Historic clock tower gets a timely makeover

The first of a two-stage restoration project on one of Ireland’s most distinctive monuments has seen the dome capping Youghal’s Clock Gate completely restored.

Historic clock tower gets a timely makeover

A splendid new copper dome, lined with waterproof plywood, has replaced a previous leaden structure.

The dome, measuring 11m in diameter, will take on “a greenish hue from weather exposure,” within a couple of weeks, according to Brandon Duarte, site manager with MMD Construction, who are carrying out the work.

After decades of inertia, the cockerel weather vane atop the dome is again fully functional. Elsewhere, some intriguing discoveries have emerged, with speculation that an etching depicting the letters ‘RM’ found beneath the vane may represent a ‘double V,’ for ‘virgin of virgins’, a traditional symbol to ward off evil spirits.

Beneath the dome, restoration focused on what is considered to be the 18th century building’s original hardwood rafters. “They were marked with Roman numerals, suggesting they were marked for re-assembly as was traditional a very long time ago,” explains local archaeologist Dan Noonan.

The two clock faces did not require re-structuring, but have been cleaned, while lower down, workers have so far restored windows on two floors.

Meanwhile, the monument’s walls are being lime-rendered. “This is vital as basically the brickwork is poor quality sandstone and quite porous,” he said.

Cold weather has impeded the exterior work as the rendering necessitates a temperature above six degrees. Workers are also on the lookout for a bullet hole allegedly apparent in the walls. Lime-rendering is also ongoing on the gutted interior, where a new staircase will soon be installed throughout the building.

Costing €235,000, phase one is 75% SECAD funded with Youghal Town Council meeting the balance. It is on schedule for completion by early May.

Phase two, estimated at €200,000, will see the former gaol restored along with an interpretive heritage centre, art and crafts space, a “camera obscura” virtual observation desk and roof access via the restored cupola. It is hoped to open the building in early 2014, boosting the local economy by €400,000 per annum.

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