FIVEMILETOWN CLOCK

Fivemiletown Clock  Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown Clock Photo: Heritage Lottery Fund

Fivemiletown’s historic clock which has been a distinctive local landmark on Main Street for over 100 years has been restored. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £18,400 earlier this year for the repair of the timepiece . It was erected in 1903 to mark the coronation of King Edward VII and is one of the remaining physical links to the history of the village.

The refurbished Village Clock will be unveiled tomorrow, Wednesday 3rd December. To mark the occasion a celebratory event will take place in the Valley Hotel starting at 11am. This will consist of music song and dance by local artists. At 12.30pm the refurbished clock will be unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant for County Tyrone, Mr Robert Scott OBE. Everyone is very welcome to attend.

The intricately-wrought copper casing was made in Fivemiletown itself, making it a unique part of the local heritage. The funding enabled the clock to be returned to its former glory. A leaflet and education resource pack have also been produced.

It was one of five grants awarded by the HLF to smaller or more modest projects. The head of the HLF in Northern Ireland Paul Mullan said: “these grants really help local people to dig into their past to explore, record, or share their heritage. We are delighted to support this project in Tyrone which will preserve such an iconic local landmark. With HLF’s investment in Northern Ireland reaching a huge £184million for over 1000 projects, we are proud of our role in helping to protect and celebrate our heritage over the last 19 years and look forward to supporting many more local projects.”

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Fivemiletown Clock before restoration Photo: Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce facebook

Michael Callaghan from Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce added: “We are absolutely delighted at the news of this award. There is already a great deal of interest and enthusiasm among the people of Fivemiletown and we see it as a legacy project which will be a source of civic pride for future generations”.

A century ago, before everyone had a watch to synchronise or a mobile phone to swipe, the time piece above the old Petty Sessions building was a focal point in village life and a way of making sure you were on time. Its finely-wrought copper casing developed that distinctive patina, or verdigris, that comes from weathering, and its hands turned the hours faithfully, driven by the mechanism that was wound from inside the Petty Sessions building. As the years ticked by, it gradually fell into disrepair and eventually stopped working altogether.

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Impartial Reporter describes how, at the time of the clock’s initial installation, a local copper-working class was thriving in the area. Mrs Mary Montgomery of the local Blessingbourne Estate

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

Copper Firescreen in Blessingbourne: Fivemiletown Arts & Crafts School

set up the class in 1891 through the Home Arts and Industries Association and initially taught the class herself in the Petty Sessions building. To begin with, they made items such as candlesticks, tea trays, fenders for fireplaces and newspaper racks.

These artisans became so successful that their work was shown at exhibitions in London, Dublin and St Louis.  in 1893, at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and at the Dublin International Fair in 1907. It was these skilled craftsmen who made the copper casing of the clock, which was erected in 1903 to commemorate the coronation in 1902 of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Viktor Welch

Clogher Valley Railway train in Main Street Fivemiletown: from painting by Victor Welch

The mechanical works of the clock were made by Sharman D. Neill of Belfast and it is thought that the iron scroll-work was completed by Harland and Wolff. Another iconic feature of the era, the Clogher Valley Railway, was used to transport the raw materials and the finished artefacts. One of the best-known photos of the old railway is of the train in the Main Street, with the clock in the background.

For an update on the official unveiling of the restored clock see Julian Fowler’s report ‘Changing Chimes’ on BBC Newsline.

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