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Hand Held Bell - Hand Held Bell with a small inscription on the inside.

From the Collection of Carlton Football Club Ikon Park 400 Royal Parade Carlton North Victoria

Wooden handle attached to a brass bell.
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Historical information
The bell was used for Trade Week to signify "time's up" at Optus Oval. Prior to this it was used to let Alan Espie's children on their Wandin property to come home.
Why Al chimes in for Carlton
Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media
Feb 20, 2014 11:05AM

Alan Espie with the famous bell. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)
Alan Espie with the famous bell. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Etched into the rim of the bell Alan Espie has rung at every trade week gathering since 1994 is a touching quote attributed to his grandson.

Dear Pa, May you always ring true blue, Love Harry

Just thinking about that inscription often brings big Al to tears.

The story of the Espie bell has its origins at the old family property at Wandin in the picturesque Yarra Valley, in the days when the Espies’ kids were at the neighboring creek fossicking for local platypus.

“If they got too far away we’d ring an old cowbell,” Espie recalled, “and years later, my daughter Jo brought me this replacement bell from some second-hand naval place”.

“Not long after Shane (O’Sullivan) asked me to officiate at trade week and that’s when the bell came into vogue.”

A permanent fixture at trade week, Espie would ring the bell to signal the opening of trading when club recruiters gathered – initially within the confines of the Carlton Heroes Stand at Visy Park, more recently at Etihad Stadium.

In those early days at Carlton he caused a stir as bell ringer, drawing curious responses from officiating journalists, recruiters and coaches alike. “I even remember (Kevin) Sheedy asking me if I was selling muffins,” he recalled.

Then, when trade day was relocated to Etihad, Espie’s daughter thought it appropriate to get the bell inscribed.

“Because the bell was leaving Carlton, Jo got it inscribed on my grandson’s behalf, because he was only four or five then. When I saw what was inscribed I was tearful,” Espie said.

“The bell is very important to me, particularly at this time, because Jo is battling health problems at the moment, my grandson is autistic and she’s fought like hell to get him through.”

Espie joined Carlton’s Under 19 committee on the eve of the senior Premiership season of 1979 and managed the club’s junior squads, the Bert Deacon Squad included.

“I worked very closely with Geoff Southby, ‘Swan’ McKay and Trevor Keogh when they were coaching the Under 19s and I was recruiting as well,” he said. “In 1981 and ’82 I forward scouted for ‘Parko’ (David Parkin) and later on I did the same for ‘Wallsy’ (Robert Walls). After that I coordinated recruiting in central Victoria and it was nothing for me to do 25,000ks a year in my own car – and I loved every minute of it.”

Espie’s passion for Carlton and empathy for its wartime players Bert Deacon, Ollie Grieve and Jack “Chooka” Howell can be sourced to his childhood years. His grandparents lived not far from the old ground on Wilson Street “and that’s how I got in for the ’45 Grand Final”.

“My uncle, who had just got back from the war, grabbed a ladder from Wilson Street and set it up against the barbed wire fence at the ground. I climbed the ladder and caught my arm on the barbed wire, but I got over the top and saw the game while I straddled the fence,” Espie said.

“What I saw was what you would today call ‘spotfires’ and I reckon it took football 20 years to get rid of it.”

Today, Espie continues to ring in the yearly trade talk days at AFL headquarters (with the notable exception of 2012 when he was hospitalized), but he’s in no doubt as to where the bell belongs.

“This bell has had nothing to do with Wandin but everything to do with Carlton - and with the 150th year of the club I think the bell stays here (at Visy Park). I still hope to ring the bell for the AFL this year, but at least I’ll know where it is,” Espie said.

“I’ve told Jo about this and she tells me Harry’s rapt, because he’s a big Carlton supporter and he’s so happy his name is on the bell.”
Inscriptions & Markings
"Dear Pa, may you always ring true blue, Love Harry"
Last updated
15 Jul 2019 at 5:19PM