Church gets historic bell back

ALASTAIR PAULIN
Last updated 13:00 24/12/2010
Nelson bell
HAPPY CHIMES: Friends of St James trust chairman Guthrie Beatson retrieves the century-old brass bell from the boot of a police car. The returned bell had been stolen from the Ngatimoti church. Photo: ALASTAIR PAULIN

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St James Church has received an early Christmas present with the return of its stolen bell.

The solid brass bell, which weighs an estimated 50 kilograms, was discovered missing from the Ngatimoti church last Tuesday.

Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews, of Motueka, said he got a tip and "undertook some inquiries, which led to it being delivered to the Nelson police station".

The person who returned the bell was not involved in stealing it, he said. "It somehow ended up in their possession," he said, but refused to answer questions about the person, saying inquiries into the theft were continuing.

Friends of St James trust chairman Guthrie Beatson, who took delivery of the bell from Mr Andrews at the Motueka police station yesterday, said the Ngatimoti community would be delighted.

The bell's return was "excellent – a great result".

Mr Andrews said he thought that coverage of the theft on the front page of The Nelson Mail had made the bell "too hot" for someone to sell.

"I really want to thank the paper for their help and the police for what they've done," Mr Beatson said, as he wiped fingerprint dust off the bell and heaved it from the boot of Mr Andrews' police car into his own. "The sad thing was that someone was prepared to sell all that history for scrap."

The bell, thought to be at least 100 years old, "embodies the history [of Ngatimoti] – it's one of the few things that links us to our forebears", he said.

"Every kid for five generations has done a sly dong on it; we used to do that, too, and my grandkids do that now."

Mr Beatson said he would like to see the bell, which had been outside, hung in a bell tower, as it once was, but its weight might not make that possible.

"We'll ring it on Christmas Eve – it will show everyone we've got it back – but then we'll store it until we can install it inside the church."

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- The Nelson Mail

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