Rev Jules Gomes: The wicked witch of the York silences bells with ‘Elf and Safety’ spell

Once upon a time in the land of Eboracum there lived a wicked witch called Vicious Viv Foul. Vicious Viv lived in a magnificent castle with a very high tower. In the same land were a merry band of bell-ringing minstrels who rang the bells in the tower of the castle in which the wicked witch lived.

The bell-ringers had rung the castle bells for centuries. The bells had pealed announcing seasons of joy; the bells had tolled mourning times of woe. “Ding dong merrily on high,” rang the bells on Christmas Day. “Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime,” sang the bells for many a wedding.

“Here’s the castle with the bells, a world of merriment their melody foretells!” visitors to the happy land would sing as their carriages crossed the River Ouse and entered the gates of Eboracum. “How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, while the stars that oversprinkle, all the heavens, seem to twinkle,” lovers in the happy land would croon while they nestled amid the gardens of Eboracum. “Hear the loud alarm bells, what a tale of terror, now, their tolling tells,” soldiers would shout in victory as invaders were repulsed and fled from the walls of Eboracum.

But Vicious Viv was a tone-deaf witch. She hated music and detested that merry band of bell-ringers. One day in the holy season of Trinity, she summoned her Coven of Chapter Canons, and shrieked before them in agony. ‘Hell’s bells! The bongs of the gongs are as piercing prongs to my ears. How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour. They are neither man nor woman; they are neither brute nor human. They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; and he rolls, rolls, rolls. I can bear no longer the sound of their songs; take from me their dings and their dongs. Find me a spell that will make ye merry band of bell-ringing minstrels disappear forever. Cleanse my castle of these creeps, let them be as chimney sweeps.’

The Coven of Canons trembled with terror in the presence of their Head Witch. Then, shivering with fear, Canon Pretender Peter Mugger rose to suggest a solution. ‘We know the Grand Wizard of Eboracum Johannes Sent-to-moo who rules this castle from his palace in Misanthrope has a great and wondrous spell. It is said that Grand Wizard Sent-to-moo has a magic white collar. When he takes a pair of scissors and cuts his collar on the national witches box called television, evil giants in Africa known as Mugabes surrender in fear and stop oppressing their people.’ ‘Never!’ screeched Vicious Viv. ‘Sent-to-moo’s spells don’t work. His crosier wand has lost its power. His collar is not worth a dollar.’

The Coven of Canons sank deeper in their stalls. Finally, Canon Christopher “Zen” Collingwood stood to his feet. ‘Om, Shanti, Om! Praise Buddha! As you were speaking, I was in deep meditation. Our new practice of chanting mantras in our castle is working. I have a solution. Bring out the great cauldron. Bring in our Book of Spells. Pick the scroll labelled Elf’ and Safety Spells and the scroll labelled Management Spells for the Church edited by Grand Wizard Justin Wobbly and Reform and Renewal Under-Wizard Mike Eastwood.’

‘Here’s a recipe. Pour in four litres of liquid obfuscation and boil for four hours. Add 500 grams of fair trade alphabet pasta of Jargon and Gobbledegook to the boiling soup. While stirring, chant this spell: Mumbo jumbo, bumbo rumbo, arise and render the bell-ringers dumbo.’ Vicious Viv and her Coven of Chapter Canons applauded in approval. They gathered around the cauldron of foul-smelling liquid obfuscation that had been brought in by the castle serfs. They threw in the pasta of Jargon and Gobbledegook. They stirred the magic potion and chanted the magic spells. Then they watched in wonder. For the alphabets had begun to rearrange themselves and spell out the solution they needed to sack the bell-ringers. Canon Pretender Peter Mugger pulled out his I-Scroll and began to copy the magic message that the Coven would use to get rid of the bell-ringers.

“It is critically important to ensure that there is a consistent approach to health and safety, governance and risk management across all of our volunteer teams. In order to make these changes, we sometimes need to close existing volunteering roles so that we can move forward with the new processes. This is what has happened with our bellringers.”

(Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

(Image: andy)

Rev Jules Gomes

  • Vox Populi

    Of course now Archbishop Sent-to-moo (I love that, how on earth did you come up with that?) is mooing to the BBC and complaining that the bell ringers ignored ‘safeguarding’ policies. Well, why did they not say that in the first place? Or is this the Grand Wizard Sent-to-moo conjuring up another spell?

  • Tricia

    Right on! If health and safety is not sufficient in York Minster with all the millions it has had spent on it over the years, who is to blame. If the Dean did not have health and safety in position for her bellringers in a Minster setting, how are all churchwardens of small community churches supposed to manage. Why are we paying this woman to manage the Minster – this must be a role beyond her abilities. Where are her skills for managing her volunteer workforce! There are many volunteers in the Minster, is she going to sack them all! Bells are an intrinsic part of Christian worship in this country and to have them silenced at a Cathedral church is a disgrace. She has been a disgrace from start to finish in this role. Under her watch we had the spectacle of the rainbow flag draped across the steps to the Minster (which many Christians found highly offensive) and the first blessing of the gay pride event, not to mention the Buddhist meditation offered!

    • Vox Populi

      I wonder if she did it not to upset the followers of the ‘Religion of Peace’. Perhaps she is planning to turn the bell tower into a minaret!

      • weirdvisions

        I wouldn’t put it past ’em. It seems that these places now welcome every – christians excepted.

  • David Keighley

    Tennyson wrote in the final verse of his marvellous first poem as Laureate (‘Ring out wild bells’)

    Ring out a slowly dying cause,/And ancient forms of party strife;/
    Ring in the nobler modes of life/ With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    What is it that those who now enforce ‘elf and safety with such zeal don’t get about humanity, common sense and compassion? Those who now run the Church are slowly strangling it; and with it, the core component of our civilised behaviour. York Minster is one of the glories of our civilisation. This is evidence that barbarians are now firmly at the gates, if not in control.

    • Vox Populi

      Amen to that, brother! Once upon a time the church was the pioneer and guardian of high culture. Today that same church is ruled by a bunch of Philistines and barbarians. We have seen them in mitres and in cassocks invade every aspect of church life and tear is down from the Book of Common Prayer to art and music.

      • weirdvisions

        That would be lefty Philistines and barbarians.

  • As a bell ringer at our local parish church, it is clear that the Dean knows nothing about bell-ringing. Where is she going to find her “Head Bell Ringer”. Presumably this will have to be an existing bell-ringer enticed from another church, hardly a Christian attitude. How is this person going to train the new volunteers? With one practice a week, it takes us getting on for a year to train a new ringer to handle the bell and ring in time with the others. But if they are all trainees, it is almost impossible to teach them to ring together, especially on a twelve bell tower. If I were one of those ringers who had been fired, I would certainly not volunteer to re-join, there are plenty of churches with nice rings of bells in the area.
    Most churches with bells are in dire need of ringers, so if any reader fancies ‘giving it a try’ why not go along and enquire, I assure you that you would be very welcome!

  • SimonToo

    It seems more Kafkaesque, with a person being under unproven suspicions which give rise to safeguarding issues … presumably, to remain so until the Last Trump. (See )

  • Charitas Lydia

    What a shame! A Beautiful musical tradition of the old English culture and Christainity is thrown out under the pretence of safeguarding issues.

    • weirdvisions

      It’s because it is part of the English Culture that it has to be smashed. English culture is haram to lefties.

  • Rebecca

    Peter Moger is the biggest end-of-a-bell in the whole bell tower.

  • Annette Thornton

    Probably all that you need to know is that Vicious Viv has been worked over by Common Purpose, probably in 2001. If you don’t know about this pernicious, secretive organisation, do visit the website Common Purpose Exposed. I am pretty confident that the ‘elf and safety’ mantra is an irrelevant fig-leaf!