Grafton Marking Time – The Grafton Clock Tower

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

In 1908 the Grafton Municipal Council was making preparations to celebrate their Jubilee and so a special committee was to set up to organize and overseer the celebrations.

The Mayor encouraged the citizens to suggest a suitable memorial to the occasion. It was finally announced a Town Clock Tower would be constructed as the memorial. At the March Council meeting it was voted after much discussion that £400 should be expended from Council funds on the Jubilee Celebrations. The major part was to be for the erection of a suitable Clock Tower for the city and also for the publication of a booklet on the history and progress of the Municipality. The other proposed functions would be funded by a subscription collection.

It is not known if local architects forwarded proposed designs for the tower, but at the end of April Mr E C Norrie, a local architect, presented to the Council a plan for a Clock Tower submitted to him by Mr S M Becher, a Sydney Architect. Sherard Michael Becher, born 1883, Grafton, was the second son of Richard Fane and Louisa Becher (nee Paton). Richard Fane Becher was the Baptist Minister at Grafton for many years. Sherard attended the Grafton Public School before the family moved to Sydney. He became an architect in Sydney, but continued to be interested in Grafton’s affairs. He acted as his own Clerk of Works and made several trips to Grafton to supervise the project.

Within a few days of receiving the plans, the Council had called tenders for the building of the Clock Tower at the intersection of Pound and Prince Streets. At the following Council meeting in mid May, the tender of J J Bender of £144 was accepted. However a special meeting was called within a week to discuss matters, as Bender had withdrawn his tender. The tender of Jacob Walter for £188 was then decided upon. Jacob Walter, the son of Franz and Sophia Walter, was born in Grafton in 1865. He worked with his father and brother as a bricklayer. He married Ellen Rosanna Franey in 1893. He died in Grafton in 1945.

At a Council Meeting in May, 1909,Ald Maxted moved that provisions be made for the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Clock Tower, and Mr Becher was quickly contacted. Mr Becher hurried to Grafton by the steamer, Kyogle and arrived early on Monday 7th June. At the special meeting with the Council on Friday 11th June,

Mr Beecher expressed the opinion it was too late to have an official laying of a foundation stone, but he suggested a brass plaque suitably inscribed to be attached to the completed tower, and that he was prepared to present such a plaque. His offer was accepted by Council. Mr Becher returned to Sydney by the Noorebar the next morning.

With these matters settled Jacob Walter then prepared to erect the tower,and brought loads of bricks from Palmers brickworks at the top end of Prince Street and started work. However these activities caused two sensational incidents, which were later reported in the local press.

“The stack of bricks and brickworks at the centre of the junction of Prince and Pound Streets, where the Jubilee Clock Tower is in course of erection, were responsible yesterday for two accidents, at least so it is alleged.

At about 8 am Mr Peter Cumming, baker, was getting into his cart after delivering some bread in Pound Street, when his horse shied at the bricks, and bolting across the road at full speed, brought the cart in violet collision with a tree, a sandstone gutter-bridge (both in front of Mr T Willan’s Freemason’s hotel,)and one of the verandah posts. The final impact was so great as to snap both shafts from the cart and, with these dangling from either side, the horse dashed madly along prince Street, in a northerly direction, but was fortunately stopped, and brought back unhurt. The body of the cart was left, loaded with bread and surrounded by glass-wreckage from the hotel verandah-lamp, on the footpath, whence, later on, it was removed. We learn with pleasure, that Mr Cumming escaped without injury.

The second accident occurred at about 5 pm. It appears that Mr and Mrs Stephen Schafer, formerly of the Royal hotel, South Grafton, were driving in a sulky from the Grafton railway station and were about entering Prince Street from Pound Street when the pony shied at the brickwork and, swerving suddenly into Prince Street, up-set Mr Schafer, who was driving, clean out onto the road. Mr Schafer fell face downwards, severely injuring his nose, and as the reins fell with him the uncontrolled pony bolted, and as it did so, a wheel of the sulky passed over Mr Schafer’s right hip and waist. The objective of the pony appeared to be the river, and Mrs Schafer, who had retained her seat in the trap, must have had a most unenviable time as the a frighted animal careered with the helpless lady to apparently certain death, or severe injury at least. Shopkeepers, their assistants and customers rushed out to witness the rapidly approaching catastrophe, and in a moment each side of the street was lined with horror-strickened people, some yelling bootless instructions to Mrs Schafer. Mr Rowley Smith was riding up Prince Street with a parcel of account books under his arm, when the runaway dashed past him. Instantly he dropped the books on the road and galloped in hot pursuit. The pony with the sulky was turning in towards the ‘Argus’ where Sergeant Dean was standing. The intrepid officer made a grab for the reins, but his effort had the good effect of causing the pony to swerve shortly towards the middle of the street, in doing so, the trailing reins touched the wheel and were promptly whisked right into Mrs Schafer’s hand, and the cool lady was actually pulling the runaway in when Mr Smith galloped alongside and seized its head. That settled everything. The people from the shops went back, and Mrs Schafer, escorted by Mr Smith, still holding the pony’s head and riding alongside, drove rapidly back to pick up her husband. Meanwhile Mr Schafer had been carried into Mr Weiley’s Market Hotel, where he received every possible attention, and from there he was afterwards taken home. It is hoped that his injuries will not prove serious.”

Mr Becher acted as his own Clerk of Works and returned to Grafton by the Kyogle on 5 July, 1909. He stated that the brickwork would be finished by the 8th July and that the clock mechanism would leave Sydney on the Saturday for installation the following week by Mr Otto Fuch. Mr Fuch had already installed the clock faces in the tower..When he installed the clock faces he wrote the date on the back of each , 29 June 1909. By co-incident in 1959, when the Municipal Council was having new clock faces installed and maintenance done on the clock in preparation for the Centennial Celebrations the day this work was carried out was on 29 June. No-one knew of this coincidence until after the job was complete and the pencil inscriptions on the old clock faces was noticed.

The names of the former Mayors of the Municipality were inscribed on marble tablets on the tower. This was brought up to date in in recent years.

Mr Becher presented a brass plate for the Clock Tower, on which ‘Erected July 20, 1909, to commemorate the Jubilee of the Incorporation of the City of Grafton. This also bears the names of the Mayor, Town Clerk, and Mr Becher.

The Tower rises to a height of 42 feet from ground level. It is on a solid concrete foundation 18 inches thick, set on 6 inches of sand placed in the bottom of the trench. In excavating for the foundation the Council’s large drain was met with only 15 inches below the surface. This was a nasty obstacle, and had to be over come by throwing a semi-circular arch over the whole width of the drain. The concrete was mixed and laid in one batch , thus ensuring a perfect foundation. The Tower is built of brick, with the exterior of Sydney open kiln facing bricks. At the base is an ornamental drinking fountain, while segmental arches, span the openings above, between the piers. Above these, on two sides, two marble tablets have been fixed, to take the names of past Mayors of the Municipality, with the dates of their holding office. Above the clock, cement cornices surround the parapet, formed by inverted arches, whilst at the summit of each pier is a round terminal.

The clock is lighted with four wrought iron bracket lights fixed in the centre of each pier. Originally these were gas, and were able to be lifted or lowered for the purposes of repair and cleaning. They were later replaced by fixed electric ones.

The clock was made by Messrs Angus & Coote, of George Street Sydney. It has four dials, and has special devices for winding and setting the works. The idea of having a clock tower to commemorate the incorporation of the city of Grafton met with a mixed reception. Still, the tower was erected.

Prince Street,Grafton

There were many who criticized the structure and claimed the clock would have been more serviceable had it been a ‘striker’. Some were so incensed that they took up their pen and wrote to the press.

To the Editor of the Argus

Sir- For twenty seven years I have lived in Grafton, and I take great interest in the memorial which is being erected at the intersection of Prince and Pound Streets. I think the Borough Council were taking a rise out of us poor fools when they palmed this concern on us as a memento of Jubilee enthusiasm and as a token of progression. One of my customers from ‘out back’ wanted to know ‘whaf-for’ the Council was building another water tank . I told him ’twas to water the streets from the top of the tower, as it saved the man from carrying the street watering apparatus about in the wheel barrow . ‘Ah’ said he , ‘then I suppose those holes are for the cove to stick the water pipe through’.

The Clock Tower was unveiled on the 20th July 1909 with great pomp and ceremony

The Mayor explained the significance of the tower, in that it marked the passing of the old, and introduced the new ways for progress in the city. He stated it was built from a design prepared by Mr S M Becher, architect, (Sydney), the contractor who erected it being Mr Jacob Walter, of Grafton. He stated that both the architect and the builder were natives of Grafton, the former being a son of the late Rev B F Becher, formerly baptist minister here. The erection of the Clock Tower cost about £300.

