The St Clements Anglican Church bells could be heard throughout town on Sunday as they pealed for the Advent season and St Nicholas Day on Monday, December 6.
But the bells held a particularly special meaning for ringer Christopher O’Mahony from St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn.
Sunday, December 5 also marked 40 years ago to the day since Christopher rang his first ever peal as a fresh-faced 15-year-old at St Clements.
“I’ve been here [at St Clements] many times, but the very first time I came here was in 1981,” he said. “It’s lovely to be able to come and ring, they’re very fine bells here, they’ve got a lot of historic value and we hope that the locals enjoy listening.”
Christopher was originally a choir boy at a Sydney church where he both rang and sang but after his voice broke he turned to ringing church bells.
“It’s taken me all over the world,” he said. “It’s a wonderful hobby.”
Christopher has rung bells all over Australia and New Zealand and overseas. Letting out peals at Westminster Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, York Minster, and Washington National Cathedral.
He explained that St Clements, designed by Australian architect Edmund Blacket, has six bells, which were restored in 1988 as part of the Bicentenary project.
Australian and New Zealand bell- ringers use an English style called full circle ringing. Instead of ringing tunes the bells are rung in predetermined sequences.
St Clements six bells, each require a bellringer and are rung through over 5000 of those sequences, which is called a peal.
“Some people do marathons and bellringers ring peals,” Christopher said.
Yass’ bellringer team work hard to keep the bells ringing but could always do with more recruits. If you’re interested in learning you can contact Peter Rose or the St Clements’ Church office.
“It takes a little bit of training,” Christopher said. “Like any musical instrument you have to learn the technique and the theory before you can then progress on to higher skills.”
But he said it’s a gentle and very aerobic exercise that can be great for your back.
Christopher described bell ringing as an external choir that calls people into the church.
“[Bellringers] are very celebratory people,” he said. “We’re always acknowledging special and significant events in people’s lives, whether it’s weddings, funerals, baptisms, or civic events like Australia Day, Anzac Day, Christmas Day, and Easter.”
“Bell ringers are there making a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
“I think when a community hears bells ringing, it enlivens something inside them,” Christopher said. “There’s a rhythm there, there’s a resonance with our daily lives.”
By Jasmin Jones & Brianna O’Rourke