The first time I heard the term ‘Grandfather Clock’ being used was in a song. I remember being in middle school and we got a new music teacher. She had a tough job as this was an all boys school at the time and most of us could’nt carry a note. Of course, she could not expel the whole batch, so she thought she would teach us something that we would be able to remember. The famous song ‘My grandfather’s clock’ written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work. I still remember some of the lyrics ….
My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.
My fascination with clocks was fed in the most unusual ways. About the time we were taught this song, I got to see a grandfather clock for the first time. Our cricket ball went across the wall into the adjoining compound that was part of another school. I jumped over the wall and noticed the main door to the building was ajar and inside against the wall stood this magnificent clock. Standing taller than me majestically on the floor. I was entranced by the slowly swinging pendulum. And just stood and admired this beautiful clock. Over the years, the only places I did get to see these beautiful clocks were in museums. Occasionally they would appear in antique shops. Prices were prohibitive and owning one was definitely not an option.
Years later I saw an advertisement in the local paper for a grandfather clock that was for sale. We went down to see it, and although it was not affordable at the time, I became friends with the maker of the clock, Dr. Piedpet. Dr. Piedpet was a medical physician who decided that making clocks and restoring vintage cars was a more satisfying profession than treating patients! We became good friends and swapped ideas and talked about various projects that we were undertaking. Dr. Piedpet was my mentor and inspiration for many years until his demise some years later.
One day Dr. Piedpet called and gave me some sad news. He told me very in a very ‘matter of fact’ way that he was given 3 months to live as he was in a very advanced stage of cancer. He also gave me a commission that I thought was impossible for me to fulfill at the time. He wanted me to make a grandfather clock for a customer that had ordered one, and had made part payment for it in advance.
I told Doc that i would do my best. Two months later, we went down to the hospital to visit Doc and give him the news that his clock was complete. Doc was very feeble, but he sat up and ran through the specifications with me. He was glad that I completed the assignment. About two hours after we left Doc we got a call from his son, Srinand, to inform us that Doc had passed away.
But the end to this story was different from the words of the song. This clock began its life when my old friend died.
Owning a grandfather clock remained a dream after Dr. Piedpet’s clock went to its new owner. But the only clocks available were cheap mass produced gaudy replicas. After years of waiting I managed to acquire a genuine antique grandfather clock. This is a beaut, made in the UK in the late 1700’s, she stands about seven feet tall . The pendulum is just over three feet long and there are two weights that come down on pulleys. This is the most majestic clock in my collection. Grandfather clocks are the amongst the largest of the domestic clocks that anyone can own and just like the words of the song they are’ ….. too large for the shelf, so it stood ninety years on the floor’ !!