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Company of Bellringers' Peal Board celebrating 175th anniversary of Saint Matthew's Church in 1997"

Saint Matthew's Parish Church, Church Road, Buckley

1 October 1997



As I get older I learn with regret of more and more friends and associates who have died and of whose deaths I have not been aware.


Thinking of this brought to mind the practice of the Passing Bell carried out on the fine peal of eight bells of the parish church in the small town in which I was born and raised.


Very soon after the death, one of the family would find the sexton and within a short time he would signal a message to the district based on the following code:-

1. The tenor bell tolled for five minutes as a "minute bell", the sound of each stroke of the hammer being allowed to die away before the next stroke.


then 2. Each bell struck, from the seventh to the treble according to the age and sex of the deceased:-

a) six strokes for a male under sixteen

b) seven for a female under sixteen

c) eight for a man

d) nine for a woman


then 3. The tenor bell was raised and rung for five minutes in the case of a married householder.


At that time when most people worked locally and knew each other they would pause, listen and wonder who had died. Sometimes they could deduce from the signal or maybe make enquiries. In any event, soon most people would know and due acknowledgement of that life would be paid.


Now circumstances are very different, that close community has gone. Yet in this age of urban separateness maybe we could still do with the passing bell to remind us of our own mortality for in the words of the poet, John Donne:


"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,

and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee." - John Donne 1571 - 1641.


Author: Birks, Fred H.


Year = 1997

Month = October

Day = 1

Building = Religious

Event = Historic

Extra = 1990s

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