The X-File (no.36) - December 1998

After three years of tireless investigation, staff at the X-file have decided it's time for a makeover. There was no room for any design consultant, no cash for a style guru, and Carol Smillie and Handy Andy just weren't available. In the cut, thrust and financially challenged world of method reviewing, there was really only one thing for it - DIY.

So here we have it, the first issue of the all new, all singing, all dancing, revamped X-file. Each month we'll be concentrating on fewer methods and giving one or two the space they rightly deserve. We'll also include comment on some of the methods that wouldn't normally merit a review but, nevertheless, contain innovative ideas or are, at least, worthy of mention. And we'll be taking a quick dip into the archives to look at a method from yesteryear that's retained its initial popularity.




Rung at









G H Campling







S Jenner





Barrow Gurney


A J Cox





Bristol, St Stephen


A J Cox


Moldy's X-altation:

Davies Surprise Major : 3x5.4x5x3x34x5.6x56.7 lh 12

Methods in group f (i.e. their first lead-head is 14263857 - like London and Rutland) are often much maligned by the staff here at X-file Towers. There do, after all, seem to be rather a lot of them. Hundreds, in fact (at the time of writing, 1141 of the 4010 rung Surprise Major methods are group f). Group f and group b (like Cambridge; 767 rung) and group m (like Bristol; 600 rung) far outstrip the other 9 regular Major lead-head orders. This is undoubtedly due to the familiarity of the place-bell orders and the fact that any false course heads that are present can often be circumnavigated by the use of short courses in one form or another.

However, that doesn't mean that there aren't still some good f-group methods out there waiting to be rung. Davies, and its in-bred and slightly inferior cousin Thorpe, are two such examples worthy of mention. Apart from a rather static 2nds place bell, which stays rooted to the front for over half the lead, the blue-line is fairly fluid and has some exciting features like 4ths place bells start, which is point 8ths, 3rds, point 4ths. The backwork is characterised by Bristol-style work offset by one blow by the wrong hunting start whilst the frontwork is sufficiently cunning to generate 8765s in 3 separate leads. It's rather unfortunate that the BD falseness manifests itself in the first and last leads of the course (in addition to the B falseness around the half-course) as this precludes a really musical peal. That said, John Goldthorpe's 3-part 5280 exploits much of the available potential of the method and introduces 6 courses with the tenors parted to boot.

5280 Davies S Major
Comp. John M Goldthorpe

23456    M       B   W   H
25634            X   2   -
53462       SS           -
45362    -       X   -   -
64523    -  SS
42635            X
234756      In
372546           X
42356      4ths  X       -

3 part. SS = S3rds.S5ths
Contains 52 crus including 15 5678s and 12 6578s. Also 15 each 8765s and 7568s. Off the front: 18 5678s and 12 8765s.






X-ceedingly nice methods:

Cripsin Surprise Major : 3.56x4x56x23x4x5.6x4.7 lh 12

Pretty similar to Davies, with places in 56 rather than the Bristoly work to begin with, and wrong hunting on the front over the half-lead. Blue-line has a comparative look to it though. Rather obscure EH falseness needs avoiding but plenty of music should still be available.

Xenolite Surprise Major : x5x4.5x2.3.2x2.3x4x7 lh 12

A Michelle Pfeiffer lookalike, so who could possibly complain? Zanussi-style backwork and frontwork packed with music, and only B falseness to worry about. Hours of fun to be had with this cute little number.

Anglia Alliance Maximus : x3x4x7x8x34x8x6x7x9x9 lh 12

Anglia Surprise Royal has become a popular method of late, making an appearance in several peals of spliced. This 12-bell version takes exactly the same place notation until the treble arrives in 9-10 at which point it plain hunts to the back. Five dodges occur in 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6 across the half-lead producing a veritable orgy of 6 7890ETs in the 6th lead of the course. Some leads are a bit sparse music-wise, but it's right-place, has a good lead-head order (the Tenor becomes 2nds place bell), looks easy to learn, and should provide a good diversion for bands who like their Maximus methods to look a bit like Lincolnshire (BGW please note).


A few interesting, if not wildly innovative, things this month. Firstly we have Shrinking Violet Little Treble Bob Major. Now you don't get many Little Treble Bob Major methods to the pound - in fact Shrinking Violet is only the 4th such. Its parent method, Violet T B was first rung in 1865 (before even Len Goodall was born) and had an irregular lead-head. This streamlined version turns the treble round in 6ths and miraculously produces a regular (group m) lead-head. Apart from that it's got nothing much else going for it.

Next up is a peal of Qualis on Ten Bells. According to its conductor, this is a combination of Grandsire Caters and Plain Bob Royal, basically half-lead spliced with the tenor swapping with the treble each time they meet in 9-10, at the same time a change of method taking place. As rung this has no more effect than to insert a plain lead of Bob Royal in the middle of two half-leads of Grandsire, so a standard (but rather shorter) Grandsire composition can be used. Apparently a previous peal of Qualis on 10 took place in Bristol a number of years ago using a different method of combining the two. Either way it doesn't sound like the sort of thing that we'd recommend on a weekly basis ..

A brief mention for the band that rang the first peal of St Martin's Bob Cinques - the natural extension of St Martin's Bob Doubles. I just hope they didn't have one of those compositions that keeps the 2nd on the front throughout the peal

In a similar, but slightly more exciting, vein is the first peal of Ashford Little Bob Caters. Ashford's one of those methods one rings on a tower grab when you should really be at the next tower. The treble hunts to thirds and back and once you've passed it (the treble that is!) you dodge everywhere - odd and even - with 4 blows behind in the middle. The best thing about Ashford is that you can squeeze in lots and lots of courses (anything over 104 in fact), so you're not going to go short of music at the back. If you like it off the front too, forget it.

Finally a mention for Ydlom Surprise Royal. If Brian Warwick thinks he can get a mention by naming one of his methods after me (albeit backwards), let me tell him he is entirely correct.

This month's delve into the archives brings us Avon Delight Maximus first rung in November 1979. One of the best features of Bristol Major is usually reckoned to be the fact that it's a repeating lead method (i.e. if you make a 4ths place call, all the bells above 4ths dodge and repeat the lead they've just done), enabling you to squeeze in lots of roll-ups. Bristol Maximus (like all the Bristols above Major, in fact) fails to share this feature (much to the Central Council's retrospective chagrin). Avon is one of several attempts to bring the repeating lead benefits to a Bristol-style method. It has an attractively spiky blue-line and has continued to be popular not least due to its inclusion in several popular peals of spliced. And as well as being an excellent method in its own right, it provides a good stepping stone for those bands that have mastered Bristol and want to progress towards the sharper end of Maximus ringing.

This file is now closed.


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