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Maryborough brothers some of the youngest bell ringers

Young Maryborough bell ringers, Jack Stewart, Andrew Chapman and Sean, Hugh and Blair Stewart, practice the church tradition at St John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane.
Young Maryborough bell ringers, Jack Stewart, Andrew Chapman and Sean, Hugh and Blair Stewart, practice the church tradition at St John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane. Ava Benny-Morrison

SEAN may have the looks, humour and smarts but his younger brothers have the bell-ringing pull.

The four tight-knight Maryborough siblings are the hands, coordination and timing behind the bell ringing each Sunday at St Paul's Anglican Church.

They are also some of the youngest bell ringers in Australia.

The teens have embraced the long-standing church tradition while bringing to it a healthy level of family competition.

"Well, Sean is good looking, funny and intelligent and I mean we are five brothers and we all have good qualities but I am a bit like the hybrid with all the good stuff," Sean jokes.

But Hugh is adamant: "Blair is the better bell ringer".

Sean, 16, Jack, 12, Hugh, 12, Blair, 14, and fellow bell ringer Andrew Chapman, 15, visited Brisbane this week to brush up on their bell ringing skills high above St John's Anglican Cathedral.

After a hair-raising walk up a flight of steep stone stairs, the five school students pulled on the ropes connected to 12 bells in the cathedral's bell tower with precise co-ordination and impeccable timing.

The boys' willingness to embrace the deeply rooted tradition is a welcome contrast from a decreasing trend of youth participation across the church community.

"I am really pleased these young guys who I hope will be around for quite a while to ring," Bell ringing captain Ruth Andersen said.

"Even if they do leave, it is one of those things you can do anywhere that has bells.

"You can walk into a bell tower and everyone welcomes you with open arms and it's really great."

Mrs Andersen, a 28-year veteran of bell ringing, said the practice created a sense of community.

The young boys admit the practice takes patience but is well worth it.

"To start up it takes six months to a year to learn and Ruth is a bit choosy with who she lets ring so you have to wait a bit before you can actually get in," Sean said.

"I remember the first time I rung the big heavy one, which is about a tonne, I was fairly nervous for that.

"But mostly now I have done all the weights of the bells its ok."

Topics:  church bells, editors picks, st john's anglican cathedral, st paul's anglican church


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