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Bellringers at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, from left, Colin Sweet, Nicolette Axiak, Thomas Perrins and Anna Perrins (Parramatta Diocese/Mary Brazell)

Nicolette Axiak has been bellringing at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, for three years and considers herself “still very much in the early days” of mastering the craft. Source: Catholic Outlook.

But the continual improvement that she sees in herself every week is one of the reasons she is hooked. 

“The way that you go through all of these different skills and techniques … you can see a lot of progress,” she says. “I just had no anticipation that I’d love it as much as I do.” 

Ms Axiak is one of a tight-knit group – young and old, experienced and novice – that meets every Wednesday at the cathedral to hone their skills in the ancient art of bellringing. 

Bellringing was developed in the Middle Ages as a means of calling the faithful to worship and marking important events such as weddings and funerals. The medieval craft continues to flourish in New South Wales. 

According to Thomas Perrins, the president of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers, the state has the highest concentration of churches with bell towers – which hold multiple bells – outside the UK. Sydney is the epicentre of that activity. 

“There’s no real top of the mountain here. I’ve been doing it for 24 years, I’m reasonably experienced but still, I find new challenges,” Mr Perrins said. 

His expertise was instrumental in setting up the bell tower in St Patrick’s Cathedral, which was opened in 2020. And he has continued to lead the cathedral’s team of ringers ever since. 

Each week between 12 and 15 regular ringers come to practice from churches all over Sydney – Catholic and non-Catholic – as well as a core group of about five local ringers.

Despite being a complex form of music, bellringers don’t need to be musical. “It’s all in the numbers,” says Colin Sweet, one of the group’s long-time ringers. 


‘No real top of the mountain’: why bellringing is a lifelong love (By Antony Lawes, Catholic Outlook