The special decorations for the occasion, included banners on each side of the Tower. The south face had the words, ‘Grafton Jubilee’; the north ‘1859-1909’; the east, ‘Advance Grafton’, and the west had a Royal Crown

The Mayor went on to describe the clock-tower itself. It was also stated that the whole concern was a creditable ornament to the city, and its significance as a memorial of the time should prove a perpetual education to visitors , and an incentive to the civic fathers to never cease endeavouring to advance Grafton.

Although with time people got used to the Tower itself, the clock was another matter, as it didn’t prove to be a reliable time piece.

A letter, perhaps with ‘tongue-in-cheek’, to the local newspaper a couple of months later reveals what some thought about the situation.


A story with a full 100 per cent of truth is going the rounds at the

expense of the horologe that adorns the municipal monument at the Prince-Pound Streets intersection. A visitor from up Richmond way who has toured a considerable portion of the North, sauntered along one morning, and scrutinising the face of the timepiece that is visible from the direction of host Weiley’s, thought he must have overslept himself or that Grafton was a little more ahead of its time than many gave it credit for. Hauling out his key-less lever, he noticed a wide discrepancy between Richmond River standard time and Grafton. Proceeding further up the street, he was astounded on beholding the Eastern face of that modern ‘timekeeper’ that he must have been travelling at the rate of something like 7minutes 27 seconds per yard. In order to become enlightened on the system of time gauging in Grafton, he inquired of a well-known frequenter of the Market Square how meal hours, knock-off time, hotel closing , and train departures were ascertained in the Queen City. He was solemnly informed that the clock was representative of the Labour Party, and only worked eight hours per day. He was advised also to have a look at the Northern and Western sides of the four faced machine that is supposed to provide Grafton folk with the correct time of day. Whether our visitor was more impressed by the influence credited to the Labour Party or to the quadruple method of measuring time by Grafton’s Jubilee Clock, has not transpired. Notes of his trip hither will probably contain the suggestion for the enlightenment of visitors that the several faces of this time-piece might be surmounted with an inscription indicating that Russian, Japanese, American and North Pole standard times are respectively represented on the several faces of the monumental clock.

The Grafton City Council finally resorted to having local watchmakers take care of the clockworks and coax the town clock to do it’s intended duty. So there were periods of time when the four clock faces worked in unison and the business people of Prince and Pound Streets felt confident to regulate their business hours by the Jubilee Town Clock, and all was right with the world.

One such businessman was W J Weiley of the Market Hotel, later just known as ‘Weileys’. He could observe the Pound Street ,eastern face from his bedroom window and rose early each day, by the clock to attend to the early delivery of goods, such as coal, beer, meat and vegetables and other sundry things.

One morning he rose as usual by the town clock, but was soon fretting as all the deliveries of goods seem to be much later than usual, and he finally remonstrated with a delivery man about the need for punctuality. Of course the delivery man was quite taken back that Mr Weiley should address him so, and advised him that he was very punctual. Mr Weiley then pointed to the time on the Town Clock, and was promptly told that the Town Clock was in fact an hour fast, and that some errant young louts must of changed the time as a prank. Mr Weiley was most vocal about the situation until he found the culprit was close at hand, and actually lived in his household. It was quite some time before he could really trust the Town Clock again, and on those occasions when it was fast or slow, no matter for what reason, he closely questioned his household over the matter.

Over the years there have been times when the Town Clock would be fast or slow and for a while the business people would put up with the inconvenience, while they waited for the City Council to call in the local watchmaker to attend to the maintenance. However if the Council took it’s time over the matter, they might be reminded by a newspaper article or by a ABC newsreader. On one such occasion Rupert Winwood-Smith was reading the news for the ABC. In those days the news bulletins were hand written or were typed, often on ancient typewriters, and so the print was not always clear. In the news Winwood- Smith stated that the ‘Town Clerk’ was late at the time of the last Municipal Council Meeting and was still running late at the time of the meeting held the previous night. It was reported it was most inconvenient to the businesses and citizens and called on the Councillors to act, and do something about this situation. Mr Wilfred Sheather was the ‘Town Clerk’ at the time and was most aggrieved as he was always very punctual in all matters. Of course the word ‘clerk’ should have been read as ‘clock’ as it was the ‘Town Clock’ which was the offending party, certainly not Mr Sheather.

