Fears single complaint will call chime on historic bell

St Andrew's Blackadder Church in  North Berwick
St Andrew's Blackadder Church in North Berwick
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A HISTORIC church bell that has rung for more than a century could be silenced following a complaint from just one resident.

The bell of St Andrew Blackadder Church, in North Berwick, East Lothian, has sounded every half hour for the past 105 years, but following the single complaint it could now be turned off.

The local authority’s environment protection team has suggested quietening the bell between 11pm and 7am.

However, the church’s minister, Reverend Neil Dougall, is concerned that the bell may have to be switched off permanently in order to stop it ringing through the night, claiming the move would destroy a “unique” part of the North Berwick’s history.

The town’s community council has also expressed its opposition to any moves to silence the bell, which has been ringing regularly since the 1900s.

Environmental protection officer David Hogg was first to raise the issue after a resident complained about the bell striking every half hour during the night.

An investigation was then carried out by East Lothian Council’s night-time noise investigation team and they concluded “the chime is pretty loud and could possibly be an issue”.

Mr Hogg told the church: “With this in mind can I ask if it is possible/practicable to stop the chime between 11pm and 7am, or can the volume be reduced somehow?

“We are aware the chime is historical and we would like to try to resolve this amicably and to everyone’s 
satisfaction.”

The clock is owned by East Lothian Council, meaning it will have the final say on the matter.

Rev Dougall has hit back, claiming the bell has been “part of North Berwick life for more than a century”.

He added: “I do not regard the bell as belonging to the church alone. Rather, it is something that the church holds in trust for the whole town.

“A good night’s rest is important for health and wholeness. The church therefore has sympathy for the person who complained that the chiming of the bell through the night is disturbing their sleep.

“However, we believe that this is a decision for the whole community. A century of custom and practice should not be unilaterally altered. The community should be consulted.”

Community council chair Pat Burton also backed the minister over the future of the bells, saying: “The striking of the clock has been part of North Berwick life for a century and I think it is quite wrong that someone can move into the town and decide to change the way of life here.”

Community councillor Robin 
MacEwen admitted the ringing of the church bell could have an impact on the town’s tourism.

He said: “North Berwick relies on its visitors for its continuing prosperity and we have to be conscious of the factors that will contribute to an enjoyable stay in the town.

“A good night’s sleep is surely one of these. The proposal to silence the clock between 11pm and 7am sounds a perfectly reasonable and sensible solution providing it can be achieved 
without compromising the operation of the chimes at other times.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council added: “We have received a complaint and are investigating it.”