's toast to the Church.
Robin Hall proposes the Society. The Secretary, Phil Rogers, responds to the toast to the Society in his last dinner speech as Secretary.
The handbell ringers, who a month earlier rang the longest peal ever, about to perform a touch of spliced minor: Andrew Tibbetts, David Pipe and Philip Earis. A video of some of this performance may be downloaded here (2,188kB) The Junior Steward, Stephanie Warboys, proposes a toast to the guests.
The Rev'd Peter Mullen, Rector of St Michael Cornhill and St Sepulchre, responds to the Junior Steward's toast. The top table listening to Peter Mullen's speech. The Rev'd Darren Moore, ordained a few months earlier.
The diners head for the bar after the closing speeches. Keith Wakefield and Peter Wilkinson.
David Kingston, who has over 50 years membership of the Society. Paul Carless and Edward and Cathy Hughes-D'Aeth.
The two nominees for the office of Secretary: John Hughes-D'Aeth and Dickon Love. Jim Hardy and Lucy Weston.
Ann Wilby and Jason Hughes. Stephanie Warboys and the Rev'd George Bush.
Dickon Love and Swaz Apter. Peter Townsend, Hannah Wilby, Swaz Apter and David Pipe.
Maurice and Margaret Edwards. Eleanor Kippin, Michael Church and Dave Bassford.
The Master, with his wife, Judith. Stephen Penney, Hannah Wilby and Andrew Tibbetts.
Tim Payne, the Rev'd Darren Moore, Kathy Howard and David Kirkcaldy. Kath Sloman and Henry Coggill.
The Master and his stewards. Andrew Wilby and Phil Rogers.
Chris Kippin, Robert Childs, Stuart Hutchieson and Paul Hunter. Hannah Wilby and Chris Kippin.
Simon Poole, Paul Tiebout, Mike Birkbeck, Mark Eccleston and Tim Dean. Jon Waters inspects the College Youths Name Book, on display next to the latest peal book.
Mark Eccleston and Becky Sugden. Andrew Stubbs (Treasurer) and Robert Lewis (Editor of The Ringing World).
Mike Birkbeck, Sam Austin and Katie Town. Past Masters: Andrew Wilby and Brian Diserens.
Stuart Hutchieson, Richard Allton and Tony Daw. Keith Game with Robert Lewis.
The College Youths ride on the crest of a wave. The Ancient Society shows its current strength in many ways, but there is no greater evidence than the attendance at the 367th Anniversary Dinner. More than 250 members and guests enjoyed what was generally considered to be a superb event. 

Finding a good venue capable of seating 250 plus is a nice challenge to have. For many years the dinner has been at Chartered Accountants Hall, but the accountants characteristically decided to increase their fees and we looked elsewhere. On the bank of the Thames, nestling under the floodlit Tower Bridge and with fireworks rising into the night sky beyond, the Thistle Tower Hotel did us proud.

Five o’clock for six is an early start for an evening out, especially when the bar is open until 1am, but then there was a lot to get through. Such as four barrels of Fullers. In between pints there was good food to be eaten, a huge number of people to talk to, and of course, the speeches.  

I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I made the last time I did this report – having one too many and producing a completely illegible set of notes. This time I was careful – a single pint up to the end of the speeches – copious legible notes. I then made a different mistake – I lost them.  

I do remember that first to speak was the Master with the toast to the Church. Despite having had three years to write this speech, he claimed he had started that morning with the help of Google. The spread-betters were making a market on when the word "Chelmsford" would crop up, and those who had sold at three minutes made money. We ringers have what we think is a good relationship with the Church, and are grateful for the huge part the Church plays in our hobby. A very good start to what proved to be an excellent set of speeches. 

