Dr Christopher O'Mahoney's entry to the hallowed world of bellringing was not as grandiose as one might expect.
In fact it was "quite mercenary," the new Goulburn resident concedes.
As a teenage choirboy in Sydney he was paid $2 a week for singing. But one Sunday he discovered he could earn an extra $2 if he joined the bellringers as well.
So began a long fascination with the activity. In December he joined the experienced team at Saint Saviour's Cathedral as bellringing teacher after moving to Goulburn for "a tree change."
The former school IT director and now semi-retired consultant said bellringing had long held an interest.
"I find it fascinating in so many ways; it's the engineering and mechanics, the maths involved, the concentration and of course, the musicianship," Dr O'Mahoney said.
"It's also great for keeping social. In England there's a huge social scene."
He recently returned to Australia after 12 years in London where he was IT director at Harrow School.
Dr O'Mahoney lists conducting a bellringing peal to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One at Saint George's Memorial Church in Ypres, France as a particular highlight. He has also rung at many famous belltowers including St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St Clement Danes (made memorable from the 'Oranges and Lemons' nursery rhyme) and Washington Cathedral on Independence Day.
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"Once you achieve an initial competence, the sky really is the limit. You realise that you're part of a vibrant world-wide community, welcome anywhere," he said.
"There are around 40,000 bellringers around the world, with over 500 here in Australia. Bellringing has given me a truly global group of friends."
He also decribed it as a "great leveller," involving everyone from doctors, teachers, QCs and train drivers.
Dr O'Mahoney chose Goulburn for its Cathedral but also its easy lifestyle and affordable property values.
Saint Saviour's wants to enlist more willing hands to the iconic Cathedral which contains 13 bells named after the 11 First Fleet ships, plus The Endeavour and Arthur Phillip. Tower captain Stephen Relf says it's the only full set of bells in the southern hemisphere.
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"Our team of bellringers has waxed and waned over the years, but a set of bells of this significance merits a strong team to go with it. 2020 is the year we've decided to crack on and do something about it," he said.
"Bellringing is a unique hobby, offering so many benefits. It's great aerobic exercise, really sociable, mentally stimulating, and deeply satisfying. Each of our bells has a story. For instance, our heaviest bell 'Sirius' weighs over one tonne, was cast in England almost 150 years ago, and ultimately arrived here for Australia's bicentenary commemorations in 1988."
The Cathedral wants to recruit another eight bellringers. They 'perform' for weddings, baptisms and other sacramental events and civic occasions. This year, several significant events are on the calendar, including consecration of the new Canberra/Goulburn diocese assistant bishop, Carol Wagner on February 22.
Mr Relf said new recruits were needed.
"Like any musical instrument, it takes time to become proficient at bellringing, with the basic techniques taking around three months to learn," he said.
Mr Relf, a train driver, told The Post he was introduced to the activity in 1997 as a teenager and "became hooked." He was appointed St Saviour's bell tower captain in 2008 and has a total 23 years' experience under his belt. He too said the mathematical aspect and rhythm 'appealed.'
"You don't need to have previous musical training, just a sense of rhythm and counting," he said.
For Dr O'Mahoney, ringing St Saviour's bells, housed in the Edmund Blacket designed Neo-Gothic Cathedral tower, is a treat given the Cathedral's historical links to Goulburn. The community had also pushed strongly to reclaim them from the "redundant" Saint mark's Cathedral, Leicester and install them as a bicentenary project.
"In two years time the bells will be 150 years old, so we'll have a big party," he said.
Meantime, the Cathedral is hosting a "taster session" for prospective bellringers on Tuesday, February 11 from 5pm to 7pm. Interested people are invited to go along and have a look.
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