Herald chief reporter Annemarie Field goes behind the scenes to watch repairs at the iconic Town Hall clock
When the Town Hall clock stopped working over the Easter break, I have to admit I was rather lost without the familiar bongs and chimes.
As someone who doesn’t wear a watch – and owing to the fact the Herald newsroom at Beckett Towers over looks that end of the town and I have a bird’s eye view of the clock from my desk – I rely on the town’s timepiece to tell me the hour of the day and where I should be.
I wasn’t alone in noticing the clock was out of sorts and within hours the call had been made to Gillett and Johnston, the firm which not only installed the clock in 1891 but has been maintaining it ever since, engineers were on their way and yours truly had managed to blag herself an invite up the clock tower too.
The clock can be reached via a set of dusty winding concrete steps and the journey up isn’t for the faint hearted, claustrophobic or anyone with a fuller figure.
The four bells sit on one floor and it’s another spiral staircase up to the clock faces where the clock itself is actually situated in a large wooden cabinet.
The hours are struck on a single bell and the quarters are chimed on the four bells to the tune of the Westminster Chime.
Quite what caused the clock to stop was something of a mystery and clock engineers, or horologists as they are known in the trade, George Smith and Roy Harris say it could be anything from a pigeon feather becoming tangled up in the delicate mechanism of the clock or an oil blockage.
It was the first time in five years anything has gone wrong with the clock and while George and Roy hoped a good clean up and re-start would put right the problem, there were ten bongs at 5pm and the gents had to return for a further three days to try different things to get it working.
Eventually on Tuesday April 29 the clock was manually stopped for eight days because of its irregular chiming pattern and on Wednesday this week a cherry picker was called in to carry out an external inspection of the clock and a further examination of the internal mechanism took place.
A part was replaced and the clock was restarted successfully after checking the correct time with.....a quick call on the mobile to the Speaking Clock.