[Bell Historians] Ringing bells backwards as a signal

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Sat Sep 25 15:50:25 BST 2021

George Parker via Bell-historians wrote:

> Also, the lyrics to Bonnie Dundee mention the bells being rung backwards .

This is an interesting example, as it is not English. 
Bonnie Dundee was originally a poem by Walter Scott, written 
in 1825.  Scott was from Edinburgh, so regardless of whether 
this is an accurate depiction of Dundee in the late 17th 
century, it does establish it was adequately understood as 
an alarm signal in the Lowlands in the early 19th century 
for him to use it in the poem.

I know very little about bells in Scotland in the early 
modern period.  The only full circle ring I'm aware of in 
Scotland during Scott's lifetime is St Andrew & St George, 
Edinburgh.  But were there lots of chimes of three, four and 
five?  Without at least three bells you cannot tell whether 
the bells are ringing forwards or backwards.


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