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Hatfield Bell Rings Out Once More With AM-Big Ben’s Bong

December 19, 1990

HATFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The town bell of this 320-year-old New England farming community has made a ringing comeback just in time for the holidays, without interrupting anyone’s silent nights.

″It’s good to hear it ringing again,″ said A. Cory Bardwell, who has lived next to the bell all his life.

″Because of the season more than anything, I thought it was neat,″ said Selectman Thomas Hurley.

The bell was silenced last May as a result of a civil suit ordering the bell shut down at night. Town officials shut the bell off entirely because they couldn’t afford a timer. The lawsuit was filed by a couple new to town who complained the bell kept them awake.

The 1,800-pound bell tolled the hours Wednesday from a white-steepled church on Main Street thanks to a timer installed at an estimated cost of $200 to $300, which will be paid for by private donations, Hurley said.

The return of the bell, owned by the town but housed in the First Congregational Church which once doubled as Town Hall, comes at a time when the famous Big Ben of London faces a potential snub.

British Broadcasting Corp. officials say Big Ben’s chimes, which the BBC traditionally broadcasts to introduce the queen’s Christmas Day message and ring in the New Year, may not be used this year because the main bell has lost its distinctive tone because of repairs.

Tuesday night in Hatfield, Jeffrey Tannatt and Randy Snyder clambered into the church attic and installed the timing mechanism, ringing to a close a dispute that began two years ago.

Richard and Pamela Carnall, newcomers to town, moved from the nearby city of Northampton to Hatfield, population 3,000, in August 1988, settling down in a 19th-century house on Main Street, next door to the church.

At that time, the town bell was broken. But in December, the bell was fixed and started its hourly tolling, and the Carnalls started waking up.

The Carnalls tried but failed to convince town selectmen of their plight, so they filed a civil suit.

Old-timers grumbled that the ringing of the bell was a cherished custom and an integral part of the New England charm of their pretty town.

The Carnalls, who have an unlisted telephone number, have declined comment on the return of the bell.

But at the time they won their case before a jury last May, they said they were happy with the decision and only sought quiet nights.

″They certainly never asked that the bell be turned off all through the day and they just wanted it turned off at night. So I guess that they’re content,″ said W. Michael Ryan, who represented the couple in their suit.

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