[r-t] Definition of a call

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Fri Jun 10 12:04:17 UTC 2011

edward martin wrote:

> Keeping the treble as PH, John Holt did produce a 720 of 
> Bob Minor in which using 4th place bobs the PH was called 
> to dodge 5-6 up (adding 2 rows to the lead block); make 
> 4ths, (subtracting 4 rows from the lead block, and to 
> dodge 5-6 down (adding 2 rows to the lead block) thus 
> allowing for all 720 changes of Bob Minor to be produced 
> without the need for singles. As clever as this was, it 
> never caught on in popularity and stands as a unique quirk 
> of mathematics.

This is certainly the conventional view, but I'm not sure 
how accurate it is.

John Holt lived from 1726 to 1753, so his composition must 
presumably have been produced in the 1740s or early 1750s. 
So far as I know, the earliest place this composition is 
recorded is the Clavis (1788).  The very fact that a copy 
of the composition still existed to be included in the 
Clavis is evidence that it saw use during that period.

The composition also appears in Benjamin Thackrah's 1852 
'Art of Change Ringing'.  Thackrah includes three further 
compositions of PB6 involving variable length leads, and 
nothing in the surrounding text suggests that these 
compositions were considered unorthodox.  Indeed, the fact 
that two thirds of the compositions of PB6 that he gives 
involve bobs that alter the lead length suggests to me that 
such compositions may well have been part of the 
compositional canon of the time.

Thirteen years later, in 1863 in a different part of the 
country, an extent of Dixon's is rung for the first time. 
The tablet recording this peal records it as 'Mr Dixon's 
peal of Bob Minor Variations' -- i.e. a variation of Bob 
Minor, and not as a separate method in its own right. 
Given Holt's compositions and the other compositions given 
by Thackrah, this makes complete sense.  The plain course of 
Dixon's can be considered as Plain Bob Minor with bobs made 
whenever 2 or 4 lead thus altering the length of the lead. 
Add a few more calls to join it up into an extent, and the 
similarity to compositions in the Holt style becomes more 

So I dispute your statements that "it never caught on in 
popularity" and that it "stands as a unique quirk of 
mathematics."  There seems to be evidence for well over a 
century of popularity, and Thackrah's others other 
compositions as well as Dixon's demonstrate it's not unique.


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