Greyfriars Dumfries

The Town Bell

In the tower of Greyfriars hangs the town bell. The bell was cast by William Evans of Chepstow in 1744 and brought to Dumfries by ship to replace an earlier bell/s that had been brought to the first New Church in 1727 from the Abbey Church of the Greyfriars.

We know that Friar Charles Hume , the last Warden of the Grey Friars , was kept on after the reformation to ring the Abbey bells. This may seem a lowly occupation for the head of a religious house but in reality it was simply a means by which the town continued to pay his pension under the guise of a job of work. There is little doubt that the bells were rung but probably by someone employed by Friar Hume.

The Christian tradition of ringing a bell at daybreak, midday and sunset is ancient. This is commonly known as the Angelus ( in Eastertide Regina Caeli ) This was in addition to ringing the bells prior to the saying of the seven offices ( services ) of the day and the Mass. Bells played a very important part in the life of the town. They marked the time of the day for people as well as calling them to prayer.

The arrival of the striking clock put pay to the much of the daily religious ringing of bells but the practice of ringing the Curfew bell continued until after World War II.

The bell is the call to prayer for all Christians. In proper tradition it is baptised in the same way as we are. Named and set apart for God.

Despite a title obligation Dumfries and Galloway Council refused to fix the Town Clock when it died in 2010. The excuse that was used was that the access to the tower was too steep. The same access that had been used since 1864 without any problems. In the 1970’s Nithsdale District Council replaced the mechanical clock with an electronic motor and chimer by Smiths of Derby. The Congregation of St Brides replaced the dead Smiths system with a new Italian computerised satellite controlled clock and striking mechanism in 2011. The local authority by their refusal to act to repair the broken clock or contribute to the cost of the new clock have accepted that they have no proper interest in the clock or the bell.

The congregation of this Church have restored the ancient times of the ringing of the Town Bell. The times and purposes are as follows. In Christian tradition bells are silenced after the Gloria at Mass on Maundy Thursday and remain silent until the Gloria at the Mass on Holy Saturday.

0700- 0703hrs The Angelus
1200 – 1203hrs The Angelus
1800 – 1803 hrs The Angelus
1950 – 1955hrs Curfew

A Prayer:
Lord Jesus
May the sound of this bell rung in thy name stir good into the hearts of all that hear it. May the heedless be warned, the downcast be cheered, and thy faithful servants strengthened.