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Bellringers on world tour

Roped in: Chris Haller and Bruce Butler, two members of the North American Guild of Bellringers invited to St Andrew’s Anglican Church to ring the bells during Monday’s practice session.
Roped in: Chris Haller and Bruce Butler, two members of the North American Guild of Bellringers invited to St Andrew’s Anglican Church to ring the bells during Monday’s practice session. Jay Cronan

AMERICAN bellringers Bruce and Eileen Butler have been ringing their way around the world for the past 20 years and found themselves on the ropes at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Lismore yesterday.

The retired couple, from the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Philadelphia, USA, are on a quest to ring the bells in every tower in the world and arrived in Lismore with five of their fellow bell-ringing parishioners as part their unofficial 24-belltower Australian tour.

They were invited to Lismore by several of St Andrew's bellringers they had met at previous events around the world.

“Australia has just over 50 belltowers, which is about the same number as in the US,” he said.

“We were out here during the Pope's visit in 2008, when we did about seven towers in Perth and some in Sydney, including St Mary's, and we thought we'd come back to try and ring the rest.

“We've rung about 3000 of the world's 6000 towers, so we're about halfway.”

The global bellringing community is a tight-knit group and, according to Mr Butler, about 5600 of the belltowers are in the United Kingdom.

British-born Mr Butler started ringing church bells in 1963 as a teenager in England's Kent county, and passed on his passion for bellringing to his wife after they married following his emigration to the US in the early 1980s.

“It's a small community and everyone here has been so friendly,” Mrs Butler said.

“It's a great way to travel the world. Members put us up in Brisbane last night and cooked us dinner and breakfast, and we're off to Armidale tomorrow.”

Bellringers from St Martin-in-the-Fields have previously toured South Africa and New Zealand, which have eight belltowers each.


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