Bell Tolls to Mark Cities' Kinship
Byline: David Charters
SWEAT darkened the blue shirt of the man pulling the rope to the huge bell whose sound rumbled through iron girders, telling of one great city's support for another in its time of sorrow.
And, as the rope rose to the tower after each tug, his sturdy shoes were lifted from the ground.
Here was Ernie Runciman, the unassuming computer worker, whose bell-ringing skills had given him a crucial part in an international day of mourning.
Above him, three-quarters of a ton of granite ball struck the bronze curve of the bell in the Anglican Cathedral.
Below him, on the streets of Liverpool and right across the Mersey to Wirral, the booms came at intervals of 15 seconds which prepared people for the coming silence offered in tribute to the thousands killed, wounded, and bereaved, in New York and Washington.
History has drawn together the people of Liverpool to New York.
Yesterday hundreds of them joined queues in the cathedral to sign the books of condolence or to light candles of remembrance. Others kneeled before the high altar and prayed.
The Great George Bell tolled its low C sharp for 10 minutes before the silence which was timed for 11, like the Armistice which ended World War One.
Ernie was 50ft beneath the bell in an area known as the circus ring because it is covered in sawdust to stop people slipping.
With him was John Fraser, a computing officer at Liverpool University.
One stood-by while the other gripped the red, white and blue strip of wool, called the sally, which protects the hands from the rope's burn.
Then they changed places, timing each chime by five long "draughts" on the rope.
About 219ft down on the ground, cars were pulling up, pedestrians were checking their watches, and office and factory loud-speaker systems were advising workers about the silence. …