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The first peal of royal in Scotland

On Aug 10 1895, the following appeared on page 127 of The Bell News under the heading "The Provinces":

On Monday, August 5, 1895, in Three Hours and Forty-seven Minutes
At the Cathedral Church of St Mary,
A Peal of Treble Bob Royal, 5040 Changes
In the Kent Variation, Tenor 42 cwt. 2 qtrs. 21 lbs.

Charles L. Routledge    Treble 

Robert S. Story               2

Henry H. Lindsey           3

Robert C. Hudson         4

Hugh D. Dall                  5

Emmett W.J. Lincoln     6

Alfred F. Hillier              7

William Story                8

William Holmes           9

Fredk. J. Harrison        Tenor 

Composed by Wm. Holmes and conducted by C. L. Routledge

This is the first peal of royal rung in Scotland. This composition has the 6th the Extent in 5.6, four of the courses being rung in the titums position. A further account of this peal will appear in next weeks “Bell News”.

On August 17, 1895, the following article appeared on page 134, The Bell News:

For many years past it has been the ambition of Newcastle ringers, particularly those of St John’s Guild, to ring a peal on the fine ring of ten at St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Scotch metropolis. Exceptional circumstances brought this object within reach this year, and it was decided to extend the annual excursion to three days instead of one as in previous years. The party consisted of, besides the members of the above Guild, Messrs, Brewis (3), Lowe (Tanfield), Hudson (Sunderland), and Holmes (North Shields). They travelled north in a saloon carriage placed at their disposal by the North Eastern Railway Company, on Saturday, August 3rd, and were met at the Waverley station and cordially welcomed by Messrs. Cunninghame, Martin, and Routledge. They were escorted thence to their headquarters, Young’s hotel, Cockburn Street.

St. James, Leith, was the first tower on the programme, the bells having been granted for an hour’s use by Canon Jackson, the vicar. After a desperate struggle it was found impossible to ring more than two plain courses of Stedman Triples owing to the bad condition of the bell fittings. It is to be hoped the adverse opinions passed on them to the vicar, will have the effect of stirring up the authorities to action in this matter. The bells are an exceptionally fine-toned peal of eight, tenor 22 cwt., by Mears and Stainbank, and a very little outlay would put them into a ringable condition, and lessen the labour expended on them by their own ringers on Sundays.

Canon Jackson entertained the visitors to refreshments in the parsonage afterwards, and in a few kindly words welcomed them to Leith. The weather was most unpropitious, so it was deemed advisable to stay indoors the rest of the night. Returning to Young’s hotel a “smoker” was inaugurated and successfully carried out with songs, handbell ringing etc. Several members of the cathedral society turned up later and joined in the merry meeting. At 11.30 p.m. “Who goes home” broke up the proceedings.

The famous Princes Street, on which they passed next morning on their way to the Cathedral, did not present its usually bright appearance owing to the long spell of wet weather. Still its beauty and grandeur impressed the visitors most favourably. A still greater sight however presented itself on stepping into what has been already termed “the handsomest ringing chamber in the world”. The bell models of course attracted most attention, but as the wonders of this belfry have been already described by a voluble contributor to these columns (see 1st peal report,) it would be as well to leave out details. Suffice to say that anyone visiting “Auld Reekie” will find a visit to St. Mary’s cathedral belfry and a scrutiny of the handiwork of Mr. Cunninghame and his fellow ringers to amply repay them. A touch of 840 Treble Bob Royal was rung for the service, and then the bells themselves were inspected. These have lately been overhauled by Messrs. Taylor, of Loughborough, the founders, with good effect.

No trip to Edinburgh is complete now without a visit to the Forth Bridge; therefore at 11.30 all boarded a brake to drive them out to see this marvel of engineering skill. This proved to be one of the most enjoyable and interesting events in the programme. Back to headquarters at four o’clock to dine, then another visit to the Cathedral to ring a plain course of Treble-ten for service, which latter was afterwards attended by nearly all. After service Mr. Cunninghame conducted them over the interior, showing all the points of interest in this, the most modern – but by no means the least beautiful – of all our cathedrals.

Monday morning was spent sightseeing, and at noon all turned up to see the start for the performance which was to make the visit historical. “Go” was called shortly after 12 o’clock, and no accident or interruption whatever happened to interfere with the finishing of a well-struck peal of Treble Bob Royal in three hours forty-seven minutes, the bells running into rounds a few minutes before four o’clock, much to the delight of both listeners and ringers. The record appeared in last week’s “Bell News”. The visitors from England and the Cathedral ringers afterwards dined together at the West End Café, Princes Street, and the re-union proved a most pleasant one. Canon Jackson, of Leith, himself a vice-president of the Cathedral Society and a College Youth, discharged the duties of chairman in an entirely sympathetic manner.

The Rev. G. J. Cowley-Brown, of St John’s, Edinburgh, was also present, and made a most appropriate speech, in which he alluded to his own warm interest in campanology, adding his congratulations on the event of the day, and his belief and hope that the phrase “Merry as a Marriage Bell” would one day cease to be regarded as a mere metaphor on that side of the border, insomuch as bells and bell ringers were being slowly but surely re-instated on Scotch soil. Among other toasts, the health of the Presidents of the Durham and Newcastle Diocesan Association, Mr. R. S. Story, and of Mr. C. L. Routledge, the conductor of the peal, and now also a member of the Cathedral Society, were drunk with enthusiasm. The health of Mr. G. G. Cunninghame, whose influence and exertions had done so much to make the visit a success, was next treated with musical honours.

A vote of thanks to the Chairman, followed by “Auld lang syne”, brought the entertainment to a conclusion. Final adieus were, however, postponed to the platform of the station. There, to the astonishment of not a few of the passengers, handbells were produced, and four of the party rang a course of Grandsire Triples in the interval, prior to the departure of the train, a truly charismatic finish to a red-letter day in the yet scanty annals of change ringing in Scotland. The visitors would like here to express their hearty appreciation of the kindness tendered to them by the members of the Cathedral Society generally, with particular votes of thanks to the Dean (Dr. Montgomery) and Chapter for the use of the bells at St. Mary’s; to the Rev. Canon Jackson for the use of his bells at Leith, and to Messrs, Cunninghame, C. Ellis, Fyfe, Martin and Loney, for the trouble and time spent in making arrangements and getting everything in readiness in the belfry for the peal, the success of which was in a great measure due to them. It will be a source of satisfaction to the Cathedral Society to know that the general opinion expressed by all the visitors on the return journey was that it had been the most enjoyable annual trip St. John’s ringers had ever spent.


At this time Charles L. Routledge was a student at Edinburgh University, studying for perhaps two or three years to complete his dentistry training, thus his membership of St Mary’s Society as well as his Newcastle connections. On returning to Newcastle, he became an active and influential ringer there later becoming President of D&NDA.

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