At 11.30 on Thursday 31st December '98, the local bellringers met at Suckley Church, as is the custom, rang the bells up to midnight - finished with diminishing rounds and then after a short pause, struck 12 blows on the tenor bell dead on the start of the New Year. Then we wished each other 'a happy new year', armed with a glass of Sherry (or other) and a mince pie. After a very short break, we then started to ring the first 'touch' in 1999, again customary.
It was at that moment that the electricity supply failed, plunging us into total darkness, while still ringing. This was NOT a pleasant experience and it was also extremely dangerous. (When ringing and controlling a 12 cwt bell, swinging through a full circle, and the rope with which your only chance of standing the bell is hidden from view, it calls for precise timing and co-ordination)
Four of the six ringers managed to stand their bells first time, the other two stood after a few more blows and lots of anxious calls and instructions, in the dark.
Slowly, our eyes became accustomed to a dim and eerie glow that was being created by the gas heater that was on. Further ringing was out of the question, so we decided to leave everything where it was, lock up and get out of the church. This entailed descending the spiral staircase in total darkness. Fortunately about half way down, the power supply came back on, so we quickly climbed back up into the ringing chamber, finished our drinks, had another ring, lowered the bells and left the Church, after having cleared up the half empty bottles and glasses.
We must get some emergency lighting as soon as possible!