Time catches up on Cork's famous Shandon clock

Time has caught up with the ageing Shandon steeple again forcing the decommissioning of one of the clocks on Cork’s famous four-faced liar.

Almost five years since the historic 172-year-old clock mechanism underwent significant repair and restoration, it has been confirmed that substantial structural works are now required to ensure the internationally-recognised symbol of the city retains its quirky signature.

There was a public outcry in 2013 when it emerged that the landmark tower clock mechanism had ground to a halt.

It was several months before repairs were organised and funded and the tower’s four clocks began to tick again.

But the Irish Examiner has now learned that the clock mechanism driving the hands on the tower’s eastern clock face, overlooking over St Patrick’s Hill, has been disengaged to prevent further damage.

Horologist Philip Stokes, of Stokes Clocks on the city’s MacCurtain St, Cork, who oversaw the clock’s 10-week repair project in 2014, said the latest issue is linked to the condition of the mortar holding the tower stones which support the main beam driving the clock’s mechanism.

The mortar has dried and the beam has slipped slightly, affecting the gears and wheels. The tower isn’t at risk of falling down but repairs to the clock mechanism are pointless until the structural issues are addressed

- he said.

While the age and weight of the clock mechanism are factors in its condition, Mr Stokes said global warming could also be contributing to the drying out of the lime mortar.

While St Anne’s Church and tower are owned and managed by the Church of Ireland,

Cork City Council has responsibility for maintaining the clock mechanism which was installed by the then Cork Corporation in 1847.

In a statement, the council said its maintenance engineers discussed the issue with Stokes Clocks who provided a quote for repairing one of the four clocks in February 2018.

“But on further investigation, they found that they could not safely carry out their work until Church of Ireland carried out certain structural bracing works first,” the statement said.

“We met with the Church in May 2018 to discuss this when they undertook to carry out the necessary structural work.”

The Reverend Sarah Marry said works are underway but are complicated and have taken a long time with much consultation.

We hope work will be complete by the end of the summer but the project is progressing and we hope to get Cork’s much-loved clock up and running as soon as possible

“We’re also looking forward to working with the city on a larger scheme of restoration towards celebrating St Anne’s 300th anniversary in 2022.”

In 2014, Mr Stokes dismantled and cleared the entire 2.5-tonne clock mechanism, reworked some gears, rebuilt others, and installed an improved electronic winding mechanism. A damaged window was repaired and the gears to which the northern hands were attached were remade and replaced.

He said he has been working with the council since to maintain the mechanism driving the hands on the other three clocks.

The mechanism driving Shandon’s clock is just a few inches smaller than the mechanism which drives London’s Big Ben.

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