The Rector of St Mary-le-Bow, George Bush, had been advised by the Dean never to give after dinner speeches. On confessing that he was to speak at the College Youths’ dinner he was told "Oh that doesn’t count!" So we gave thanks to the Dean for allowing George to entertain us. He subtly challenged our assumption that the bells do not disturb him in his flat under the louvres, and said he would do everything he could to support our efforts, short of joining us. There was also just a hint in his speech that the City clergy do not all see eye to eye …  

In an idle moment I found myself wondering who had put together each table, as there were round tables of ten and people had the opportunity to arrange their own. The Abbey table was easy, as was the Dill Faulkes Table. It looked as though Ricky Shallcross had a table, and there were various regional arrangements. And then there was a table with John Camp surrounded by the young intelligentsia. 

No one would have guessed that Robin Hall had been asked to propose the toast to the Society at short notice. Following a rapturous reception, and even one or two wolf whistles, he delivered a fine performance. Drawing on the impending contested election for Secretary between John Hughes-D’Aeth and Dickon Love, he had found prophetic references in the Songs of Solomon: "for love is as strong as death" and "Many waters cannot quench love". He was enjoying himself – Hull and Thurman were easy targets, but in the serious part of the speech Robin explained how he had found himself describing the Society to some ringers who had not heard of it. Why did people join? Was it just to ring at Cornhill? Was it to meet girls? The answer could be found by looking at the attendances, the peal reports in the Ringing World, the website – these told of an active and healthy Society, worthy of the toast. 

In his final year as Secretary, Phil Rogers was enjoying the dinner knowing the complexities of organising the event were safely behind him for ever. He kept the review of the Society’s year to a minimum and instead paid various tributes and gave thanks to the particular efforts of a few. He noted a good turnout of those with over 50 years membership - John Gipson took the room’s applause for his 57 years. The Society had elected 39 new members during the year, but had sadly lost 26 including some very well known characters. All were remembered in silence. The extended applause at the end of Phil’s speech was not so much for those ten minutes of words, but for more than five years of sterling service.

One feature of the College Youths' dinner is the quality of the handbell ringing. No Stedman Cinques or Spliced Maximus this year, but a superb display of spliced minor ringing by the Society’s current superstar record-breakers, David Pipe, Andrew Tibbetts and Philip Earis. It was captivating. The band seemed completely at ease, Earis grinning like a Cheshire cat, Pipe super-cool, and Tibbetts conducting safe in the knowledge that he could probably ring all six bells save for lack of arms. For some reason it reminded me of the film I had watched on a flight the night before - "I, Robot".

Junior Steward Stephanie Warboys, who had received particular tribute for her efforts during the year from the Secretary, was then charged with welcoming the Society’s guests - never an easy speech to make, but one Stephanie executed with her normal degree of style and composure. It was noted that there was no official representative from the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths present – the Master’s excuse had been that there was a peal of Yorkshire that needed scoring. Chris Kippin’s passion for organs provided material for quite a few jokes, and I seem to remember another one about a frog. 

By this stage in the evening, those present were very receptive to humorous entertainment and Reverend Peter Mullen provided more in a short speech which he had sketched out on the back of his programme. He said that the best advice he could give to a new clergyman was "Hate your organist; love your bellringers." I bet he tells a similar story at the organists’ dinner. Before thanking us on behalf of the guests for a delightful evening he advised us to "not let the politically correct fascists get to us on noise abatement." Strong feelings indeed. 

The speeches were concluded by 10.30 but the bar stayed open for a further two and a half hours. There was scope for a serious amount of catching up with old friends, falling asleep, falling over, even falling in love. A number of people were overheard saying that it was their most enjoyable College Youths' dinner ever. They just get better and better.

Photos by Robert Lewis below. Click image to enlarge.

Rusty and Charles Herriott. Naomi Lewis, Tim Bradley and Michelle Greener.
Rusty with Robert Lewis. Andrew Stubbs and David Hilling.
The Kippin family: Eleanor, Heather and Chris. Simon Linford with Bob and Rose Hancock.
The day was all too much for some. Ros Keech, Charles Herriott, Rupert Littlewood and Andrew Keech.
Ricky Shallcross provides a shoulder for Swaz Apter to lean on. Dickon Love and Stephanie Warboys.
An after dinner cigarette: Paul Mounsey and Chris Rusby.

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