In 1953, this great icon was decorated with flags and bunting as well as a huge crown, for the street parade in celebration of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In recent years it wears a splendid crown of lights each year for the Jacaranda Festival.

Clock Tower


Grafton Marking Time – South Grafton ‘Shop Clock’

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

In the early years of the South Grafton Municipality the South Grafton residents invested heavily in ‘bricks and mortar’ in their fledgling town. Many fine homes and places of business were built, particularly in Skinner Street. Although many business in the Grafton Municipality also had branches of their businesses at South Grafton, there was a certain element of rivalry between the two municipalities. In 1909 this became very evident as new buildings began rising in Prince Street, Grafton after the devastating fires of 1908. Not to be left behind, South Grafton pushed on with a building program particularly with renovations and extensions to their hotels. This included Walkers Hotel, which was extensively extended and renovated to become one of the largest and well known hotels on the North Coast.

On the opposite side of Skinner Street, the City Bank, beside J T McKittrick’s, was opened and adjacent to that, Mr E Hennings, a jeweller and watchmaker built a most impressive two story establishment, which not only had a spacious residence up stairs, but three shops on the lower level. These were a hairdresser, tobacconist and newsagency, and watchmaker and jewellery shops.

The front of the new building above the balcony was decorated, and in panels across the building the words ‘E Hennings, 1909, Jeweller’ were written for all to see. On the top of the facade on an arched piece, was a clock face with metal hands. This ‘clock’ was to advertise the chief business of the premises. Inside his watchmakers shop, Mr Hennings had many clocks, but the showpiece was ‘a fine type of the English striking clock of Culver, London, 7 feet 6 inches high, with inlaid frame and silver dial’, which made it a very ‘handsome as well as a high class time piece’.

Ernest Henry Hennings married Hannah Perovich, on the South Coast of New South Wales, in 1892. They had three children before they arrived at South Grafton in 1903 to open a watchmaking business there. Three more children were born at South Grafton. By the 1930’s the Hennings family had moved to Sydney and the Watman Brothers carried on the businesses in that establishment. The clock on the outside of the building can still be seen today, high above the street, but it is no longer a working clock..


Grafton Marking Time- Post Office Clock

The story below is another extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I am now sharing some extracts on my blog.

The Grafton Post Office Clock

Thomas Fisher had been the Postal Officer at Grafton at his store on the river bank between 1859 to 1870. The Telegraph Office was originally housed in the Court House in 1862 and was later transferred to rented premised in Prince Street in 1865. In 1870 the Postal Department was also transferred to the Prince Street premises and both services continued there until 1878.

In 1872, Thomas Bawden, the local parliamentary member was requested to approach the government to secure monies to build suitable premises for the rapidly expanding needs of the post and telegraph services at Grafton. He was successful and plans were prepared by James Barnett the Colonial Architect , with tenders being called soon afterwards. William Kinnear was the successful tender. John Sutherland, Minister for Works, visited the Clarence later that year, and Graftonians further petitioned him for a proposed a sum of £2500 to be provided the following year, but the project was very slow, and little had been done by the Government by September 1874.

Thomas Fisher was Mayor of Grafton and the honour of laying the foundation stone was bestowed on the Mayoress, Mrs Fisher. After the ‘time-gun’ affair preparations were quickly made and Mrs Fisher, laid the foundation stone on the 8 October 1874, amid great ceremony which was followed by an official luncheon and a ball that night. The building plans were a James Barnett design of a two storey impressive sandstone and brick building with the postal and telegraph departments on the ground floor and the Post Master’s residence on the first floor.

William Kinnear, the contractor pushed on with the building and stone work of the main and ancillary buildings, which were nearly completed by the following April. However, due to problems within the Post Master General’s Department the project came to a halt. By December 1875, the citizens in Grafton could see that a clock, time ball and signal staff were needed additions to the Post and Telegraph building and Thomas Bawden, Thomas Page and Thomas Fisher, travelled to Sydney to petition the Postmaster General about these matters. He replied that their concerns were being addressed and that plans of a clock tower, with a four dial clock, had been prepared, and the project would be pushed forward.

In July 1876, Grafton experienced serious flooding and there were further delays with the building. Much comment, concerning the lack of progress with this necessary addition for public convenience, was made in the local papers throughout 1877. Finally by early 1878 the main building had been been completed and the staff quickly moved in without permission or ceremony. There was no official opening of this building. However, although there was finally a clock tower it remained empty for over a year.

