I’ve heard it said that if you copy material from just one source it is plagiarism, whereas copying from many sources classes as research. I have to confess that in the course of my ‘research’ when preparing these and other missives, and my sermons, I more often than not draw on material others have written.
I suspect this can sometimes apply when composing peals, perhaps picking up an idea from one composition and applying it to a different method. There are certain well-known instances where composers acknowledge they have rearranged the work of others, for example Johnson’s arrangement of Middleton’s Cambridge Major, or Heywood’s transposition of Thurstan’s Stedman Triples. On some occasions when composers are uncertain whether their fairly simple discovery is original they might even add (arr) to their name.
Of course, especially in days when there was no internet to access central records, it was not unknown for two composers in different parts of the country to come up with virtually identical compositions. This could sometimes result in heated letters to the editor as each laid claim to originality; who got there first? Is your claimed composition really just a trivial variation of mine? Such correspondence can sometimes get heated, even more so these days when interactions on the various social media platforms sadly can get very personal.
Speaking to Zoe Ball after giving Radio 2’s Thought for the Day just a couple of days after the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, recalled preaching at Sandringham one Christmastide. He was invited to join the Royal family for lunch, during which Prince Philip took him to task over the content of his sermon; he said it made for an interesting meal!
Bishop Nick went on to value the fact that the Duke avoided indifference, and pressed the matter. His message was that this is how the Christian life ought to be lived out, arguing and wrestling with the bible and our faith, not merely accepting with a shrug as if it really didn’t matter what was said or believed.
Let us all try to follow Prince Philip’s example, both with regard to our faith and our ringing, pressing our points with conviction but without resorting to personal insult. To paraphrase a wellknown saying, write in haste, repent at
Licensed Lay Minister,
St Columb Major, Cornwall