What do municipal bells have to do with Australia’s first political assassination attempt?
Thousands of bells across the world will ring in unison on Remembrance Day to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War in 1918.
A total of 1,400 members of the global bell ringing community lost their lives during the conflict.
Churches, cathedrals, fire stations, town halls and military bells will be rung at 12:30pm tomorrow in their honour, in an unprecedented commemoration.
President of the Australian New Zealand Bellringers Association, Peter Harrison, said the bells represent hope and a time for reflection.
“When the bellringers passed away during World War I it was very hard to mark anything for them specifically at the time because the numbers were so great,” he said.
“The bells are often a voice for the local community and a lot of places will be ringing half-muffled, which is a more mournful sound, which seems appropriate for Remembrance Day.”
Ballarat’s current bellringers training for Armistice Day commemorations at St Peter’s Church. (ABC Ballarat: Sean Warren)
Ballarat’s connection to bellringers
Bells were silent during the First World War but were used to ring out in celebration of peace at the end of the conflict.
The sound of the bells on Armistice Day will replicate the moment guns fell silent after four years of fighting came to an end.
The mayor of Ballarat during WWI had a son killed in action on the Western Front, Lance Corporal Frederic Hillman. (Supplied: Ballarat Bellringers)
The Western Victorian town of Ballarat is one of two town halls in Australia that are home to English ‘change ringing’ bells.
Ballarat bellringer Edith Fry will be participating in what’s called a ‘quarter peal’ in honour of Lance Corporal Frederic Hillman, who was a Ballarat man killed in action on the Western Front.
“It involves ringing for three quarters of an hour without stopping and ringing a long series of changes,” she said.
“We’ll be making a lot of celebratory noise because the town hall bells rang at the end of The Great War in Ballarat.
“The Mayor at the time had lost two sons in the war, so he was relieved the war was over and ordered the bells to be rung.”
St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and Brisbane’s St John’s Cathedral will join their counterparts in about 60 towers across Australia to ring their bells at exactly the same time.
The Alfred Bells in the Ballarat Town Hall were hung in 1871 to honour Prince Alfred, the first royal visitor to the city. (Supplied: Ballarat City Council)
A global campaign called Ringing Remembers was launched last year to recruit 1,400 new bellringers around the world in honour of the 1,400 who lost their lives during WWI.
The global movement was started by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in the UK and has spread to Africa, Ireland, Canada and the United States.
“So many bellringers did go to the front and were killed, and that made a great gap in the learning in the bellringing, particularly in England,” Ms Fry said.
“In Ballarat, we lost one of them.”
Three new recruits in Ballarat will join more than 2,000 new bellringers around the world.
Ballarat’s Lisa Wood has been training for a few months.
“When you’re out and about in different towns and you hear bells ring … it’s just an awesome sound and it’s great to be a part of the commemorations,” she said.
“The comradery is wonderful among the bellringers. It’s a lot of fun and it takes a lot of skill and developing that skill is rewarding.”