The art of making bells is slowly fading, but some are reconnecting with its history

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The ringing, clicking and ringing of a doorbell are familiar sounds to many Australians, but the tradition of making them is a dying art.

They are also a great introduction to the Rolling Stones hit Honky Tonk Woman.

So when cowbell maker Peter Robinson told his wife, Lesley, about her new retirement hobby, she was surprised.

“I told my wife at breakfast ‘I think I could start making cowbells, a lot of people don’t do that anymore,’” Mr Robinson said.

“There are a few that do a good job, but I would just like to give it a try.”

A delicate job

Cowbells were used by herdsmen to control livestock and allow herds and herds to roam unfenced pastures.(

Rural ABC: Anthea Moodie

)

The retiree made his first cowbell just three years ago after making his own anvil and forge.

Since then, it has taken trial and error to perfect the craft.

“It has been a long and difficult battle as there is no educational material to tell you how to follow a course of action,” said Robinson.

“A couple will give you a template, but the template doesn’t show you where to fold it and how to do it.”

Cowbells have been used by herdsmen for nearly two centuries to control livestock and allow herds and herds to move through unfenced pastures.

But now they are rarely used in the traditional form, settling as decoration or hanging on the front door.

A bell hung on the front door with a welcome message written above it.
Cowbells are now more commonly used at the front door.(

Provided: Evelyn Moodie

)

The history of the recorded cow bell

This is also the view of bell historians and Bells of the Australian Bush co-authors Paul and Eleanor Knie.

Originally published in 2008, their book provided a glimpse into the rural way of life of pioneer Australians.

The couple spent two to three years traveling Australia on a history trail in search of cowbells stories and learning about their past.

A couple with a bell and a book.
Bells of the Australian Bush co-authors Paul and Eleanor Knie traveled to Australia for the story of the cow bell.(

ABC Rural: Anthea Moodie

)

“They had them on sheep, goats, camels and they even had them on turkeys,” Mr Knie said.

“It was a time when their livelihood depended on the bell.

Dairy cow standing on the dirt with bell around the neck.
Not just for cows, bells were used on sheep, goats, camels and turkeys.(

Provided: Bells of the Australian Bush

)

Mr and Mrs Knie said that preserving an important piece of Australian history was what motivated them to write the book.

“We recognized that if we weren’t writing the book, we didn’t know who was going to do it,” Ms. Knie said.

“These are just artifacts from history, but I think it’s always important to remember where you’re from.



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