“Ringing for Gopher” at St Mary Magdalene
Bellringers at St Mary Magdalene will “ring for Gopher” starting on Sunday 10th October 2021 between 4 and 5pm and this will continue for the next six weeks.
The main function of bells has always been to summon the folk to prayer, but they are also used to celebrate special events and customs. Ringing for Gopher is one such special custom.
Ringing for Gopher traditionally starts on the 12th Sunday before Christmas and runs for six weeks. By custom it takes place for an hour before the evening service. It commemorates a Flemish merchant called Gopher, who got lost, some say at Farndon, others say in the mists near Muskham or Averham, back in the middle ages, but who was guided to safety by hearing the sound of Newark’s bells.
The earliest record appears to be that in the parish magazine for October 1886, which records:
“Tradition says that a Dutchman, whose name was Gofer, who was chief engineer engaged in the work of draining the land in the neighbourhood of Kelham, happened to be overtaken by fog, and lost in the woods and marshes which then existed there, but hearing the Newark bells he made towards the place whence the sound proceeded, and so got safely out of his difficulty. In gratitude for his deliverance he bequeathed a piece of land, the income derived from which was to be devoted to the payment of the ringers, who were to ring a peal of bells for six Sundays, beginning on the 12th Sunday before Christmas. Though the endowment is now lost, the bells are still rung, and a subscription is made to defray the expenses of ringing.”