Christmas: There Rang a Bell

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


About The Author

pferguson
In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has been working with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company team since 2009. Paul began watching films at Canadian forces stations at Zweibrucken, Germany and then on the island of Sardinia. Returning to Canada in 1967 it was at Halifax, Nova Scotia where Paul first saw David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia". It is from this film that Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. This was further enhanced by the introductory whistle soundtrack, complete with sounds from the jungle, birds and insects, from Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai" and the stunning performance of Alec Guinness. Several years later, at the University of Victoria, Paul's film interests were further cultivated when the University's only available film course studied and compared the classic films of Japan and Australia. It is from this study that Paul became interested in Australian film leading him to Peter Weir's "Gallipoli" (1981) and later learning that Weir visited this historic site. That film alone started Paul on his journey to many home fronts and sites of conflict including England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and the Gallipoli Peninsula. In more recent years the work of documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", in which Paul sees the need for a similar storytelling of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and Tolga Ornek's "Gallipoli" have been great sources of inspiration. Paul has often been told he thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm a keen and sensitive interest in the development of content, an understanding of the successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Having worked in the museum and archives fields Paul believes that exhibitions are similar to film, story driven with strong content and further believes "You cannot have a beautiful exhibit or film about nothing." Like his favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes “To deepen not broaden.” It is from this gathering of experiences that Paul continues along his path, recalling all the while his grandmother, whose father did not return from the Great War, how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to inspire him.

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