The clock was installed by the maker, Mr Tornaghi, in March 1879. ‘The four dial plates were of iron, four feet in diameter, painted black, with the hour and minute hands in gold. The bell which was fitted in the dome was made of the best bell metal, and weighed nearly 400 lbs. The bell was struck every hour by a hammer weighing 18 lbs making 156 strokes every 24 hours. The tone of the bell was extremely clear and could be heard at a considerable distance. The works were placed about 7 feet below the dials, the hands being turned by a perpendicular connecting rod, and were of an entirely new construction, specially adopted for this kind of clock- the movement being known as the ‘gravity escapement’. The works were kept in motion by two suspended weights, each of approximately 50 lbs, which run down inside the front walls of the building in iron groves. The pendulum, second and half movement, was about 7 feet long, and had a bulb weighing approximately 102 lbs.To keep the clock going these weights had to be hauled up daily from the ground floor to the clock tower, by a windlass manned by two of the Postal staff.

The Post Master’s residence was on the first floor, with the main bedrooms in the front of the building. Locals recall that one of the early Post Masters, when he discovered that the 102 lbs iron pendulum swung to and fro in the ceiling just above his bed, wasted no time in changing his bedroom.

Grafton Post Office

This clock when well maintained, kept very good time, but the Postmaster General’s department did not see the need to send a clockmaker to Grafton to do this work, so within a few years problems arose concerning the time variances. In April 1884, ‘A.B. McM’, a regular contributor of topical verse to the Clarence and Richmond Examiner penned the following:-

The Post Office Clock

I’ve had many troubles since I have been born,

And I oft scarce know what I will do,

When bad luck comes on me, and leaves me forlorn,

But the greatest misfortune I’ve had,

Was one when I get a hard knock

And I have been driven abstractly mad,

By that erratic old Post Office Clock.

When I rise in the morning ’tis just about six,

Then away to work I must go,

But I find I am late- and get into a fix,

As that clock is ten minutes too slow.

Then I have a row and get turned out by the boss,

9And my labour comes to a ‘dead-lock’,

Of course it is me that will suffer the loss,

Brought on by that Post Office Clock.

Some times I knock off for my dinner at one,

And think that my troubles are past-

But I meet my employer and know that I’m ‘done’,

As that clock is just ten minutes fast.

Then what can I do , when I have such bad luck?

My misfortune gives me a great shock.

Of course it is me that will suffer the loss,

Brought on by that Post Office Clock.

Some days it’s too fast-

Some days it’s too slow-

And some days it won’t go at all;

It is only lately we’re getting to know,

The value of it is so small

Yet I believe the Government paid a high price,

Which from my rates and tax’s they’ll dock,

But for the same money, we could get something nice,

In the shape of a Post Office Clock.

Surely someone in Grafton in the clock-making line,

Can put the erratic thing straight.

I remember one time, when it struck twenty-nine,

Yet both hands were pointing to eight,

I can’t see myself, where it’s been any use,

As our time it seems simply to mock,

And from housewives it gets a fair share of abuse,

Does this misleading, old Post Office Clock.

Let all concerned take heed of these lines,

And to make matter properly go,

Also let them think of the working man’s ‘fines,’

When the clock is too fast, or too slow,

And I’m sure I don’t want to write any more,

or give them another quiet knock.

What I want to see is, not faster or slower,

But ‘right’ by the Post Office Clock.

Finally the Postmaster General’s Department consented to have a local clockmaker attend to the maintenance of the clock, so for many years the old clock gave the city remarkable service with the correct time, striking in unison with time ‘pips’ broadcast over the radio.

Grafton Post Office Clock

Today, sadly nearly 138 years after the clock first chimed out over the city, it is still and silent. The Post Office building is now privately owned with Australia Post and Clarence Consultants as tenants, who are not responsible for the clock. To their credit the present owners of the building tried to get the clock mended and working again, but the works have finally worn out and the parts are no longer available and so another Grafton time-piece era comes to a close.

Grafton Marking Time-One O’Clock Time Gun

Last week I led a series of History Walks in our beautiful city. The Friends of Grafton Library organized these as part of the celebrations for the “History Near Me” Festival, which was celebrated throughout the Clarence Valley for the full week.

