City Hall clock repair ticking along

Louis Rossouw is restoring the clock at the Port Elizabeth City Hall Picture: Fredlin Adriaan
Louis Rossouw is restoring the clock at the Port Elizabeth City Hall
Picture: Fredlin Adriaan

The dormant hands of the Port Elizabeth City Hall clock will soon be ticking over perfectly on time after almost three years of not working, thanks to a restoration process which began three weeks ago.

The clock will be re-installed next week with an uninterrupted power supply to make sure it never loses time again.

For a while now the hands on the east-side clock face have been frozen at four o’clock, while two other sides were stuck at 8.30 and the fourth at seven.

After restoration, the clock’s five bells – weighing between 50kg and 600kg and housed in the clock tower – will be chiming along with the Campanile’s 23 bells by April.

The two clocks will be connected through an internet connection.

Clock and bell restorer Louis Rossouw said although maintenance had been done regularly, the clock had last been cleaned properly by him in 1999. “This is a dry clock and whoever had been maintaining it kept adding more oil on the clock, which led to the hands getting stuck,” Rossouw said.

He has been removing the clogged-up oil using low heat.

Yesterday he replaced the hands on the ocean-side clock face.

The frames of the clock have also been painted.

“The clock had completely seized, especially with the sea breeze coming right onto it.

“It was extremely corroded,” Rossouw said.

“Imagine the million parts of a normal wristwatch, only 10 times bigger, having to be stripped.

“Every gear has little teeth and you have to take out every single one manually, clean and line them up so they are perfectly in sync.”

The colonial-style City Hall building was completed in 1862 and the clock was fitted 20 years later.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the request to restore the clock had been initiated by former mayor Danny Jordaan.

Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) spokesman Luvuyo Bangazi said the restoration was about synchronising and creating synergy between the City Hall and Campanile clocks.

“The MBDA is doing remedial work at the Campanile on behalf of the municipality,” he said.

“The municipality asked that we look at an integrated approach to the bells systems in the two buildings.”

Bangazi said the City Hall tower was an integral part of the city’s history and heritage.

“One must remember that when clocks were first invented not everyone could afford them,” he said. “Then cities and churches installed them to benefit the general citizenr y.

“Over time, these clocks and bells have become part of the history and heritage of the cities and are historically significant.”

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