Yarmouth church bell’s journey to jungle island of Borneo

A hefty church bell is being shipped to the jungle island of Borneo, where a former Great Yarmouth churchman is setting up a Christian congregation.

Michael Woods, who used to be canon at St Nicholas' Parish Church, retired to Borneo three years ago and has been building a Christian church in the predominantly Muslim country.

He has kept in touch with his friends in Yarmouth, and when they told him the church bell at St James' Church was no longer needed he saw the perfect opportunity to have a bit of Norfolk in Borneo.

Moving the bell has been a mammoth task - requiring a crane, a team of workers and a cargo ship - but Canon Woods' friends say that nothing is too much trouble for them.

Ian Thomson, who works at Great Yarmouth Coachworks, knows Canon Woods through the Yarmouth Haven Rotary Club.

He said: 'When he retired we spoke about St James' Church and they said he could have the bell.

'That was all a bit vague and we had to get permission, but he came home last year and got a letter from the powers that be. We then had to find people to get the bell taken down as that was the problem.'

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Workers from Great Yarmouth company Asco took on the challenge to move the redundant bell, which was cast in 1907, from where it hung in the Queens' Road church.

'They got a crane to get it down, and they had to make a special cradle to put the crane in,' said Mr Thomson. 'We've made a wooden crate and have to take it to Felixstowe to be shipped to Kuching in Borneo.'

Kuching is the largest city in Borneo with a population of more than 615,000 - around the same size as Glasgow - and is the capital of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Canon Woods has already been sent scaffolding from Yarmouth to help build the church, and the bell is expected to be shipped out in January.

Mr Thomson says everyone has been helpful as Canon Woods is well known locally.

'He's a Potter Heigham man originally, and his parents were wood builders there, so Asco were very glad to move the bell for him,' added Mr Thomson. 'Hopefully the rotary club will pay for the bell to be shipped and we've got the box done.'

But he added they have not had a quote for the cost of sending the bell yet,

'We need to get the bell weighed,' said Mr Thomson. 'It's very interesting.'

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