First posted: 26 January 2019
(updated 12 February 2019)

Ronald Edward Shepherd OAM

Ron Shepherd and his tribute bell

Ron Shepherd with his NEANZAB tribute bell
(image courtesy Dave Kelly)

ANZAB is pleased to announce that Ron Shepherd has been awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division in the Australia Day honours list for 2019.

The official citation for Ron's award reads as follows:

For service to the Community through bell ringing.

Ron has spent countless hours with bellringing, whether it be looking around country towns to see if a local church could take a ring of bells, or having initial talks with church authorities about fundraising for a new ring. He has consulted with locals to help build bell frames and other internal parts of the tower, and helped with the teaching of new learners. Ron has devoted immense energy and time to the installation of new rings, and on top of all this he still manages to ring regularly at his home tower for Sunday service ringing.

Ron's quiet and gentle approach has worked well in explaining to church authorities the nature of the project they’re about to embark on. It is a matter of record that more than a third of Australian bell installations in towers affiliated with ANZAB are the result of Ron's endeavours, and we cannot discount the number of new ringers who have joined ringing as a result.

Ron is well known throughout ANZAB. He was made an Honorary Life Member of the Association in 1996.

On behalf of the Association I offer our congratulations to Ron on this new and well deserved national honour.

Peter Harrison

The submission put forward in support of Ron's nomination for the award of an Australian honour reads, in part:

Bell-ringing is conducted by volunteers, and it is not unusual for ANZAB members to devote a lot of time and effort to running bell-towers, acting a tower captains, training new recruits, and serving on various committees. Ron has however gone well beyond this normal level of volunteer service, and has done so over a period of several decades.

His particular contribution over and above the normal has been in the creation of new towers. It takes enormous time, effort and expertise to build a new bell-tower or to install bells to an existing location. First the situation must be put to the church authorities, and then if they express interest, the local community must be consulted. If the proposal is favourably received, engineering studies must be undertaken to see whether an existing tower can safely take the weight of bells, and if so, what limits exist; or for a new building, the building plans must be checked or revised to cope with the bells. The bells themselves must be sourced; often surplus bells from decommissioned churches in UK can be used, but sometimes one or more new bells are cast.

The frame can often be constructed locally, but it is an expert task to design something that fits the building and allows it to cope with the substantial strain of swinging bells. Funds must be raised. In due course the frame and bells must be installed, along with many other fittings such as the ropes. In more recent years, sound-control in the form of movable louvres must be designed and fitted. There must be liaison with the local council about noise regulations, as well as the usual health-and-safety considerations. Quite apart from all that there's the human side of the project; volunteers must be found who want to learn to ring, and then they must be trained. So all-in-all getting even a single tower to completion is a massive undertaking for an unpaid volunteer - an achievement of which very few people can boast.

Ron Shepherd has done this not just once, but more than twenty times. A full list of the rings with whose creation Ron has been involved is given below, and in nearly every case he has been the prime mover at all stages of the project. The early ones have now been up and running for more than twenty-five years. Those marked * are projects currently under way, at various stages of planning and development.

St Matthew's, Albury, NSW - Christ Church, Beechworth, Vic - St Alban's Cathedral, Griffith, NSW - St John’s Wagga Wagga, NSW - St Peter's Cathedral, Armidale, NSW - Hoskins Memorial Church, Lithgow, NSW - All Saints, Singleton, NSW - Wesleyan Chapel, Castlereagh, NSW - St Andrew's, Lismore, NSW - St Paul's, Manuka, Canberra, ACT - St James' (Queen's Square), Sydney, NSW - St James', Menangle, NSW - Holy Trinity, Orange, NSW - All Saints' Cathedral, Bathurst, NSW - St Leonard's, Naremburn, NSW - Uniting Church, Bowral, NSW - St Paul's Camden, NSW - St Hilda's, Katoomba, NSW - Holy Family, Lindfield, NSW - Holy Family, Ingleburn, NSW - Christchurch, Bundaberg, QLD* - St Augustine's, Balmain, NSW* - Our Lady Help of Christians, Rosemeadow, NSW*

This means that, while change-ringing has been practised in Australia for over a hundred years, about one third of all towers have been set up in the last thirty years as the result of the quite extraordinary dedication and effort of a single person: Ron Shepherd.

Ron Shepherd in a typical pose

Ron Shepherd in a typical pose

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