Saturday, 26 July 2014


The New Jersey connection

Firstly, please accept my apologies for not being around to blog for the last few weeks. A combination of factors have meant that blogging hasn’t been possible recently.

I last left you reading about The Temperance Society in Loughborough, and promising you an article on Temperance in Nanapantan, as I had seen sight of two different postcards of two different buildings in Nanpantan purporting to be temperance establishments. That article is almost ready to go, but I have been seriously distracted of late, and would love to share my latest, most amazing discovery with you. Please read on …

At a recent family gathering, I was re-acquainted with some relatives I hadn’t seen for many years, and we spent quite some time catching up with what had been happening over the years. My aunt happened to mention that she and her husband had been over to the States about 7 years ago, and my uncle regaled us with stories of the aeroplane having to circle the American airport because of thunderstorms in the area, which made it impossible to land. So, the pilot, having done quite a few circles, calmly announced that unless he was able to land soon, he would run out of fuel and the plane would turn into a glider. Luckily, there was an airforce base very close by and the plane was able to land there and re-fuel, and waited on the ground for a couple of hours whilst the storm passed. Eventually, the plane was able to take off, lined up with the runway, and made a landing in what seemed like only a couple of minutes.

Anyway, I can hear you asking, “What on earth has this got to do with Loughborough?” Well, thing is, my aunt and uncle were going to visit my aunt’s brother, my uncle, who emigrated to the States in about 1960, and as far as I can remember, I’ve only seen him once since then, in about 1969. They had obviously found the visit incredibly exciting, and were telling me stories of what they’d done. My aunt is fairly quietly spoken, and I don’t hear particularly well, and having been away from Wales for many years, I admit I struggled a little in following the conversation. At one point she seemed to be talking about a “carilan”, and it took me a few seconds to realise that this was how they pronounced “carillon”!

My ears were now well-tuned in! This year was the first time that I had volunteered and helped out at the museum in our own carillon, in Queens Park, and I cannot really explain why I did this, but hearing my aunt talk about a carillon in the States, I was all agog. Imagine, my even greater surprise when I realised that she was telling me that the man who played that carillon was, in fact, my uncle! Three times a week, he climbed the 100 steps up to the playing chamber and played for the church service! The fact that my uncle played the carillon was quite astonishing, but the fact that he climbed those 100 steps three times a week, was also astonishing, given that he is aged 80!!

My aunt also said that there had been a recording of him playing on the internet, so the first thing I did when I got home was scour the internet for this video, and, of course, I found it! My first surprise was to see a picture of my uncle: I could have been looking at my own father, had I not known this was his brother!

My second surprise came when I listened to the video and heard my uncle say, in an American-tinged-with-Welsh accent:

“The bells were made at the Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, England, and each of the bells has the Taylor Foundry mark on the back.”

So, a carillon in Morristown, New Jersey, has 49 Taylor’s bells which are played regularly by my uncle!

Well, I know life is full of coincidences, but this one has really made an impression on me!!

But I won’t tell you that the Vicar who presided over the event the family we were attending, was the Vicar of St Mary’s Priory in Abergavenny: This is an extract from their website [my embolden]:

The Bells

St Mary’s has a ring of 10 bells, the tenor weighing in at 25 cwts 18 lbs. At the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536-39, the parishioners bought the four bells, weighing a total of 45.5 cwt, which hung in the Priory Church.

The tenor was recast in 1603 and the 3rd recast in 1666, by the Purdues of Bristol. The treble was recast in 1706 by Abraham Rudall.

The bells were augmented to five in 1835 and then to six in 1845 by Jeffries & Price of Bristol. To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887, the bells were rehung and augmented to eight by Llewellins & James of Bristol, the same firm recasting the tenor (19 cwt) in 1893.

Finally, in 1947, these bells were replaced by the present magnificent 10 from the Loughborough foundry, in thanksgiving for the end of the Second World War. They are considered to be the finest ring of 10 bells in Christendom and bell-ringers from all over the country come to ring the changes.

The medieval 6th of the old ring, dated 1308, is preserved in the nave and inscribed ‘May the bell of John last many years’ – perhaps indicated that this was one of a peal of bells donated by John de Hastings, the man responsible for the first restoration of the Priory Church.”

Anyway, here are a couple of links featuring my uncle and the carillon in Morristown that you might be interested in following up:

A video of my uncle talking about and playing the 49-bell carillon in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey

A little bit of info about Morristown, New Jersey

A picture of my uncle

Another picture of my uncle

And another!

Umm, and another

Another picture of my uncle and aunt

A video of Santa Claus (aka my uncle) landing in Morristown

And a video of Mr and Mrs Claus ...

I’m hoping to resume weekly blogging shortly, so do pop back again next week ...

Thanks for indulging me!


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If you have found this post interesting or have any questions about any of the information in it do please leave a comment below. I might not be able to answer immediately, but I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading the blog.