Day 27: Kells Bells

Kells is a small village overlooking Dingle Bay. Its lovely open landscape and spectacular views make it a favorite for hill walkers. This Kells, on the Ring of Kerry, should not be confused with the Kells in County Meath that is associated with the Book of Kells. Laetitia took her group hill walking around the area, arriving back in Kells in the afternoon. She had a few hours before dinner, so she sat in a pub at the bar sipping a Guinness and reading the book she had brought along.

The book was The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers. Sayers was one of Oxford’s first female graduates. She was a classical scholar, poet, essayist, translator, and playwright. Sayers is probably best known for her mystery novels featuring her amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey. The plot of The Nine Tailors centers around change-ringing, the ringing of a set of six or eight tuned bells in a mathematical sequence, but not a recognizable melody. A variety of sequences are played, and they have interesting names like Grandsire Caters, Erin Triples, Titanic Cinques, and Kent Treble Bob Major.

The pub was mostly empty, so the bartender wasn’t busy. He said, “I recognize that book. I used to see a lady in town named Fiona reading it. She came here from Dublin to teach, and as she was single and good-looking, I read it myself so I’d have something to talk to her about. It didn’t do me much good, though, since she didn’t seem to take much interest in the local men.”

He went on to tell Laetitia that he didn’t find the book very interesting, but Fiona seemed to be obsessed with the book and with change-ringing itself. Every few weeks she’d tell everyone she was going off to St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick or Christ Church in Dublin to hear the bell ringers perform. Pretty soon there was a rumor, probably started by some local man with amorous intentions whom she ignored, that she became erotically aroused when she heard change-ringing.

The local parish church had a bell choir that consisted of eight teenage boys. They were at an age when boys are long on testosterone and short on common sense, so when someone bet them that they wouldn’t dare serenade Fiona doing a change-ringing sequence on their hand bells, they took up the challenge. They were pretty good musicians, so it didn’t take them too long to learn Kent Treble Bob Major. On the appointed evening, they appeared on her lawn with the whole town watching from the shadows and gave their performance. It wasn’t a full peal, but was long enough to test the hypothesis. If Fiona was erotically aroused, she didn’t show it, but she graciously came to the door and thanked them.

A few weeks later her school year was over and a man drove up in a fancy car. They loaded her few belongings into the car and left together. Shortly thereafter, her house went up for sale. Sometime later, folks in town learned that she’d been seeing a man from Dublin all along and they’d gone off and gotten married. She wasn’t actually particularly fond of change-ringing. It was just a ruse so she could slip off to Dublin to see her man without creating gossip.

Laetitia listened to the story and later presented her limerick of the day.

When ‘twas rumored a lady in Kells
Became lewd when she heard change-rung bells
Some lads rang on a wager
Kent Treble Bob Major
And soon they found out for themselves.