Bet­ter times ahead for un­wanted clock

The Southland Times - - News Feature - Mary-Jo To­hill

Parts of an his­toric clock have done their time in Bal­clutha and are des­tined for dis­play at the Toitu¯ Otago Set­tlers Mu­seum in Dunedin.

Clutha District Coun­cil records of­fi­cer Jane Soper said she was mak­ing more space in the coun­cil’s stor­age area when the com­po­nents of an 1860s clock were dis­cov­ered a year ago.

One of its four 1.8 me­tres wide clock di­als hangs above the re­cep­tion area at the Rose­bank of­fices.

In a shed out the back Soper found the other three clock faces, along with the metal gears and hands of the grand time­piece that once graced Dunedin’s for­mer land­mark Stock Ex­change build­ing for more than a cen­tury.

‘‘As we had no skills for restora­tion an of­fer was made to the Bal­clutha Me­mo­rial Town Hall project team and the chair­man said they didn’t have a need for it.’’

So the coun­cil de­cided to ap­proach the Dunedin City Coun­cil to ask if it could be re­stored as a part of the city’s his­tory.

The quest to re home the clock was a timely re­minder of its rather painful 50-year-old his­tory in Bal­clutha as the clock no-one end­ing up want­ing. It was do­nated to the then Bal­clutha Bor­ough Coun­cil by a res­i­dent, one Harold Cartwright, who bought it from the Dunedin City Coun­cil when the Stock Ex­change build­ing was de­mol­ished in 1969.

For the next 10 years de­bate raged in the town and coun­cil cham­ber about where a clock tower would be built to house it.

The Bal­clutha War Me­mo­rial Hall to the north and the Rose­bank tri­an­gle to the south were pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions, and later on the new Clutha County Coun­cil ad­min­is­tra­tion block that was to be built in about 1980.

How­ever, the costs were pro­hib­i­tive; $900 was one of the early quotes that Cartwright ob­tained to erect a 5.4m tower, with South Otago News­pa­pers gen­eral man­ager VM Bridgeman set­ting up a pub­lic ap­peal to raise the funds in 1973.

A com­pe­ti­tion was pro­posed in 1977 to de­sign the clock tower, to cost no more than $2000.

Mean­while, the clock was gath­er­ing dust in stor­age. By 1978, plans had been scrapped; the coun­cil de­cided to sell the clock, and the pub­lic was not happy. It was re­ported in re­gional news­pa­pers that peo­ple thought it was ‘‘a pretty poor show’’ that the coun­cil had said yes to erect­ing the clock and no 10 years later.

In a let­ter to the editor, Cartwright the donor was also bit­terly dis­ap­pointed, be­cause the for­mer mayor Bob Pear­son who he had pre­sented it to had been ‘‘very much in favour of it’’, and thought the clock a ‘‘great gift’’ to the town.

How­ever, the coun­cil de­cided the town could not af­ford to build a clock tower, and to sell the clock to (the then) Lin­coln Col­lege. But the col­lege later de­clined the of­fer to buy it.

And so the clock lan­guished un­wanted in a shed for un­til 1983, when it was re­con­di­tioned and con­verted to sin­gle dial by Daniels Jewellers in Dunedin and hung in the coun­cil of­fices, where it will re­main as a mark of re­spect to the orig­i­nal donor and perhaps as an ode to un­fin­ished busi­ness.

Toitu¯ Otago Set­tlers Mu­seum cu­ra­tor Pete Read, who is pre­par­ing to move the clock parts, said it was only right that a face re­mained in Bal­clutha and not join the oth­ers in Dunedin.

‘‘It is ab­so­lutely part of its story and part of Clutha District’s his­tory so it’s fit­ting that that bit stays where it is.’’

The other three di­als, the orig­i­nal 1860s mech­a­nism and the 1950s IBM gear (when it was con­verted to elec­tric­ity) are re­turn­ing to Dunedin to the mu­seum.

‘‘The clock en­hances our abil­ity to tell the story of pub­lic time­keep­ing in Dunedin, adding to ex­ist­ing col­lec­tions and sto­ries such as that of the Bell Hill can­non, Bell Hill bell and the Ge­orge Young clock.’’

The mu­seum makes ref­er­ence to the Stock Ex­change build­ing in two places in its dis­plays and also in an area about the 1865 New Zealand Ex­hi­bi­tion held in Dunedin that the clock is also con­nected with.

‘‘So we are de­lighted to be get­ting the other pieces that we can po­ten­tially use to il­lus­trate these sto­ries at some point in the fu­ture.’’

The clock had quite a jour­ney be­fore it reached the Stock Ex­change build­ing in

1868.

Tick: In 1863, the Otago Pro­vin­cial Govern­ment or­dered the mul­ti­ple-dial clock and bell from the United King­dom. Its 25cwt bell was cast by Bryson of Ed­in­burgh.

Tock: In 1864, the clock and bell were stored in a build­ing built for the 1865 ex­hi­bi­tion.

Tick: Here’s where things get a lit­tle com­pli­cated: In 1868 Julius Hy­man, a prom­i­nent Jewish Dunedin iden­tity, with help from the Otago Foundry, made a new silent clock for the ex­hi­bi­tion build­ing, which even­tu­ally be­came the first Dunedin Hospi­tal. It was the first tur­ret clock made in Otago, and pos­si­bly the first of its kind in ei­ther New Zealand or Aus­tralia.

The orig­i­nal 1863 clock di­als re­mained at the ex­hi­bi­tion/hospi­tal build­ing while the mech­a­nism was moved to what would even­tu­ally be­come the Stock Ex­change build­ing in 1868 (it was the Post Of­fice at the time).

Hy­man made new di­als for the grand lo­ca­tion, the same ones that ended up in Bal­clutha with the rest of the clock.

Tock: By 1878 the univer­sity was oc­cu­py­ing the Stock Ex­change build­ing, but could not take the clock when it moved to Leith St. The next oc­cu­pier, the Bank of New Zealand now owned the clock and passed it over to the Dunedin City Cor­po­ra­tion when they quit the build­ing.

Tick: In 1953, pos­si­bly ear­lier, the clock stopped work­ing, which led to it be­ing con­verted to an elec­tric slave sys­tem. The IBM master clock from this con­ver­sion will be a prime ad­di­tion to the mu­seum’s com­put­ing col­lec­tion and could po­ten­tially be use­ful for com­puter his­tory dis­plays.

Tock: In 1968, the clock was re­moved from the build­ing prior to de­mo­li­tion in 1969, and taken to Bal­clutha.

The bell was re­tained by the city coun­cil, and un­til re­cently hung in the Merid­ian Mall.

It is thought that other parts of the orig­i­nal 1863 ‘‘hospi­tal’’ clock are pri­vately held in Dunedin.

The Stock Ex­change clock dial in the Clutha District Coun­cil foyer at Bal­clutha.

Jane Soper

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