Handbell Society of Australasia
The Lynch Family pt 1
How the Lynch family bellringers began
Written by Gwyn Gillard
It was previously thought that the Lynch family of bellringers came to Australia on tour from the UK . (See the Handbell Heralds nos. 18, 1993, p.17 and 24, 1997, p.27)
We now know that they were a colonial family living in Geelong who purchased their bells from Mears & Stainbank of London and had them imported to Australia .
As a result of two successful visits to Geelong by the Lancashire Ringers in 1863 and 1866 handbell ringing had a big profile as public entertainment. So when the Geelong Advertiser heard that a local family had imported some sets of bells and intended putting on a public performance they sent a roving reporter to interview them. Here is the resulting report which appeared in theGeelong Advertiser of 23rd July 1868 :
Those who have heard the celebrated Lancashire Bell-ringers will agree with us when we say they are not likely to forget the sweet music discoursed. On the occasion of their first visit to Geelong they created quite a furore, it being the general opinion that they had not their equals in the world. We did not expect that Geelong would ever be able to lay claim to a troupe equally talented, but now we find that such an event has come about. Hearing that Mr Lynch of Chilwell had recently imported a complete set of handbells from the celebrated firm of Mears and Stainbank, we yesterday paid him a visit and were surprised to find ourselves in the midst of quite a musical family, Mr Lynch and his four sons being enthusiastic campagnolians. The hand-bells, forty in number, were only received about a fortnight ago, and are made of the very best metal, with the latest improvements. The Lancashire Ringers used soprano bells made of inferior metal to those imported by Mr Lynch; while the latter are tenor bells and have a splendid tone. The leather is fixed into the clapper by means of a screw, thus allowing a better and more distinct blow being struck than under the old system when the leather was merely bound round. Mr Lynch and his sons have already perfected themselves in sixty of the most popular pieces of music, and in a short time will make their appearance before the public, when, if colonial talent is at all appreciated, they certainly deserve to be as successful as the Lancashire troupe. Yesterday we heard them play a number of tunes most accurately, and amongst them were – “When the kie cames hame”, “The Highland fling”, “There is nae luck about the house”, etc. One of the ringers is quite a little wonder; he is only eight years of age, but he performs with as great accuracy as his father. In addition to the hand-bells the company also perform on the standbells, and on these we heard them play several selections from Norma and other operas. The most interesting portion of the entertainment, however, will be the youngest son playing on the clock-bells, accompanied by his elder brother and father on the concertina, and by another brother on the flute. Mr Lynch expects to be able to make his first appearance in public in about a month, and in conclusion we need only state that those who once hear the entertainment will be glad to hear it repeated.
The first performance finally took place on 14th September 1868 and the troupe called themselves the Australian Bellringers. In the previous Handbell Herald you can read the Geelong Advertiser’s review of this concert. Here now is another review from theGeelong Register which interestingly mentions how much the bells cost:
THE AUSTRALIAN BELLRINGERS
The first appearance of a company of bellringers after the style of the Lancashire Bellringers but composed purely of local talent is an event worthy of more than a passing notice. It is now some time since Mr Lynch, a resident of Chilwell, made arrangements for the importation of sets of handbells, stand bells, and clock bells, but some time was necessarily lost before the bells were received from the makers, Messrs Mears and Stainbank, the celebrated bell founders of London. They were, however, at length received, and since then Mr Lynch and his family have been spending a good deal of their time in practising before an appearance in public. The bells cost a very considerable sum, probably little short of L200, the hand bells alone running away with L72. There are forty-four hand bells, forty-two stand bells, and thirty-four clock bells composing two sets. The hand bells are about a tone higher than those used by the Lancashire bellringers, but they are exceedingly musical and very pleasing to the ear. In their manufacture every care has been taken, and a finer set, perhaps, has never been imported into the colonies. The stand bells are a trifle sharper than hand bells, but still musical. With the clock bells, rather a novel feature in the entertainment, there is no fault to find. Mr Lynch and his sons have been busy for some time perfecting themselves sufficiently to appear in public, and last