Bells echo in valley

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Ivan Nimmo rings an improvised wheel rim bell.
Camera IconIvan Nimmo rings an improvised wheel rim bell. Credit: Supplied

For 10 years, bells have been heard throughout the valleys of Bridgetown, thanks to a dedicated group of campanologists.

Barbara Johnson has been involved since the group’s inception and the beginning of the bell ringing tradition.

She said Bridgetown’s group had its roots in Italy, with a neighbour of hers suggesting that Bridgetown replicate the practice that occurred in his hometown.

Due to the cost of bells, the group uses wheel rims as a makeshift substitute.

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Mrs Johnson said when struck with a wooden mallet, the rims resonated, creating a sound equivalent to the ringing of a bell.

The group’s numbers waned since its early peak of 50 members, with Mrs Johnson estimating the lowest number of members they had was 10.

“Now we’ve resurrected it, everyone’s come out of the woodwork,” she said.

Mrs Johnson said new additions to the group had brought its numbers to around 30 or 40 people.

In keeping with a worldwide trend of paying tribute to emergency workers who are on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, the group rang their bells every three hours on March 29.

Mrs Johnson said they had been inspired by worldwide images of people standing outside their homes and on their balconies clapping and cheering for the first responders that were fighting COVID-19.

“We’re so spread out and amongst valleys and hills it wouldn’t work for us, so we thought what about the bells?”

To celebrate Anzac Day, the group is planning to have a bugler play The Last Post at Sutton’s Lookout in Bridgetown and then to ring their bells when he has completed the song at 6am.

Additionally, they will cover their mobile phones or torches with red cellophane and wave them in a visual tribute they hope to capture footage of using a drone.

Mrs Johnson is not concerned with awakening neighbours at an early hour with the sound of the bells.

“If they’re not in the right spirit of Anzac, then that’s too bad,” she said.

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