The Kilwhang Ringers, a Handbell ringing group, was established in September 2007 by Catherine Walker.
Catherine, as Director of Music and Organist at Dunnottar Church at that time, discovered there was a set of hand bells at South Church Stonehaven. She contacted Christine Hunter, who was keeper of the bells, and together they advertised for interested parties to form a handbell group.
The set of John Shaw English Bells at South Church belonged to Mrs Elspeth Richmond who, with her husband, the late Reverend Robin Richmond, had brought the bells to Stonehaven, after moving from Port Patrick.
Catherine began arranging music for handbells and encouraged members of the group, who had not previously read music, to do so.
Derek Hunter, a member of Dunnottar Church, gifted a set of Malmark American bells to the group.
The name, ‘Kilwhang Ringers’ was chosen by members of the group, Kilwhang being an old name for Stonehaven. ‘Kil’ means church, but ‘whang’ is more difficult to trace. We think it means ‘Comman’ (Quhoan). Kilwhang may therefore mean the church of St. Comman. Another possibility is that whang means ‘long road’. Kilwhang, ‘church on the long road’. The name has no written evidence linking it to Stonehaven, hence much is folklore.
As the group expanded and progressed, practices moved from South Church to the Upper Room at Dunnottar Church. Mrs Richmond kindly transferred ownership of the John Shaw Bells to the Kilwhang Ringers for as long as the group is in existence.
Current membership is around fourteen and the group is open to anyone who has an interest in making music. Unlike most musical instruments, handbell ringing is about teamwork, requiring a group of people to come together as one. The handbells can be played by people of any age.
Rehearsals are from 10am until 11:45am on Mondays during term time.
It has been another music filled year for us with a variety of performances around the local countryside.
These have included playing at Invercarron Resource Centre, Brechin Acorn Club, The Royal British Legion in Stonehaven and Fetteresso Church Focus Club.
We attended the Spring Rally of the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain, Scottish Region, hosted by the Cushnie Ringers, at Aboyne in March. The following month we held our annual Coffee morning and performance in St. Bridget's Hall, Stonehaven.
With sadness, we note the passing at the end of October, of our very supportive and encouraging mentor and friend, Mrs Esther Barrett-Ayres. Esther composed and arranged music for our bell ringing group and was always a huge encouragement to us. She is greatly missed.
As November flies past, we are practising for Christmas. We shall be playing at Auchenblae Church on Friday 9th December for their Carol Service. Then we shall be taking part in the Christingle Service at Dunnottar Church, Stonehaven on Christmas Eve.
Bookings for the New Year are already being put in our diaries.
Our membership stands at fifteen, with new members always assured of a warm welcome.
As we enter our ninth year since formation, we look forward to planning some interesting events to celebrate ten years of handbell ringing, from next September.
This year is shaping up to being busy with performances in and around Aberdeenshire and beyond. We enjoy being invited to play at various venues and for special events.
Earlier in the year we performed at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen for a Ladies Charity Lunch Group, who designed their menu with bell themes.
We gave a concert for the opening night of the new session for the Church Guild at St. Bridget's Hall in September and are about to play for the Acorn Club in Brechin.
Recently the Rainbows were involved in a 'Bell Challenge' where they visited us at Dunnottar Church and tried their hand at ringing. Another Rainbow group from Kettering designed this challenge to raise funds for the restoration of the bell tower at 'All Saints Church' Kettering. It was wonderful to see young folk enthusiastic about ringing hand bells and we hope in future other groups may show an interest.
As October approaches we shall be practising for Christmas events and looking forward to introducing others to the art of Hand Bell ringing.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Kilwhang Ringers should contact the Dunnottar Church Secretary at the Church Office by email: