Time on Tuesday: Grandfather Clocks

I’ve been writing a lot about time lately. Not so much on my blog (which I’ve neglected terribly) but I’ve been working nearly every day on Phoebe Fogg and the Chronos Apparatus. Very soon query letters will be going out to literary agents about the middle grade fantasy about a girl who desperately wants to save what’s left of her family and will go to great lengths to accomplish that. She even finds a way to freeze time.IMG_1862

But that’s a story for another day. Right now, the subject is grandfather clocks. For the past few weeks as I’ve focused on time in my manuscript, my writing time has been punctuated every quarter hour by the soothing dulcet tones of Westminster Quarters from the clock my father-in-law brought with him when he moved in with us. I love the chimes and they put me in the perfect mood for the Edwardian time period when my novel takes place.

When my father-in-law left his home near Dallas, he had a clockmaker come pack up the weights and chains to ready the clock for transport. Then when it arrived here, we scheduled another clockmaker to get it set up again. Until then, I was unaware that clockmakers still existed and I was particularly surprised to find one in the high-tech capital of Texas. In fact, the oldest clock shop in the state is located in Austin, and McGuire’s Clocks makes house calls for grandfather clocks!

Clockmaker Jason Ward was very patient with my questions and even took the time to explain how the gears and springs and weights all work together to keep time. While he had the workings exposed, I shot this video of the clock’s inner workings.

We learned the clock (which was purchased second-hand in the late 80s) was manufactured around 1978. Jason said post-World War II clocks usually only last 25 years before they need to be rebuilt (because of the quality of steel used.) This one is getting close to 40 years – no wonder the gears are starting to slip.

Pendulum clocks were invented in the 1670s and William Clement, and English clockmaker is credited by many as making the first grandfather clock, or as they were originally called, long-case clock. Apparently the name change happened about 200 years later when the song, “My Grandfather’s Clock” became popular, according to Liz Evers in her 2013 book, It’s About Time. Imagine a song being so popular that it changed the name of an object with two centuries of history.


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