Smithfield’s old church clock has been silent for far too long. Chiming the hours, month after month, had been something of a tradition we all relied on as a matter of course. Fortunately our town still boasts community-spirited souls who are quite happy to find space in their diaries and get their hands dirty in the interests of the little old town.
So it was that Marco Heymans and friends decided it was high time to do something about bringing the sound of the clock and the chimes back to Smithfield, which had been sadly missed for far too long. Thanks to a lot of hard work in very confined spaces in the church tower, the clock and the chimes are now working and ringing on time after some major repairs to the pullies and chains in the tower.
The bell was cast in 1853 in Germany and shipped out to South Africa. The brackets holding the bell in the tower are the same used to bolt it down on the deck of the boat back 163 years ago.
The actual clock work was built in 1880 and up to this day is still in 100% working condition, which says a lot for the skills of the artisans responsible for building the mechanism. The biggest problem now was to time the clock arms on four different screens so that they all showed the same time. By using a little hole on the number 6 you can synchronize them almost to a minute. After that modern technology helped a lot and by using our cellphones we were able to speak to the people on the ground and got it all synchronized.
There is a three-meter pendulum that you touch with your finger to keep the time and the sound of this moving part is the one thing that makes you feel that you have accomplished something. This pendulum is carved out of wood and by moving forward and backward it keeps the time so that the entire town can hear every hour.
We have no accurate method of determining the value of the clock because the art and skill that went into it all that time ago is priceless but there are people who say it is worth R 1 500 000. Whatever, we all hope that it will never be damaged beyond repair and that Smithfield’s old church clock continues ticking away (and telling us the hours as they pass) for generations to come.