These walks were a great success, but there wasn’t time to tell many of the stories associated with some of the city’s icons and places. I promised to share some of these stories through my blog.

The story below is an extract from one of my local history booklets “As Time Goes By-Grafton’s Fascination with Time-Pieces”,which I wrote and published in 2009, for our Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations of Local Government. This booklet has long been out of print, and I will now share some extracts on my blog.

The One O’Clock Time-Gun

In the late 1860’s the Half-day Holiday Associations were being formed in many towns throughout New South Wales. Their agenda was to better regulate working hours for workers, particularly in shops and businesses by directly approaching business owners. By 1873 Grafton had formed a Half-day Holiday Association and had convinced most Grafton businesses to close mid-week on Wednesday afternoon.

The firing of the steamships’ gun to herald their arrival, as they approached Grafton, had been tradition since the first steamers arrived in the 1840’s. In 1873 the Half-day Holiday Association saw it as a solution to the problem of ‘standard time’ by using the telegraph office and a ship’s cannon as a ‘time-gun’.

In May 1873 the Half Holiday Association decided “that the Secretaries should communicate with the Clarence and New England Steam Navigation Company to ascertain whether the company was willing to dispose of the brass gun, lately used on the Susannah Cuthbert, to the Association for use as a time-gun.”

By July the time gun had been acquired by a ‘shilling subscription’ and securely fixed into place behind the telegraph office in Prince Street. The Superintendent of Telegraph, in Sydney, had been communicated with, and kindly promised to furnish the Grafton Office, with the time, as the one o’clock gun was fired daily at the Sydney Observatory.

MALH0022631 003

The gun was fired for the first time on 19 July 1873. It was subsequently fired each day at ‘one p.m.’. The gun was sufficiently loud to be heard all over the town, and the businessmen in particular saw it as a great boon to the place to have a ‘standard time. The Telegraph Master was Thomas Quirk, who had just been appointed to the office staff at Grafton. Isaac Hyam lived in part of the building in Prince Street that the Post and Telegraph Office occupied. Mr David Braham, who had a watch-making and jewellery business lived next door. A common passageway ran between the two businesses.

Not everyone was happy with this new ‘time-piece’. Women and children were scared out of their wits, dogs made themselves scarce, and those who lived nearby had to make preparations to save their precious belonging from falling from walls and shelves as the reverberating ‘boom’ was to be heard.Those who have seen the Disney film ‘Mary Poppins’ can have some idea of what the canon might have be capable of.

The gun would be readied and loaded with the cotton wad in advance, and all the operator had to do was to light the fuse, when the signal arrived over the telegraph wires. However, sometimes the man, ready at the gun, was not able to get the signal off in time, due to perhaps damp powder in inclement weather, and it would be several minutes after one o’clock before the explosion was heard. Or sometimes a call-up from Sydney over the wire was wrongly construed as the one o’clock signal and the gunpowder was lit too early.

Although throughout the following months, several complaints were made about the ‘time-gun’, it continued to make it’s daily presence felt until April 1874, when it became silent. On inquiry it was found that the constant recoil had dislodged it from its position and it could not be discharged without great danger to the gunner.Isaac Hyam was employed to secure the gun to better footings and on 20th May he began to pull a log through the common passageway to the telegraph yard. However an altercation ensued between Hyam and David Braham over the right of way, which finally ended up in Court with assault charges being laid against each other. After evidence was given by several witnesses the verdict was given for Hyam.

On 25 May a letter appeared in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner (now Daily Examiner),which was purported to have been written, by David Brahams to the Telegraph Office,demanding the firing of the gun should cease. However, Brahams refuted the claim that he had written such a letter.

A petition of over 600 names was sent off to the Postmaster General urging the return to duty of the time-gun. The following week the gun started being fired daily, but three weeks later it was silent again, when it was discovered that it had been ‘spiked’. The Half Holiday Association offered a reward of £5 for information on who had done this terrible deed. They also publicly thanked Edwin Cox, a blacksmith, living nearby, for drilling out and repairing the gun, so it could resume its duty.

By early September the gun had again returned to its daily ‘booming’, but a few nights later the gun completely disappeared. Some had theories that it had been thrown in the river, others thought it had been thrown down a well, however it was never found.

