True to tradition, the Bell Ringers of St Patrick’s, Ballymena, ensured they were ready to strike the first stroke as Big Ben began his first chime at Midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Each year a group of people walk out of the Watch Night Service, often during the closing prayers and while they don’t attract a second glance from regular church goers, visitors or anyone ‘not in the know’ may find their walk-out a little rude.
Admittedly the timing of the walkout usually depends on who is preaching and if the sermon overruns its time slot, but ringers the world over take great pride striking the first stroke as Big Ben starts it chime to tell mark the beginning of another year.
And so ringers have to be up the tower, ropes in hand, ready to go as the chimes start on the radio. This year was no different in St Patrick’s and eight ringers walked out ignoring the ‘where are they off to?’ looks from some.
St Patrick’s is fortunate to have a Rector and Tower Captain who care about tradition. The church bells have been ringing at the Watch Night service since they were installed in 1895 and only during the War Years were they silent.
New Year's Eve 1945 saw the start of this tradition once again and the New Year bells have been rung every year since. Even when the parish is scarce of ringers it always endeavours to have at least six ringers to ‘ring out the Old Year and then ring in The New.’