Clock watcher Euan’s key contribution as the New Year bells sound in Hitchin

Hitchin's St Mary's Church bell ringers, led by David Kemp (back row, second-in from right), with 1

Hitchin's St Mary's Church bell ringers, led by David Kemp (back row, second-in from right), with 13-year-old Euan Gilfillan (bottom right). - Credit: Archant

When the bells rang out from Hitchin’s historic St Mary’s Church at midnight to welcome in a new year, one key member of the team was probably up past his bedtime.

St Mary's Church, Hitchin

St Mary's Church, Hitchin - Credit: Archant

Bellringing isn’t normally a pastime that you associated with the younger generation – but as far as 13-year-old Euan Gilfillan is concerned, campanology is cool.

The Year 8 pupil at the town’s Priory School first got involved with the ringers at the landmark Grade I listed building just over a year ago.

And he’d made sufficient progress as New Year’s Eve neared that he was invited to be part of the team picked to sound out the celebration peal at the start of 2015 on Wednesday night last week.

Euan said: “I was very excited. I have heard the bells ringing out before, but I never thought I would get the opportunity to be involved. My parents were there to hear the bells chime to welcome the New Year. It was a great moment.”

Experienced ringer Anna Crawley, who has been involved for 33 years, said: “It is lovely to have a young, committed and engaged individual to ring with us.”

Keen-eyed Euan was tasked with keeping an eye on an atomic clock, the most accurate time-keeping devices available, to make sure that the ringers were primed and ready for action as soon as midnight struck.

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He then stepped up to ring the number 8 bell, which dates from 1762 and sounds the note of B.

Anna said: “It is quite an emotional experience.

“We muffle the bells to begin, to say goodbye to the previous year, and then ring at full volume to welcome the New Year. It is a joyous occasion.”

The St Mary’s bells have been sounding out for hundreds of years, but were revamped and rehung in 2012.

Tower captain David Kemp, who has 40 years of experience, says new members are always welcome. If you’d like to get involved, email kemp.david@live.co.uk.

Click here to visit the St Mary’s Facebook page

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