How the McLane Carillon Missed Its Stop (But Has Been Making Beautiful Music Ever Since)

Did you listen for the bells this Homecoming weekend? So many Baylor alums talk about missing the beautiful hymns played on the McLane Carillon, or just the chiming of the time. From getting students to class on time to September 11 memorial recitals, the bells are an integral part of the Baylor experience. But did you know that on their way to Waco, they took an accidental trip to Mexico?

McLane Carillon dedication program cover, 1988

The smallest bell in the McLane Carillon weighs 29 pounds, and the largest weighs 4,370 pounds.

The 48 bells of the McLane Carillon were made by the Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy, France, a company whose bells can be heard around the world. After they were finished in 1988, a freighter picked them up and was to unload them in Houston, and a trucking company would complete their journey to Waco.

Paccard Fonderie de Cloches brochure, 1980s

The bells of the McLane Carillon took about a year to craft.

Yet the best laid plans can go astray—the ship failed to stop, and the bells went on their way to Mexico. Of course, the error was discovered, the freighter returned to Houston, and the bells made it to Baylor, just a few days later than planned.

But wait, you’re thinking—weren’t there bells ringing from Pat Neff before 1988? Yes! But unfortunately, the Cullen F. Thomas chimes had fallen into disrepair after 50 years of music, and the tower fell silent. Thanks to the generosity of the Drayton McLane family and the McLane Company, Inc., of Temple, Texas, Baylor was able to purchase a new carillon.

Yet the bells are a bit of a mystery—you can’t really see them, after all. Did you know that they’re played using both feet on the pedal board and closed fists on a keyboard? (The carillon is connected to a computer programmed to play the Westminster chimes and some songs, but yes, real people play the carillon too! Lynnette Geary is the current carillonneur, and she even teaches carillon classes.)

McLane Carillon dedication program, quotation pages, 1988

Inscribed quotes on the bells include wisdom from Baylor presidents up to the time the McLane Carillon was dedicated in 1988. (A quote from Herbert H. Reynolds is on the preceding page of the program.)

And Baylor’s bells are inscribed with biblical and literary quotations. Selected by the McLane family, there is a quote from each of the Baylor presidents up to the 1980s, a bell dedicated to the faculty of Baylor University with a line by Geoffrey Chaucer (“And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”), and much more. The quotations can be seen on a plaque in the Pat Neff Hall entryway.

So next time you hear “Doxology” or “That Good Old Baylor Line” pealing across the campus, stop and listen a moment. The Baylor soundscape wouldn’t be the same without them.

Source: Baylor University Subject File: Buildings: Pat Neff Hall: McLane Carillon, at The Texas Collection

This entry was posted in Baylor Homecoming, Baylor University, carillonneur, Cullen F. Thomas chimes, Doxology, Drayton McLane, McLane Carillon, Paccard Bell Foundry, Pat Neff Hall, That Good Old Baylor Line. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How the McLane Carillon Missed Its Stop (But Has Been Making Beautiful Music Ever Since)

  1. Alice says:

    What an interesting story!

  2. Great to hear the bells again — and to know about the history of these. Kudos to the McLane’s. Keep ‘em ringing!

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