Thu | Jun 17, 2021

St Ann's Bay clock ticks again

Published:Monday | May 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Older than London's 153-year-old Big Ben, the St Ann's Bay clock, built in 1814, is ticking again.

For eight years, the hands on the three-faced clock stood still, and it was then residents realised how much they depended on this landmark for their daily time management.

Five years ago, the St Ann's Bay Improvement Committee was formed with "Rally Round The Clock" as their first major fund-raising project.

With an $850,000 repair tab, the committee was determined to have the clock working in time for its 200th anniversary in 2014.

Major donations by the local government ministry, parish council, Berger Paints, and those given by residents, as well as numerous fund-raising by the committee, still saw a shortfall of $280,000.

Getting funding

A successful application to the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation took care of the shortfall.

Saffrey Brown, general manager of the JNBS Foundation, said it was important that the cultural preservation of historical landmarks such as the St Ann's Bay clock be supported.

"We had to support the effort of this Committee to ensure that such a significant edifice continues to be functional for the people of St Ann's Bay," Miss Brown stated yesterday as she met with committee members by the clock.

A sentiment supported by Jennifer Martin, board member of the Foundation who was so intrigued by the history of the clock that she has agreed to assist in getting some additional information on its transfer from England to its current home.

"We have to preserve these important landmarks as we have lost the one (clock) in Ocho Rios to fire," Martin stated.

Built by the famous clock marker John Whitehurst 11 of Derby, the clock was donated by the Moulton Barrett family to the town.

"It is believed that it was taken from one of their estates in England as it was not new," Cynthia Graham, president of the committee, stated on what her research has unearthed to date.

Rolls-Royce of clocks

Distinct etchings on the clock has the '1814' manufactured date and the 'Whitehurst' and 'Derby' identity of the maker and place, respectively.

"This is the Rolls-Royce of clocks," Graham proudly stated, adding that there is a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ode to the St Ann's Bay Clock.

The Committee is trying to get a copy of the original, which is part of a private collection here in Jamaica, she pointed out.

This towering 20-foot clock, located at the corner of Main and Market Streets, as an annex to the busy market across from the Baptist Church, was no accident of history.

Graham pointed out that the spot is where slaves from Drax Hall in the east, Seville in the west, and all surrounding communities used to meet to barter and sell their wares as well as go to church.

The clock still stands as the focal point for this bustling town and "under the clock" continues to be the meeting place for residents of the birthplace of National Hero Marcus Mosiah Gravey, whose childhood home on upper Market Street has a clear view of its northern face.

The St Ann's Bay clock is known for keeping accurate time as it is wound weekly by the town's time keeper, Philip Martin. Lights on each face make for easy readings at nights.