THERE IS a long history of bell ringing in St Canice’s Cathedral.
These bells were first mentioned in records in 1332 when on May 22 part of the building collapsed destroying the roof and bells.
In 1650 Cromwell took five of the bells and used the metal for ammunition.
There is a peel of eight bells in the belfry. When these bells are rung it is called ‘Change Ringing’.
To get to the belfry you must climb and circle 84 stone steps. The largest bell weighs 22 cwt (22 hundred weight) and is called ‘The Tenor Bell. It is tuned to the key of E Flat.
St Canice’s Cathedral also has a set of Hand Bells which, over the years, was neglected and left unused.
Some of St Canice’s Cathedral’s current bell ringers have been ringing for over 50 years and within that time none of them have seen the hand bells being rung.
It could be 70 or 100 years since they were in use. No one knows.
A few months ago four of the current bell ringers decided to have a look at the hand bells and try them out.
Since then they have taught themselves how to ring them. These ringers are William Griffin. Carlow, Siobhan Hegarty, Sarah Mulhall, and Richard Ryan, all County Kilkenny. They are like The Dubliners…no boss or contract.
Bells were traditionally used for marking time and calling people to worship. However, in war times. bells were silenced, and if you did hear a bell or bells ringing it was a warning that the enemy was on the way.
St Patrick came to Ireland in 452. Ireland has the oldest hand bell, that of St Patrick which is in the National Museum of Ireland.
It was fitting that as part of last St Patrick’s Day Parade these four hand bell ringers presented a short tune that they taught themselves only a few weeks earlier.
This marked the first time that hand bells were seen and heard on the streets of Kilkenny.
On April 15 last a team of six change ringers from St Canice’s Tower took part in the annual Cherry Cup Competition which was held in the tower of the famous Sam McGuire in Dunmanway, County Cork.
The team was Ian McCullagh (captain), David Ryan (vice-captain), Sarah Mulhall, Victor Ryan, Harry Reid and Richard Ryan.
The Kilkenny team came fourth. Brothers David, Richard and Ken Ryan were presented with certificates in recognition of over 45 years each for their dedication, time and talent in ringing at St Canice’s Cathedral.
Anyone who may be curious or have an interest in learning to ring bells is welcome to contact the cathedral and pop along to practice is.