Belfast Telegraph

After 55 years on the bellrope, veteran Ivan rings the changes

By Claire McNeilly

The bell has finally tolled on the distinguished 55-year career of one of Northern Ireland's most dedicated campanologists.

Ivan Stacey, who recently retired from his role at St Patrick's in Ballymena, rang the bells for the last time in the Castle Street church's tower a little over a fortnight ago.

The 76-year-old former businessman said he realised it was time to call it a day "for health reasons" after he experienced a sharp pain while he was making his way up the 52 steps to the ringing chamber in one of the Co Antrim town's fabled 'Seven Towers'.

"I was walking up the spiral staircase when I had a bit of trouble," he said.

"It felt as though a nail was being hammered through my knee and I took that as a warning sign because I don't fancy falling down the 180-year-old staircase any time in the future."

The tower in St Patrick's contains 12 bells and they are usually rung 25 minutes before services on Sundays, as well as at weddings if the bride and groom request them.

Over the years it is an amateur passion that Mr Stacey has shared with his wife Rosemary, who used to work in retail, and their now grown-up children Eleanor, a minister's wife, and bank employee David.

The Ballymena man said that he would be left with a void because it is "sad to say goodbye" to something that provided him with "such great times" during the last decade-and-a-half.

"One of the highlights for me has to be the four of us ringing in the parish church attached to Windsor Castle," revealed the father-of-two.

"We also used to travel around different churches when we were younger, sometimes setting out at four in the morning and not getting back until late at night.

"Rosemary rang the bells for five or six years and Eleanor and David did it a bit longer than that. I have very fond memories."

The grandfather-of-five said that the Ballymena Honorary Society of Bellringers organised a night out at a local restaurant in his honour when he announced that he was stepping down.

He added that the dinner was attended by tower captain Colin Watt along with several ringers past and present.

He said their small group of campanologists had won some competitions in the past, and made it to the All Ireland finals in Dublin on more than one occasion.

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