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The Ringers

The Ballymena Honorary Society of Bellringers was formed soon formed soon after the installation of the ring of eight and has enjoyed a continuous existence ever since. Unfortunately there are few formal records of the Society's early years. The first mention of Ballymena's involvement with the Irish Association of Change Ringers is in 1905, when two members S. Henry and A. R. Pryde were listed in the Association's Annual Report. These were joined by V. Garde in 1906 and continued until 1909. There is no further evidence in the Association archives until 1939, when the Master, Billy Pratt says:

"We hope that our friends in Ballymena will take up the method of change ringing, and we shall be glad to give them assistance, as they require it."

There is little to suggest that Ballymena took advantage of this offer.

The bells were 'put in good order' in the mid 1930s, and the first peals were rung in 1931 and 1936. A detailed account of the origins of the bells was published during the war in the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph to mark the ringing of the "victory" peal on Sunday November 15th, 1942. In common with those of the whole nation the bells had been silent for the previos two years. The band at the time numbered about 24 ringers, some of whom were away serving with H. M. Forces. Happily the Conductor, Fusilier Robert J. Black, was at home on leave and therefore able to lead the team in the ringing of the victory peal. The Weekly Telegraph observed that the band included four ladies: the Misses K. Stewart, M. Thompson, M. Barr and M. Barclay; the gentlemen were Mr. John Birch, deputy conductor, Mr. V. C. Patterson, secretary, and Messrs. Jas Birch, James McCurdy, E. Maternaghan, Robert Owens, Jack Cathcart and Robert McKervill. On that Sunday the special peal was rung from 9.00 to 9.45am, followed by a second peal for the normal 11.30am service. Prior to this second ring, the Rector (Rev. F. J. Mitchell, M.A.) held a short memorial service in the ringing room in memory of the late Gunner George Millar, R.A., a very active member of the team who had been killed in action in the Middle East in August 1940.

St Patrick's rejoined the Irish Association in 1948 and competed for the Murphy Cup in Dublin the same year. The bells were broadcast in the following year. Although there has traditionally been rather little change ringing activity, the call-change band has always flourished, with a number of successes in latter years in Irish Association competitions. The Cunningham Cup, open to all towers in Northern Ireland, was won by Ballymena in 1965, 1979 and 1983. The Young Cup (for the most improved team, and usually awarded to the runners up), was won in 1969, 1971, 1975, 1982 and 1986. Since 1983 the Junior Ringers have in most years entered the Iveagh Cup competition designed for under 20 years of age, winning it in 1984 and 1986.

From time to time in the last few decades the call-change team has tried its hand at method ringing, and since 1980 this form of ringing has been practised regularly alongside call-changes. Progress was good enough for Plain Bob Doubles, Minor and Triples as well as Grandsire Triples to be rung for Sunday services on a regular basis.