Chapter 1 - Formation and Organisation
It all started in 1893 when the Diocese of Llandaff covered a very large area of South Wales comprising the then counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth. At that time there were eleven rings of eight , a fair number of fives and sixes and the ring of ten at St Johns in Cardiff. Change-ringing bands were limited to 4 or 5 at most - where? On 13th October, 1893 Mr Evan Davies organised a meeting of bellringers at Llandaff and it was decided to form the "Llandaff Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers". The Bishop was elected as President, Evan Davies as Master, and Minor Canon Downing as Hon Secretary. Mr Evan Davies was a schoolmaster from Caerleon and a pioneer of change ringing in South Wales. He instructed a band at Caerleon, and had two trebles cast which he installed himself, to make a very pleasant ring of eight. Regular meetings were held at various towers throughout the Diocese, but the minutes of those early meetings are very brief. The oldest statement of accounts is for 1896, and it lists "48 Performing members £3/12s/00d, [£3.60] and the Hon Secretary generously donated 12 shillings [60p]. On the expenditure side, Bell News Advertisements 4/- [20p], Postage and paper 4/8d [23½p], and two books 6d [2½p]".
Canon Downing was succeeded as Secretary in 1895 by Rev D H Griffiths of St John’s Cardiff, the same year that St Woolos’ Newport were augmented from six to eight, and in 1898 the first Association ten-bell peal, Grandsire Caters, was rung at St John’s Cardiff. In 1899 Rev Griffiths resigned and John W. Jones of Newport was elected joint Secretary with Revd. L. Connop-Price. The exact nature of the office of Secretary of the Association over the next 16 years is unclear. Until recently it was firmly believed that these two served jointly for 3 years until 1902, after which J. W. Jones acted alone until 1945. However, the Llandaff Magazine indicates that Revd. Connop-Price acted as joint Secretary until he became an Army Chaplain in 1915. One cannot help wondering how this arrangement came into being, and how it worked in practice!
What is beyond dispute is that J. W. Jones proved to be a most enthusiastic and hard-working Secretary, and the Association extended its activities and prospered under his control. He spent a considerable amount of time in travelling to various towers to instruct new bands, and was very much involved in organising and initiating new rings and augmentation work, including new rings of eight at Radyr (1910), Caerphilly (1911), Llanbradach (1911), Pontypridd (1913) and Ebbw Vale (1937). He also found time to organise and take part in some 373 peals for the Association, a total which was not surpassed until 1985 by Tim Yeomans of Cardiff.
The new Diocese of Monmouth was formed in 1921 and, after lengthy consideration at a number of meetings, it was decided to continue as one Association to be known as "The Llandaff and Monmouth Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers". At that time, St Woolos Church, Newport, became the pro-Cathedral Church for the new Diocese.
On the retirement of J. W. Jones in 1945, Mr Fred J. Hannington was elected and served the Association as Secretary for 17 years. Fred lived to the age of 95 and was a most regular Service ringer at St John's, Cardiff, despite the handicap of losing an arm as long ago as 1920. During his term of office, two very important events took place. The second event, chronologically, was the visit of the Central Council in 1962, being also the year in which he retired from office. More importantly, 1953 saw the Association re-organised into two Branches - Llandaff and Monmouth - each covering its own Diocese, and the Rules of the Association were updated. It is interesting to note that the first proposal to form two Branches was made at an AGM in 1894, and the question had been raised at frequent intervals until final resolution in 1953.
Fred was very ably assisted by his wife in maintaining very good records of the Association affairs, and a complete record of the bells in the area. He was succeeded in 1962 by Jack Pryor who held office until 1972. During this period it became the practice to issue an Annual Report to the members, and a small management committee was formed which met once per year.
MASTER’S BADGE OF OFFICE : Add information
This first Annual Report appeared in the early 60s as a roneo-duplicated document of about 10 pages. In the 70s the Association acquired its own second hand duplicating machine, and in 1978 a card cover appeared, with a picture of the Master's home tower on the front and over 25 pages were contained. The stencils were 'cut' by Joyce Pryor, and every year a happy evening was spent at the Pryor's home when the reports were collated. In the late 80s, when the Pryors moved house, they no longer had room to store the duplicating machine, which was past its best anyway. The arrival of the PC and "desk top publishing" enabled the production in 1988 of the first of the current style reports, an A5 booklet with a coloured card illustrated cover and frequent illustrations within. The 1993 Centenary Year Report had 88 pages and included an earlier version of this History, a number of facsimile documents relating to the formation of the Association and, for the first time, full details of all peals in "Ringing World" format. The report is subsidised by advertisements to reduce the cost to the memebership, to whom it is distributed free of charge.
Formation and Organisation of the Association
The two Branches enjoy a great deal of independence, organising their own meetings and practices, and both have their own Officers. Their main link with the organisation of the Association as a whole is via the Management Committee, onto which each Branch is entitled to send six representatives. Monmouth Branch maintains its own committee which meets regularly, but Llandaff Branch manages without, preferring to leave day-to-day matters to its Officers but to involve all towers when important matters need discussion or decision.
Both Branches cover large areas and their towers are not evenly spread. This had led over the years to the natural formation of loose groups in some areas, such as at St Hilary, Llanblethian and Cowbridge. However in 1994 an experiment was started in the Monmouth Branch by which it was formally divided into groups. This met with mixed success as not every group was strong or able enough to manage on its own. After a period of years the idea was largely abandoned but, as in the Llandaff Branch, a number of towers retain close links with their neighbours.
In September 1998, after two unsuccessful attempts thwarted by circumstances, the Llandaff Branch held its first joint practice with the Swansea & Brecon DG, at Brecon Cathedral. This attracted a good crowd and the venture has been repeated each year since then, alternating between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil.
Since 1972 it has become the practice for the General Secretary and other Officers of the Association to serve for shorter periods of time, and the Association has been very well served by a number of members who have each introduced a high degree of professionalism and sound management into the conduct of the Association. During this period the whole policy of the Association has changed, including a new set of Rules giving greater freedom to the Branches to conduct their affairs as they wish, and to involve more people in the affairs of the Association. The overall control was placed in a newly constituted Management Committee which meets four times in each year.
To ensure a regular rotation of Officers the new Rules imposed a 6-year time limit on the number of years a person could serve in any one Office, although the Master’s term of office was restricted to one year. However in the early 2000s a number of members, several being ex-Masters, began to feel that one year is not really sufficient to do justice to this important position. After consultation with the members, the result was that the AGM in 2006 voted to changed the Rule to allow the Master to serve for up to 6 years.
In the 1990s a number of ringing associations became registered as a Charity, and in the early 2000s the MC was asked to look into whether the L&M should do the same. After investigation it was decided in 2003 that the disadvantages considerably outweighed any advantages, especially as the BRF was already a charity, and the idea was dropped.. The MC was also asked in 2003 to look into the provision of insurance for the Association’s members. Despite a number of ringing associations already having their own insurance, useful information proved surprisingly difficult to obtain. After some 2 years of discussion, it was decided that the cost of the benefits that could be obtained was unlikely to be attractive to the membership and this idea was also dropped.
During the second World War all ringing on church bells was suspended and it is to the credit of the Officers of the Association that they continued to hold meetings throughout this period and so kept in touch with the membership. A rather less drastic curtailment of ringing activities took place in 2001 with the foot-and-mouth outbreak and a number of practices and meetings in country areas were cancelled or re-located into more urban areas, as happened with both the branch striking competitions.