[Bell Historians] Ringing bells backwards as a signal

Peter Rivet peter at plrivet.plus.com
Sat Sep 25 16:59:17 BST 2021

There were very few Scottish churches with more than one bell in 1689, which is the year Scott was writing about, and English style change ringing was unknown there at that time.  The John Meikle carillon at St Giles in Edinburgh was cast in 1698.  It isn't entirely clear what was there earlier but I think it's pretty clear that this is a case of poetic licence rather than historical accuracy.

Peter Rivet

-----Original Message-----
From: Bell-historians <bell-historians-bounces at lists.ringingworld.co.uk> On Behalf Of Richard Smith
Sent: 25 September 2021 15:50
To: George Parker via Bell-historians <bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Ringing bells backwards as a signal

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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