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Clapper in Memorial Church Bell Breaks

Manual Labor Will Toll the Bells for Class Day, Commencement

By Carolyn J. Sporn

The 64-year-old cast bronze bell in Memorial Church will still toll for memorial services and peal for the graduates this week. But it might sound a little different than usual.

During a memorial service yesterday, a steel pin holding the bell's 300-pound clapper in place broke for the second time this year, rendering the regular computer-operated ringing mechanism inoperable, said Marie Cloutier-Diflo, administrative assistant for Memorial Church.

As a result, she said, University officials will likely resort to old-fashioned human labor to make the bell sound its traditional tones at the memorial ceremony for the Class of '40 tomorrow and Commencement ceremonies Thursday. "Someone will go up to the belfry and hit it with a mallet to make some sound," Cloutier-Diflo said.

55 or Broke

Cloutier-Diflo said the bell broke at 9:30 a.m. yesterday during memorial services for the Class of '55. She added that the problem was likely the aftermath of a previous mechanical breakdown this spring.

On April 13--Good Friday, as it happened--the original pin that held the clapper in place severed, putting the bell out of commission for two-and-a-half weeks. After that event, which Memorial Church officials say was completely unexpected, Scott Haywood of Harvard Real Estate brought the bell to the Engineering Sciences Laboratory to have a new pin cast from milled steel.

"Additional weight ended up being added to the clapper," said Cloutier-Diflo, explaining that the change might have contributed to the second collapse.

The bell traditionally "tolls," or rings at 10-second intervals during memorial ceremonies. It "peals," or rings continuously, for 15 seconds at the beginning of Commencement, after the Sheriff of Middlesex Country has called the meeting to order and again at the end of the Commencement ceremonies.

Taylor Bell

The two-ton bronze bell was cast for Memorial Church by the Taylor Bell foundry in 1926, and has been in daily use ever since despite some occasional problems. According to Cloutier-Diflo, 15-20 years ago, the clapper swung out of the belfry while the bell was ringing and landed on the steps of Widener Library, directly across the Yard. No injuries were reported, she said.

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