Bells the crowning glory

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
People gather at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on November 29 for the dedication and first ringing of the Geraldton Bells.
Camera IconPeople gather at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on November 29 for the dedication and first ringing of the Geraldton Bells. Credit: Peter Fiorenza


Well, they are finally installed and ready to go.

I’m referring to the 27 new bells at St Francis Xavier Cathedral.

Unfortunately, they were not in here when we had the re-dedication of the refurbished building late last year but the extra wait was certainly worth it.

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On Friday, November 29, I was lucky enough to be at the venue to witness the dedication and first ringing of the Geraldton Bells.

Yes, Bishop Michael Morrissey made it quite clear that the bells didn’t just belong to the Catholic diocese but to all of Geraldton and the region.

On the back of the program was an old photograph and an article from the Geraldton Guardian dating back to 1923, when the cathedral’s first bell was blessed.

Apparently, the bell gained the nickname “Big Pete” and was installed by architect, Monsignor John Hawes but was later removed after a crack developed.

There is talk that Big Pete is still in Geraldton, somewhere; however, “Big Pete I” has now been replaced by “Big Pete II”, along with 26 other bells as part of an impressive carillon.

And believe it or not, the carillon and its chimes are controlled by bluetooth, just like my audio speaker at home.

Actually, Big Pete weighs an incredible 1059kg and is the bell dedicated to St Peter, while other saints who get a berth include Cecilia, Paul, Christopher and Australia’s very own Mary MacKillop.

At the event Laith Reynolds, who is the joint owner of John Taylor Bells, spoke of his involvement in the creation of 18 bells and the sourcing of eight ancient bells from the parish of St Peter and St Paul in Surrey, England.

The ancient bells were moulded in the 12th century.

The result is certainly something remarkable.

Attended also by previous bishops of Geraldton, the dedication ceremony involved colour and pomp, along with the presence of renowned organist, Jacinta Jacovcevic, from St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth.

As the ceremony unfolded, the bells and their splendid sound was revealed. At one time, the organ and the bells were played in unison.

By the end, all 27 bells were ringing out around the CBD and beyond with a cacophony of noise that would rival anything of its type in the world. For ever more, the Geraldton Bells will sound at weddings, funerals, baptisms, along with Christmas and a number of other church and civic events.

Our St Francis Xavier Cathedral was a gift through the unique vision of Monsignor John Hawes, and there is no doubt its newly erected bells are, indeed, further testament of that.


Peter Fiorenza is the host of SHL Sunday 10am to noon on Radio MAMA.

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