evening they gave their first entertainment at the Mechanics’ Institute. They were greeted by a tolerably good audience all things considered, although the front seats looked rather empty. The audience was, nevertheless, very appreciative, and the performers were encouraged and made more confident by repeated and loud marks of approval. The entertainment is a very pleasing one, although, of course, in a first appearance of persons not used to public performances there are always matters that may be detected and found fault with by the critical or professional eye. It would, however, have to be a hypercritical ear that would find fault with the performance for so far as regards the ringing. The programme included many well-known and popular airs rendered on the hand bells in a very satisfactory manner, and also an imitation of the bagpipes, which the ringers themselves say they did not do nearly so well as usual, but the audience seemed to be very well satisfied with it, for there was a complete burst of applause. The appearance of little Master William Lynch, and his performances generally, were matters worthy of note, for he and the brother next to him are, as stated, the youngest bellringers in the world. They both ring well, and with precision. If any one thing is noticeable more than another, it is the excellent time the company keep in their music, and this augurs extremely well for their ultimate proficiency. The stand bells were brought into use several times during the evening, and not only were well-known airs played on them, but also difficult operatic selections. The grand chorus from “Norma” was well played, but in the selection from “Sonnambula” the performers appeared to be hardly so well up. The clock bells are used in concert with concertinas, picolo, and tambourine, and very pleasant music is the result. The little fellow plays the clock bells and tambourine alternately in this part of the programme and plays with a gusto quite amusing. Altogether the Australian Bellringers may be congratulated on a very excellent entertainment, which will, no doubt, be improved considerably as they become used to appearing in public. It is with every sincerity that we wish them success in their undertaking. There will be a second entertainment to-night, with an entire change of programme.
An imitation of bagpipes on the handbells – I wonder how they did that!?
Historical records show that William Lynch, the “youngest bellringer in the world”, was born in 1857, making him a couple of years older than advertised . . . but that’s show business!
Before their first professional appearance the Lynch family gave one performance as amateurs under the name of the Chilwell Amateur Bellringers. (Chilwell is an inner suburb of Geelong.) This took place at the beginning of the previous year on 29th January 1867 when they took part in an evening of entertainment put on by the Chilwell Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society (what a mouthful!). The Geelong Advertiser ran the following advertisement for the evening:
An entertainment will be given this evening, Tuesday, January 29 by the members and friends of the Chilwell Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society in the school room, Saffron Street, Chilwell
In aid of the Library Fund
The Chilwell Amateur Bell-ringers will make their first appearance.
Adresses, Recitations, Songs and Instrumental Music
Next day the Advertiser’s review of the evening’s entertainment included the following sentence:
The Chilwell Bell-ringers, the Messrs Lynch and Middleton, were thanked for their services by a unanimous vote.
In the Geelong Register of 30th January the following review appeared:
A very pleasing and profitable musical and elocutionary entertainment was given last night in the Wesleyan School-room, Saffron Street , Chilwell, by the Chilwell Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society. The spacious room was well filled, it being estimated that from 400 to 500 persons were present. His Worship the Mayor of Geelong occupied the chair, and delivered an appropriate introductory address. The programme was very full and well varied; readings and addresses being interspersed with songs and the performances of the “Chilwell Bellringers”. Of the last named it may be remarked that their change-ringing and rendering of various simple melodies appeared to give the utmost satisfaction to the audience. The singing also, accompanied by Mr Goodall on the piano, was much applauded.
For that performance they must have been using another set of bells, since the article in the Geelong Advertiser of July 1868 states that their new bells had only just arrived.
The Australian Bellringers changed their name to the Lynch Family Bellringers in 1875. Before that there was an interim period of a few years when they used both names, i.e., The Australian Bellringers, the Talented Lynch Family. The company consisted of Henry Lynch and his four sons, Harry, Robert, George and William.