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THE BELLS

 

Derry Cathedral possesses the oldest peal of bells in Ireland. It comprises the following, numbered, and with the inscriptions, where in Latin, translat­ed:

 

  • No. 2, donor, The Honourable The Irish Society, Note E, weight 5 cwt. 2 qrs.,                                                                                                      Inscribed, `Fear God, Honour the King. Recast for Londonderry Steeple, 1614'.

  • Unnumbered, donor, The Honourable The Irish Society, Note D sharp, weight 5 cwt. 2 qrs.                                                                                       Inscribed, 'Thou wilt add days unto the days of the King and years unto his years, and generations to his generation, 1630

 

  • Nos. 5,6,8,9 and one unnumbered, donor, King Charles I, Notes B 8 cwt., A 10 cwt., G sharp 11 cwt. 3 qrs. F sharp 16 cwt.,E 23 cwt.,Inscribed, `Charles, King of Great Britain, gave-the five larger bells to God and the Church 1638'.

  • No. 4, donor, The Citizens of Derry, Note C sharp, weight 6 cwt. 2 qrs.,                                                                                                                Inscribed, ‘Charles II, King of Great Britain having been restored, Military despotism having been put down, the Bells were restored 1671'.

At this period only the six larger bells were used, but the two older and smaller bells were preserved and recast in 1813 with the others. At that recasting, the old inscriptions were omitted or altered but on each bell it was stated that it was recast. Fortunately the original inscriptions had been transcribed into one of the old registers and were restored at the recasting of 1929.

 

 In 1929 five bells-were-added by the generosity of donors or subscribers as follows:

 

  • No. 1, donor, The Browning Clubs, in memory of Captain Browning of the Mountjoy, killed at the Relief, July 28. 1689,

  • Note F sharp, weight 5 cwt. I qr.

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  • No. 3, donor, Robert Rutherford, in memory of his daughter Annie McConnell Rutherford, Note D, weight 6 cwt.

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  • Unnumbered, donor, Women's L.O.L. No. 26, in memory of Mrs. F.E. Corscaden, O.B.E., Note C, weight 7 cwt. I qr.

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  • No 7, donor, Sir Basil McFarland, Bt., in memory of Sir John McFarland, Bt., four times Mayor of Derry, Note G, weight 13 cwt. 2 qrs.

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  • No. 10, donor, The Hon. The Irish Society, Note D, weight 32 cwt.

 

The old bells were recast; the new ones made, and all were mounted on iron frame­work by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon.

 

During the Siege, the tower of the Cathedral was used both as a gun platform and also as the great signaling station of the City, from which

mes­sages were sent both by beacons and by flags. The bells were pealed on occasions of victory or good tidings. Thus on May 30, 1689, upon the receipt of the first news of a relieving force, Captain Thomas Ash records in his diary: `for this our great guns were twice fired and our Bells rung most cheerfully'; and in the account of the Relief, Aickin, who was present, writes (in 'Londerias')­

 

'The town's o'erjoyed,

the thundering cannons roar,

The Bells do ring,

and bonfires the town all o'er'
 

Peals in Ireland were but few and the citizens were proud of their bells and liked to hear them enlivening all festive occasions. Orders are extant, signed by the Mayor, for payments, usually of £ 1. 2s. 0d. for the day, for ringing on various days in 1825-6. These dates include New Year's Day, St. Patrick's Day, the arrival of the Judges at the Lent and Summer assizes, St George's Day, the Anniversary of the Restoration of King Charles II, the Anniversary of Waterloo, July 1 and July 12, the Anniversary of the Coronation of King George IV, the Relief of Derry, Sir John Warren's Victory off the Coast of Ireland, Lord Nelson's Victory at Trafalgar, King William's Birthday, and Landing, the Election of the Mayor and the Inauguration of the Mayor. In 1826 eight pounds were paid for ringing the bells `one week before and one week after Christmas'. This is, of course, not a complete list of such payments, but if one adds services, weddings, and other festival occasions, it is evi­dent that the sound of the bells must have been very familiar to all dwellers in or near the City. In past years, the Curfew was rung morning and evening at nine o'clock. More recently, it is sounded only in the morning.

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15  Northern Association of Change Ringe