Engineer’s clock work will allow Town Hall to keep perfect time

Engineer Tony Charlesworth at work on the clock. Click on image to enlarge.
Engineer Tony Charlesworth at work on the clock. Click on image to enlarge.

After almost a week of its hands standing at 12, the famous clock at the Town Hall is now up and running again.

The 122-year-old clock had been under­going upgrades that will “bring it into the 21st century” and ensure it runs to perfect time.

Clock engineer Tony Charlesworth has been in the isles since the weekend to work on the clock, which is his most northerly job.

Mr Charlesworth maintains and services clocks for a living for Smith of Derby. His “patch” includes the north of England and Scotland, and he is responsible for 500 clocks in total.

Based in Dumfries, he is also involved in work abroad and regularly has to travel as far away as the Bahamas and the Middle East to work on timepieces. He is due to go to Oman on his next trip.

Smith of Derby is one of the leading names in the country for clockmaking services, maintenance and creative engineering, and comprise a family of British clock and timepiece companies, including Potts of Leeds, the company that originally installed the Town Hall clock in 1887.

However since then the clock has been mended and worked on at various times and was, according to Mr Charlesworth, “butchered” in the 1960s.

“There was no Historic Scotland then and no-one to govern old buildings and clocks,” he said.

One of the main points of the work carried out by Mr Charlesworth this week was to remove all the mercury, which had been used in the old switches
but is now banned for health and safety reasons.

He has also replaced parts and generally brought it up to date. While the clock is now run by an electronic synchronised motor, there is also the option
to wind it mechanically, should there be a power cut of any length, although this is unlikely. However, even in short power cuts a back up battery will keep the clock going.

Rather than attempting a “botch” job, which would actually be more expensive in the long run, the restorative work undertaken by Mr Charlesworth has seen the clock returned to its original format, bar the electrics. All the parts used in the clock are now manufactured in Britain and, importantly, easily replaced.

The clock will also adjust itself to the changing of the seasons, either stopping at 2am for an hour in the spring, or for 11 hours in autumn. The bell chimes will still sound during this time, however.

Mr Charlesworth said the although working on the clock has “had its moments”, overall the job had run smoothly, despite him having to wait longer than expected for a specialist part which had to be sent up from south.
The clock began running again at 1.10pm on Wednesday.


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