Go Ahead Ask

For whom the bell tolls ….

The bells of Charlottetown’s beautiful St Dustan’s Basilica have been silent for the past 40 years but that is about to change come July 1st of this year.  A committee spearheaded by historian Catherine Hennessey and co-chaired by Kevin Murphy have worked tirelessly to have the structural problems that caused them to be silenced righted and to raise the $400,000.00 needed to refinish and retune the 17 bells, install the infrastructure and electronic system.

St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica is a stone French Gothic church and was built in 1913 from the remains of the previous cathedral that had been damaged by fire that year. The fourth church on the site it is one of the most visible landmarks in Charlottetown. The only Roman Catholic cathedral and basilica in the province, it is one of the most elaborate churches in the Maritimes.

The bells were cast by Paccard Fondrie Des Cloches in Annecy, France and installed in the north tower of the church in 1928.  They are sister chimes to the bells at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and L’Oratoire St-Joseph-du-Mont-Royal in Montreal.  The restoration work is being done by the Christoph Paccard Bellfoundries in South Carolina.

The good people at Vintage Charlottetown posted this video from Cocktail-VP showing how the bells would have been cast back in 1927-28.  The foundry in this case is the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London but the process was the same – and with few modernizations as it has been for centuries.

This video ends before the tuning processes is shown.  When the bells of St Dunstan’s were cast they would have been tuned using tuning forks and lathes.  As Nigel Taylor, the head tuner at Whitechapel, explains techniques have evolved considerably even over the past ten years.

I’m looking forward to hearing that first peal of bells on July 1st as we celebrate the 150th Birthday of my country.  I can think of no more joyful sound.

On this day in 1855: “Border Ruffians” from Missouri invade Kansas and force election of a pro-slavery legislature.

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

9 thoughts on “Go Ahead Ask”

  1. I love the sound of church bells, sometimes I have to ring the local one, although I get nervous about doing it. That picture is beautiful, they put so much pride in what they built in the past.

    You can also get tuned wind chimes, they almost hypnotize you into standing there listening, not like those cheap wind chimes that get on people’s nerves.

  2. The whole bell ‘ethos’ is enthralling. We made a pilgrimage to a small foundry on the Schoodic Peninsula in Maine years and years ago to witness a pour; the owners seemed pleased that anyone was that interested.

    1. I was just over at the Whitechapel site and was surprised – but pleased – to see that their tours for 2017 are completely booked.

      1. That means you won’t be in London any time soon? I should tell you that a certain Europe Day Concert is going to be BIG on 9 May and folk are travelling from far and wide to catch it…

  3. Forgive me if we’ve had this conversation, but have you read Dorothy L Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, the ultimate thriller about bellringing set in the west Norfolk fens?

    1. Indeed we have not nor have I read Sayer’s novel – however as with anything you recommend it’s now on the list and will be obtained immediately. Thank you as always.

      1. It’s a suspense classic, but also a classy novel in its own right, so evocative of that area (though we visited two of the churches on which the one in the book may be modelled in brilliant September sunshine, so got a rather different feel of the place. I understand that the bellringing lore reproduced in the book is correct.

        I don’t often indulge in thrillers after my teens when I read nearly all the Agatha Christies, but I’m currently addicted to Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who catches sense of place and complex humanity in equal measure.

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