THE peal of church bells has for centuries signalled celebrations from coronations to Sunday services with familiar melody.
However, changes are expected next week when the governing body of the ancient art of bell ringing meets for its first Scottish gathering of campanologists from around the UK.
The future of bell ringing will come under scrutiny at the Edinburgh conference, where Fife-born Chris Mew, president of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, will tell delegates there must be “fundamental change”.
He will add that campanologists should take a “long hard look at ourselves to make sure we, as a central body, are fit for purpose in this modern world”.
Mr Mew said: “The tremendous social changes during the last 100 years, not least the changing patterns of habitation, recreation and communications, have affected bell ringing as much as many other walks of life.
“Bell ringing is competing with many other hobbies for the attention of those looking for stimulating and interesting activity outside of work and education.
“The finding of new recruits of all ages battles against the vast array of alternative interests available and limited time in a busy world.
“As ringers, we need to do more to raise public awareness of the opportunities to increase physical and mental fitness and the social opportunities, fellowship and fun ringing offers.”

However, Mr Mew said difficult decisions will have to be made.
He added: “Over the past year and at the behest of its own members, there has been a review of the way the council is run, with proposals for modernising its management functions.
“Whilst the ‘backroom’ activities are important, the crucial aim is to raise public awareness of the joys and benefits of ringing, including stressing that there is no need to be religious or go to church in order to join us.
“Communication with existing bell ringers and the public needs to make use of modern systems and media and the aim of this year’s conference is to agree a way forward which will serve the future of ringing in a practical and sustainable manner.”
Terry Williams, of the Scottish Association of Change Ringers, founded in 1931 and with about 200 members, said the challenge for his organisation is to make full use of available church bells.
He added: “We share the problems of the North American Guild or the Australia and New Zealand Guild that our towers are widely spread out, though even our distances are not so large as in the USA or in Australia and New Zealand.
“We in Scotland are an ecumenical organisation, with our towers shared between the three main churches and none.
“This perhaps reflects a need to be inclusive in this modern world, welcoming those who have an interest in bell ringing but not a church connection.”