I have done some fairly unusual things as a ringer, but undoubtedly the most unlikely ever took place in May when I represented the Guild at a reception at the residence of the American Ambassador in Regent’s Park.
So unexpected was the invitation, which came direct from the Ambassador’s staff, that the Central Council President found it necessary to send an email explaining that this was not a hoax!
The US Ambassador Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson explained that he had attended an event at St Paul’s Cathedral, heard the bells ringing, and asked if he could see what was happening. A visit to meet the ringers and see the bells resulted in an invitation to the St Paul’s ringers to a reception, an invitation that was then extended to others nominated by the Central Council – representatives of the Council, Guilds, Associations, the bell trade and other ringing bodies.
Once past security we were treated to drinks and canapés, and the opportunity to explore some of the Ambassador’s residence at Winfield House. Those of you with long memories will remember that Winfield was the trade name of Woolworths, and indeed the house belonged to that family before being given to the US government shortly after the Second World War. There were speeches by the Ambassador, who explained about some of the events shortly to take place on the anniversary of the D-Day landings, and from Chris O’Mahony, President of the Central Council, who spoke about the values instilled by bell ringing. This was followed by a touch of Stedman Cinques on handbells, and the Ambassador then received his first handbell lesson. Everyone was kept well fed and watered by the waiting staff, who apparently commented that we were “the most fun group” they could remember hosting!