The Keegan Bell will toll publicly for the first time in decades at 8 p.m. Saturday evening, July 23 at Woodstock’s Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, as an evening of music (mostly Irish), poetry and reminiscences kicks off to benefit the bell’s preservation and permanent installation near the site of its original home. Woodstockers are invited to join area musicians, artists and historians Ed Sanders, Mikhail Horowitz, Jim Hanson, Brian Hollander, John and Janine Mower, Piegi Mulligan, Richard Heppner and others for a benefit concert to preserve the bell which, until last year, remained both hidden and silent within a cupola atop the current community center and former Catholic Church.
The bell honored the lives of Peter and Anna Keegan who immigrated to this country during the latter half of the 19th century. Peter Keegan brought his skills as a stonecutter to Woodstock, along with other Irish immigrants, to work the bluestone quarries long the base of Overlook and Ohayo mountains.
The Keegan Bell was cast by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, N.Y. Meneely bells can be found worldwide and are noted for “an unequaled combination of sonorousness and purity of tone.” The Keegan bell offers two “tone” settings. The first tone is associated with normal use when rung, for example, in celebration or for a call to worship. The second setting produces a more mournful tone, normally associated with funerals and more somber occasions.
The costs for the construction of the bell’s new home — as well for future maintenance — is being borne totally through the generosity of Woodstockers and Woodstock businesses. Tickets purchased for the benefit concert will go directly to the Keegan Bell fund and will be used to underwrite the remaining costs of the project.
To be sited between the Youth Center Center and the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, the bell’s new home will consist of a 32 inch bluestone pedestal capped by a 3 inch bluestone platform. To protect the bell and bell wheel from the elements, a cedar shingle roof atop four cedar posts, secured by custom brackets, will be installed over the bell. To prevent the bell from ringing, stops will be added to the mechanisms involved in the movement of the bell. They can be removed for special occasions. Upon completion, the bluestone pedestal will also include a plaque that will note the history of the bell.
The cost of a ticket is $15 payable by check or cash. (Sorry, no credit cards.) Doors will open at 7:30 pm. For those unable to attend but who wish to donate, you can send a check payable to the Town of Woodstock, 45 Comeau Drive, Woodstock, N.Y. 12498. Please write “Bell Account” in the memo line. Any amount would be most welcomed. For more information call 914-388-1725 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.