The Oxfordshire Church is hoping the bell for St Helena will get there by Christmas

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MEMBERS of St Anne & # 39; s Parish in Epwell, North Oxfordshire, have come to the aid of a church on the South Atlantic island of St Helena. They hope the bell they found arrives in time for the Christmas service.

ROSEANNE EDWARDSThe makeshift bell for St. Marks from an acetylene gas cylinder

The parishioners responded to a request from the Bishop of St. Helena, Rt. Rev. Dale Bowers, for a bell for St. Marks in the Longwood Ward. Andrew McHugh and his wife Nicola directed efforts to satisfy the unusual request. The couple had lived on St. Helena for two years when Ms. McHugh directed the Island's School of Nursing and Mr. McHugh was studying for a Masters in Health Systems Management from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Mr McHugh said: “My wife Nicola and I lived very happily on the island for two years and we joined the St. Helena Diocesan Association when we returned to the UK. Bishop James Johnson – a former bishop of St. Helena – lives not far from us in Bodicote, a village near Banbury, and he and his wife Joyce are personal friends.

“We recently had our annual general meeting at Zoom when the bishop mentioned that the bell at St Mark's Church in Longwood, very close to Napoleon's house, had broken. I volunteered to see what I can do to get a bell. "

Mr. McHugh sought help at Epwell, whose St. Anne parish church has a regular ward of about ten people. "They were very happy to help and we found a bell to match on eBay," he said. “We made a bid and won the auction.

“In the meantime the bishop came back and said a local craftsman had made a new bell out of an empty acetylene cylinder. This left us with an undesirable bell. We then received a message from the seller of the bell that it had been stolen from his shed and that he would reimburse us – which he did very quickly.

"It almost seemed like divine intervention, but a few days later, Bishop Dale came back and said that St. Andrews in Half Tree Hollow on the island also needed a bell, so we set about getting another."

After a suitable bell was purchased, the heavy package began its journey to the South Atlantic via DHL parcel delivery to the docks in Bristol late last month. From there it goes by boat to South Africa and then on to St. Helena. "We hope it gets there in time for Christmas," said McHugh.

ROSEANNE EDWARDSSt. Andrews, Half Tree Hollow, St. Helena

Bishop Johnson said: “I am delighted to hear that the Epwell ward members are sending this bell to St. Andrews in Half Tree Hollow. I know it is being used well. It is so nice to see this connection between the Wykeham benefactor and the island of St. Helena. "

St. Anne's, Epwell's regular ward is small, but there is standing room only at Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals. The Church is currently without a Rector after Rev. Ronald Hawkes and his wife, Rev. Liz Hawkes, retired earlier this year. The services are currently run on Zoom by Rev. John Tattersall, a non-fellowship minister who attracts up to 40 enrollments for each service.

"John was very supportive of this donation and asked me at last Sunday's service to show everyone the bell before the service began," said McHugh.

The bell won't be the only link between Epwell and the island. Mr. and Mrs. McHugh planted a rubber tree in St. Helena Millennium Forest as a token of friendship for the Epwell Gardening Club.

St. Helena is one of three British overseas territories grouped together as St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. St. Helena measures about 16 by eight kilometers and has 4534 inhabitants. It is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was the site where Napoleon was imprisoned by the British from 1815 until his death in 1821.

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