Some While Ago
Rutherglen Town Hall (Lanarkshire) was first built in 1862 and after falling into disrepair was reopened in 2005 following a £12.5 million refurbishment. For some it may be a familiar landmark and for the Richardson family, whose son James is commemorated on the nearby Rutherglen War Memorial, the town hall was a landmark seen and heard each day.
It is this familiarity of being seen and heard that draws me in this day as Christmas approaches. Christmas, methinks, is about people, place and family, goodwill and cheer, song, food and so too many other joys. Yet this year it is the steady and heralding sound of bells that I am drawn to this day, while I seek something slightly different.
Some while ago, David Francey, a Scottish-born Canadian singer-songwriter came to play on Vancouver Island. I saw him twice on his western tour and while listening to Saints and Sinners, a song about bells and Ayr’s Cliff, Quebec I reflected upon the lyrics and his town and how the familiar anchors us to time, place, and memory.
There is something in these words…these lyrics about bells and of a war on the left and the right. Perhaps it is the mention of Bethlehem that intrigues me at this time of year, the bright star of the night sky that brought forward the magi…and so with the Christmas season upon us I reflect upon the bells, the familiar, their sound and record of personal events, visits to churches and cathedrals, towns and villages on my adventures in many different places, Christmases elsewhere, friends and family, events of joy and so too of sorrow.
“At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express, 1985