Holbeach church tower captain Michael celebrates 40 years as a bell ringer
Bell ringer and Holbeach All Saints' Church tower captain Michael Slater was honoured at a gathering to celebrate his 40 years of ringing the changes.
Michael (59) had an unusual introduction to bell ringing.
He says: "When I was 18-years-old at Spalding Grammar School I found a book in the school library about bell ringing and I studied the theory before I touched a bell rope in the belfry.
"I was fascinated by the change ringing."
On May 9, 1979 Michael visited All Saints' Church in his home town and was introduced to the art of bell ringing for real.
He has since rung bells at around 300 churches - including Boston Stump, where he was a bell ringer for 14 years - and has rung bells at Lincoln and Peterborough cathedrals.
Highlights for Michael include ringing bells at Spalding Parish Church when Princess Anne visited in 1988 for the 400th anniversary of Spalding Grammar School.
He was ringing for royalty again at Boston Stump for visits by Prince Andrew and Prince Charles.
Michael recalls bell ringers were allowed high up on an external balcony at the Stump when Prince Charles was taken up in a cherry picker to inspect the roof of the nave.
"We actually got a royal wave from him," said Michael.
He worked for D A Green at Whaplode for more than 30 years until it closed nearly ten years ago and is now secretary to his parochial church council.
Some 35 bell ringers joined Michael to celebrate his 40 years at a gathering in St Mary's Church, Whaplode.
Bells were rung on the night and there was a party in the Heraldic Suite.
There were some 60-70 signatures from Michael's bell ringer friends on a card.
Michael says: "It's one of the things I will treasure for the rest of my life."
Bell ringing is an art that brings people from all walks of life together to work as a team - and it's one where new friends are found.
Michael says: "If you are on holiday, anywhere you happen to be and hear bells ringing, you can go along to the church and say 'I am a bell ringer', and you are immediately welcomed into the bell tower."
"English style" ringing is about patterns of sound, rather than tunes, and our bells are unlike the continental ones that go backwards and forwards.
Michael says: "Bells in the English style turn a full circle every time they are rung and we are able to control precisely when the bell goes dong."
Tunes can be heard from the bells at All Saints' Church thanks to an automatic device called a carillon.
"It was installed in 1776 and it's still in full working order," says Michael.