If 1983 saw the 'coming of age' of ANZAB then surely 2012 has seen its full blossoming. Even to someone like me who has lived in Australia and visited it several times, I still find it exciting to consider what has been achieved and is still happening in the ringing scene.

This is not being patronising, but the reverse. ANZAB, in proportion to its membership and the vast distances involved, has in its fifty years grown more than almost every Association in England.

The linear picture I encountered in 1956 encompassing Adelaide, Perth, Maryborough, Brisbane (then a chime), Sydney, Hamilton, Christchurch, Hobart and Melbourne involved a round trip of 8,300 miles as the galah flies, or one third of the journey round the world. And in that area 19 ringables - some 'just. The furthest tower I had previously been to was Sennan in Cornwall - about 350 miles!

What happened next

Diana and I are proud to be founder members, but as John Cummins recorded in his fascinating account The Rocky Road to ANZAB, the sowing of seeds to make it happen fell on some pretty stony ground.

Looking back when I first wrote those exploratory letters over the Christmas holidays of 1957-58, the most extraordinary thing was that nobody, not even Jack himself, mentioned the earlier thoughts and moves for a Federation of ringing towers in Australia and New Zealand. I knew nothing of them. It simply occurred to me what a wonderful idea it would be if those far flung ringing centres, some of whom had been soldiering on for well over 70 years, could come together to form, as I called it then, an Australasian Association. The benefits would be enormous ('unity by inclusion' as the great architect Sir Ninian Comper said) as well as the sheer fun of ringing together.

And so I wrote to all those centres. I can remember the contacts now: Brian Lawes in Perth, Harry and George Cox and Phillip Cooper in Adelaide (though by then in London), Travers Wilson in Bendigo, Warne Wilson in Ballaarat, Sidney Smith in Hobart, Nelson Sloan in Christchurch, Athol Caldwell in Hamilton, Harold Curll in Yass, John Cummins in Sydney, can't recall the Maitland name, and Ted Klupp in Maryborough. And, because I knew them, I 'sounded out' Albert Lancefield in Queensland and John Hunt in the British Solomon Islands.

The responses were very encouraging except for NSW, although JJC was very supportive. Looking back all those years ago, I suppose NSW as the only formed Association, with a Central Council representative and its own magazine, may well have felt the move wasn't necessary. Many of the leading ringers were undoubtedly influenced by Ralph Joyner, or were perhaps indifferent. In fact Mr Joyner both wrote to me and said publicly that they didn’t want a 'twenty year old Pom' telling them what to do, or filching their finances and magazine! None of us, I guess, like losing our identity and change is sometimes difficult, but it did seem to me then, and still does, a rather unkind thing to say and a bit short-sighted.

But things do change, and although it was a rocky road they did change, and 1962 saw the eventual birth of one of the most successful ringing Associations in the History of our Art, with some great talent, the Goodyer and Perrins families to name but two.

What has been achieved in terms of restoration, increase in the number of rings – when I sailed from Tilbury in 1956 there were 19 ringables, today 62 and counting – the great variety of methods in peals and quarters, travelling, education, hosting countless ringing tours and PR, is little short of a miracle, and I applaud everyone who has had anything to do with that.

One of the incidents I shall never forget was after a ring at St Benedict's in 1994 with Bill Rowe and ’the old boys’, having a beer (or two) with them at Redfern RSL. Bear in mind that these were some of the ringers who had been very anti-ANZAB, but Bill shook me by the hand and said 'You were right, you know, we just didn’t have the vision.' That was a courageous thing to say, but to me embodied the ANZAB spirit of moving on.

On a personal level, Diana and I have so many happy memories of the years leading up to 1962 and of course since then. Perhaps a little outside the remit of this article, i.e. pre-ANZAB, but then memories and events are one of the things ANZAB is about, building on past deeds to encourage progress.

The first band to ring Major on the bells of St Peter's Cathedral Adelaide

Back row, left to right: Jack Roper 7, Harry Cox 1, Bill Pitcher 5, George Pipe, Tenor.
Front row: Ken Minchinton 2, Enid Roberts 6, Diana Pipe 3, Fred Smeaton 4.

The photograph above was taken after ringing at the wonderful eight at St Peter's Adelaide in October 1957. Although they were installed in 1946, up to then Major had never been heard on them. This is the band that rang the first courses of Plain and Kent Treble Bob Major – all we could manage in those days. And to think Fred is still going strong 55 years later!

Participants in the ringing festival held in Melbourne in September 1959

Left to right: Bill Watson, Hervey Bagot (in front), Arthur Fisher, Bob Ferris, Enid Roberts (partly obscured), Graeme Heyes, Bob Ferris (at the back) next to Jack Roper, just behind George Pipe holding baby Sarah, Diana Pipe in front, next to Barbara Beeson, Ken Minchinton (back), John Fryer (front) and Tom Goodyer.

The second photo, taken on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral Melbourne in September 1959 during a weekend ringing festival, contains the band that rang the first Quarter of Maximus outside Britain – ten firsts. I should have made a peal of it! All those in the Melbourne photograph and some others rang Maximus that weekend, finishing with three leads of Treble Twelve.

Memories of people too – the teenagers Laith Reynolds and Basil Potts over in far-flung Perth, Jack and Gwen Roper in Melbourne, the lovely Adelaide group, Sidney Smith (ex Bury St Edmunds) in Hobart, Bobby Ferris at Parramatta and so many more.

Well done ANZAB, a fine achievement. I wonder what the next fifty years will bring?

George W Pipe

A memoir by George Pipe reproduced from pages 3, 4 and 15 of The Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers, 1962-2012, 50th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet.

An electronic copy of the booklet is available on the members' section of this website.

The two photographs shown here were among George's favourites because of the achievements they recorded and the friends he and Diana made during their time in Australia.