The 119th Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner ~ Saturday 24 February 2007
The Botanical Gardens, Birmingham
Never before had the guests at the annual Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner had to negotiate a ‘jungle’ walk in order to find their appropriate room for the evening. There were many celebrities present but only the ones who had inadvertently strayed into the wrong party could be heard calling ‘get me out of here!’ They were rescued of course, but not until they had consumed several free glasses of wine! The Chairman, David Pipe was in fine form and the 119th HJ Dinner, this year at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, got underway. In the interval the guests could not resist braving the jungle again, avoiding the waterfalls (well, two water features at least) and carefully skirting the carnivorous plants to go outside and look at the sky. How DID she do it? Sarah Vernon, Dinner Secretary, not only organised the dinner, but the entertainment was the total eclipse of the moon! We were just expecting the usual handbell ringing.
All the speeches were delightful. Ex church choir boy Simon Linford gave tips to the new Guild President, the 9th Bishop of Birmingham, on how to speak to a group of ringers. He was told that under no circumstances must he tell the Quasimodo joke. Bishop David was seen to quickly alter his speech and he told the ringers he was a big fan of bells and he would listen out for them at the Bull Ring the following day.
The handbell ringers, Fran Dodds, Rod Pipe, Mark Eccleston, David Pipe, Michael Wilby and Tony Daw didn’t seem at all upstaged by the eclipse and brought round two leads of Avon and Orion in fine style. David Ingram, in proposing the health of the guests and visitors, quoted from the scriptures and the Chairman called upon his oldest friend, Paul Carless, to reply. Well, Paul couldn’t resist it could he? He just HAD to give Birmingham a few helpful hints on how to win the 12 bell striking contest. My favourite was tip no. 3. PRACTISING – this is for wimps!
Stephen Shipley, responding to the toast of ‘continued prosperity of the St Martin’s Guild’ encouraged the older members to pass on their skills to the youngsters and the Chairman congratulated Miss Muriel Reay on the 30th anniversary of becoming the first lady to ring 1000 peals. Michael Wilby must have known many funny, dubious stories about David but choose to concentrate on DJP’s many strengths. He extolled the virtues of this ‘man of extremes, very competitive leader in ringing’ who excels especially as a composer, conductor and handbell ringer.
John Fielden made a presentation to David of a picture of St Martin’s, which had been drawn by George Pipe, from the Bull Ring band in appreciation of all he had done in past years as conductor. The food eaten, beer drunk and, with the moon completely disappeared, the guests braved the Venus fly- traps on the way to their taxis.
The next HJ Dinner (120th) will be on the last Saturday in February 2008.