THE public relief that the Notre Dame bell towers survived the recent fire demonstrated the deep-seated attachment we have to our church bells.

For hundreds of years they have rung in good times and bad, and supporting that tradition are the Bolton Parish Church Bell Ringers.

“We have members from all walks of life and from every age group,” said Alan Forrester, 78, who has been ringing the bells on a weekly basis since 1956.

He became the tower captain in 1963 and, to recognise his commitment, the church had his name engraved on the number four bell.

“It’s one of those things where you never stop learning," he added. "We do it for pleasure, the pleasure comes from the sound of the ringing bells and the comradeship.”

“We’re a friendly bunch and we get so much out of it," added Linda Mort, 63.

Bell ringing has its own vocabulary - from sallies and clappers to hand strokes and tail strokes - but Alan reckons it’s possible to be a competent ringer after 12 sessions.

The physics behind it means that even a pensioner can ring a one-tonne bell. In fact, it takes more exertion to climb the 54 steps to the ringing room than the ringing itself.

Apart from the sheer enjoyment, the bell ringers are called on to mark significant historical occasions. They rang in the new millennium and the anniversary of D-Day. Last month they took part in an international ring to show solidarity with Notre Dame.

But that’s not to say there are no light-hearted moments.

“We had an elderly member whose belt went mid-ring and his trousers fell down, but he kept on ringing,” said Alan.

“And then there was a young girl who forgot to let go of the rope and went sailing up to the ceiling.”

Most of the 13 bronze bells were inherited from St Saviour’s Church in Deane Road when it was demolished. The oldest dates back to 1699 which means it may well have pealed for the coronation of Charles

New new members are welcome to attend the Friday evening sessions, which run from 7pm to 9pm. There is also a Wednesday evening hand bell session. For details call 01204 842138.