A Diss woman who has dedicated her life to the preservation of the art of bell ringing in this area and beyond has been made MBE in the New Year’s Honours.
Betty Baines, 67, has held national and regional and bell ringing posts, and since the 1980s, has been teaching others to get into the art.
Her honour is made poignant following the death of her husband, Tony Baines, last year. He was well-known in the area as a church bell hanger.
Her enthusiasm for ringing has never waned. She said: “You never stop learning with bell ringing. No two churches are the same and no two bells are the same. It is like a musician learning a completely different sheet of music.
“It is also the friendship that goes with it. You meet people from all walks of life and get to visit wonderful buildings that sometimes are not always open to the public.”
She is the current tower captain at St Mary’s Church in Diss, and her list of ringing posts held is extensive.
She has held most offices in the Southern Branch of the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers (NDA).
She has served diligently for many years at national level of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers for the NDA. Since the 1980s she has been involved with the Ladies Guild of Change Ringers (LG). Between 2001 and 2004 she was elected and served as the National President of the Ladies Guild of Change Ringers and is currently Ringing Master of the Eastern District of LG, a vast area covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
Angela Packer, a ringer at Old Newton, nominated Mrs Baines for the award with friend Pam Wakeling and both were inspired by her encouragement in getting them into the art.
Mrs Packer said Mrs Baines has also been instrumental in getting more women into ringing. The Eastern Region has the highest female ringing participation. When Mrs Baines got into ringing as a schoolgirl, women were not allowed in the tower to ring without the presence of a man. That has now changed and today, there are often more female than male ringers.
“It (ringing) exercises virtually every muscle in your body,” said Mrs Baines. “It is a fantastic hobby and something you can do for your whole life.
“I get a lot of pleasure from teaching, and seeing people advance. and I always like a challenge - if someone tells me there’s a difficult bell to ring, I will try to ring it.”
But although Mrs Baines’ efforts have helped preserve bell ringing, she says there is still the threat of the art disappearing. Very few ringers today are under pensionable age and at Diss for example, the church is lucky if enough ringers show to ring all eight bells on a Sunday.
To get into ringing, visit your nearest church with bells, and ask for the tower captain.