Simon Birch

The Bell Ringer in Simon Birch

Basil Brownless' minute of Hollywood glory


Basil Brownless in a pose quite similar to the first scene of the film Simon Birch
(Photo: Janet Palmer, Lunenburg)

Basil and Mary Brownless used to live in Solomon House which is oposite St. John's Church in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Many scenes of the Walt Disney movie Simon Birch (1998) were filmed right in front of their house.
Day and night they (and some of their family guests from England) peered out of the windows fascinated to watch the making of a film.
They saw the church repainted all white, and the green leaves on the trees painted with autumn colours.
They saw the small and amazing Ian Michael Smith and many of the other famous actors just yards away from their house.
Solomon House was probably too old to fit into a film which takes place in Gravestown, Maine, so one never sees it in the film...
the camera always avoiding showing a colonial house from the late 1700's.

At some point Basil Brownless was asked if someone could play the bells for the opening moments of the film.
He agreed to play something, make-up was done, and was filmed playing an improvisation especially written for the film.
Basil Brownless wrote out over 200 tunes in a book which miraculously survived the fire at St. John's in 2001.

At the beginning of the film foot steps are heard as someone goes up the stairs in the tower: it's the bell ringer.
It doesn't seem that Basil Brownless is named anywhere in the list of credits for the film.
He was just an unpaid extra - for his minute of Holywood glory!

A few years later he gave me an old colonial trunk. Inside were a few odd things.
Among them: some painted red leaves. They are still in there.

(Edmund Brownless)

Basil Brownless