Restoration of The Memorial Clock
Allan Park, Stirling
By Brother Thomas McDonald
Past Master, Lodge Abercromby, No. 531.
George Christie (1826 - 1903) was a prominent businessman in the town of Stirling who lived in Southfield House in the Kings Park area. He was the Provost of the Royal Burgh of Stirling from 1870 - 1879 and Master of Lodge Ancient Stirling, No. 30 from 1874 - 1878. He was also the Provincial Grand Master of Stirlingshire from 1893 - 1903.
He died suddenly in 1904 whilst on business in London and is buried in Manchester along with his wife who died some years later.
The conception and the construction of the Clock was done in conjunction with the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire, the Town Council of Stirling and Mr. A. M. Lupton. Plans were submitted in 1904 and at a Resolution of the Town Council in 1905 it was agreed that Mrs Christie would pay for the removal of the railings surrounding the site for the clock and the cost of the project.
Construction of the clock began in 1905 and was completed in 1906. The dedication of the clock was made with great pomp and circumstance with a Miss Oliphant cutting the ribbon using a pair of small gold scissors, that were later presented to Miss Oliphant at a ceremony held in the Council Chambers where a small reception was held. Mrs Christie was unable to carry out the dedication through failing health and she died in 1907. The Christies had no family and Miss Oliphant was a niece.
The Council took upon themselves the burden of maintaining the clock and looking after it in perpetuity for the town. A local jeweller was appointed to wind the clock once a week, the duty eventually falling on a George Johnstone who was also a Freemason in Stirling. The Council changed the mechanical workings of the clock to electric in the 1980’s.
Over the years the clock began to look its age and in 1989 Past Master Thomas McDonald of Lodge Abercromby No. 531 and Past Master Archibald Bone of Lodge Ancient Stirling No. 30 approached various people with a view to refurbishing the clock, but at that time there seemed to be no funding available. The matter was then brought to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire in 2006 by Past Master McDonald and Past Master Brian Wright of Lodge Ancient Stirling No. 30. It was decided that a plan should be put into action with a view to funding the refurbishment of the clock to its former glory, in this the centenary year of the Christie Memorial Clock’s completion and dedication.
Provincial Grand Lodge appointed Brothers Thomas McDonald and Brian Wright as project managers with a view to restoring the clock.
Thomas McDonald and Brian Wright started the process by establishing the funds necessary for the works and ordered a small survey of the clock to be carried out. After the initial survey and a meeting with Mr Colin Tenant from the Stirling City Heritage Trust an application was made to the Trust for support. The value of the project was at that time assessed to be £12,500. It was agreed that the Provincial Grand Lodge would fund 50% of the works and the Trust offered to support it by a grant of 50% that in monetary terms was the fantastic sum of £6,250.
Work started on the 13th August 2006 with the construction of scaffolding around the clock. The first item on the program was to establish the type of metal that was used for the ornate casting at the base of the clock tower. At first sight it appeared to be cast iron but after further investigations it was found to be bronze. This gave rise to a technical problem in the casting process as the moulds would have to be sent to a specialist casting company in England. The casting required sections of the original medallion at the base of the clock to be removed so as to allow the moulds to be taken and replacement sections were cast and the damaged medallion was restored.
The cleaning process was somewhat restricted by the Heritage Trust who in the grant offer stipulated the scope of the works, one condition of which was that only plain water with light deck brushes be used to clean the stonework. This would prevent the clock losing its age. It was interesting that the top of the clock has a bell tower open to the elements and had some 50 years of organic growth and 5 inches of soil that blocked the drainage system. There was found to be a small bird’s nest under the bell that had several young birds within. This prevented us initially from clearing out this area but as the saying goes the “young fled the nest” and we subsequently carried out the remainder of the cleaning.
The pointing had to be carried out using a lime putty mortar again as this was one of the conditions set forth in the grant offer and the technicalities in using this material are some what lengthy. Thanks must be given to the stonemason for carrying out this work to the highest standard and specifications.
During our restoration work we received a letter from the company who have the contract for maintaining and servicing all the clocks in the area They intimated that they would be happy to carry out a restoration of the clock dials as it had been some time since this work was carried out. We immediately transmitted this offer to the Heritage Trust for their appraisal with a view to carrying out this work. They subsequently passed the letter of enquiry to Stirling Council who funded the project and awarded the contract with the proviso that the scaffolding remained in place for the work to be carried out and that no cost would be set against the contractor or Stirling Council. This was agreed by Provincial Grand Lodge and the work went ahead.
There are two outstanding items that require further discussions with Stirling Council. Firstly, seating at the base of the clock. It has been brought to our attention that if the Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire carry out the works then detailed planning permission must be sought. However, if the Council undertake to do the works it comes under street furniture rules and no planning permission would be necessary. The second item is illumination of the clock by some form of lighting.