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A bell of a mess!

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By Charlotte MacKay
Annan and Eskdale
A bell of a mess!

EMERGENCY repairs have saved a historic Annan church from a potential catastrophe.

During a routine survey of Annan Old Parish Church steeplejacks discovered the church bell was in danger of crashing to the ground – bringing the whole spire with it.

Explaining more, parish minister Rev David Whiteman said: “The first thing they discovered was the louvres, the shutters, were all rotten, they were just made of soft wood and the steel mesh inside had rusted away.

“Then they went up and had a closer look and the bell was basically hanging by a thread.”

A video taken before the repairs were carried out shows the steel support beams had rusted away or broken off completely, and much of the weight of the bell was being supported by soft timber beams.

Rev Whiteman said: “The steeplejacks said the work had to be carried out immediately. If had been left as it was at some point it would have all come crashing down, it would have gone through everything.”

Workmen from BCM Steeplejacks have now replaced the rotten louvres, removed the rotten bell cradle and installed a new stainless steel support structure for the bell, at an estimated cost of £27,000.

Rev Whiteman said: “They have done a job that will outlive all of us.

“It is a lot of money but we thought for the sake of the building, it was worth it – the tower is now safe for future generations.”

Unfortunately the bell has a large crack in it meaning it will never ring again, but the church has come up with a novel solution to the problem.

Rev Whiteman said: “We are going to run speakers up to the top so we can have bells ringing from the tower again.

“We actually have a recording of the original bell ringing when it still worked, but even then you can tell there was something wrong with it.”

The repairs have also allowed Rev Whiteman to carry out some research into the history of Annan and the Old Parish church.

While inspecting the work he discovered three names – J Little Provost, G Little and J Hannah – engraved on the bell, which was cast in London in 1801.

Searching through records he discovered that John Little was provost of Annan in 1802 and again 1819, while George Little was provost in 1800 and 1804.

And a search of Annan’s old burial records show that John Hannah – a baillie of Annan – died in 1811 at the age of 67.

During the repair process pieces of graffiti have also been discovered on the inner walls of the church tower, with some dating back as far as the 1930s.

Rev Whiteman continued: “I’m going to take as many photographs of the graffiti as I can before they get covered up again, and maybe we can even track down a few of the culprits!”

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