The Half Holiday Association immediately offered a reward of £50 for information on the whereabouts of the gun, and to the guilty parties, but all to no avail. When they advertised that they intended to replace the missing ‘time-gun’ with an 18 ton gun, an article appeared in the Clarence and Richmond Examinerr suggesting they give up this plan, as it would only lead to a further battle amongst the citizens of Grafton. The Mayor sent several telegrams to the Postmaster General urging him to intervene, and a few days later he sent a telegram announcing the immediate laying of the foundation stone of the new Post and Telegraph Office in Victoria Street.

Whether it was feared there would be a riot in the streets between the pro-time-gun and anti-time-gun factions, or that there might be a lynching if the time-gun had been found and the guilty parties brought to justice, is not recorded, but there was much rejoicing at the announcement of the building , of the new Post and Telegraph Office, and the ‘Time-gun’ period of Grafton’s history drew quietly to a close.


World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 25.

The Drummond sisters were born and raised on the Clarence River in Australia.

Early in the 20th Century they lived in Berlin, Germany, and worked for the opera company there, for many years.

When war broke out in 1914, they were ‘trapped’ for some time – Behind Enemy Lines. This is their story, in their own words.

‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines.

Saved at Last

Wednesday, September 30

It is really ten days since I’ve opened my diary? I have read the last couple of pages and can’t believe that all this anxiety and worry, wonderment and uncertainty belonged to me. Just one week in London, and the very interest in the war has waned. No one speaks of it here. The work goes on as usual; the people don’t seem to realise that the British Empire may possibly be challenged. Curious how different to the German. He lives and breathes for nothing else but war news and victories.

I must try and think back to our memorable journey from Berlin, under the protection of the American Embassy.

It seems like in the history book. You know, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, where we learnt by heart these mysterious lines:-

“On the dull grey of a February morning.” Well, on the eventful Monday, at 7 am, all the British females who were apportioned off by the first train assembled gladly on the charlottenburger station. The husbands and brothers (those who were not imprisoned) were there, too, to bid goodbye and God-speed to their loved ones; and very sad they did look as the train left the station, taking to England and safety their mothers, wives, sisters and children, while they were left behind, who knows, perhaps for months and years, to eat their hearts out in enemy’s country. It was very touching, more than one had a great lump in the throat. However, war is no respecter of feelings or ties, and now that I read here the tales of their brave brothers fighting at the front in those long wet trenches dug out along the banks of the Aisne, their lot is not so hard.

As we neared Doberitz , where the English prisoners were, they were all waiting far distant in their prison barracks to give us a parting hand wave. The Russians also on the other side frantically waved their caps in the air. And it was with a peculiar feeling that we fluttered our handkerchiefs, first to our own soldiers, and then to our Allies. One felt theatrical, like in a book, anything but real.

We had a pleasant journey, enlived by the conversation of the cleverest child whom I’ve ever met – a Russian from Baku. He spoke on Russian politics, their fleet, their army, their Grand Duke, and mentioned that it was stupidity on England’s part to observe the neutrality of either Holland or Denmark. It was astounding what he knew.

At Hanover the train was boarded by a staff of German officers, and each compartment was searched. Ladies were asked to remove their hats, and those who wore transformations had to take them off, too, as it was reported that a celebrated English male spy was trying to get off with us disguised as a woman.

Nothing more happened. We ate every five minutes until we reached Bentheim, the Dutch border. There was a long wait here, for the examination of luggage, but luckily our boxes were not opened, so we had no worry. At the next town the English colony there had prepared coffee and scones for the entire party, and our welcome both from the English and Dutch was a right royal one. As we crossed on to Dutch territory, Union Jacks were distributed, and proudly pinning on our little bit of colour, we cheered ourselves hoarse, to find ourselves outside the pale of German rule.

At Rotterdam the English Red Cross simply inundated us with kindness and gifts. A doctor was on the station, in case anyone was ill; each person was given a bottle of wholesome milk, chocolates, sandwiches, rolls, in fact, such patriotism and general good will was lavished on us that we felt quite privileged to be counted members of the great British race.

The Government provided us with telegram forms (the British Government I mean) and at Flushing, we were allowed to telegraph to our friends in England gratis. Our first foreign communication in English for seven long weeks.

We arrived at the Dutch port about 4 o’clock in the morning, tired out with no sleep and the long sitting. We had difficulty in getting a berth, but scrambled anywhere for Jean and I knew that we were in for a good time – sea-sickness.

The train journey had been too long for us. The British Government had again provided breakfast and lunch for us on the boat, but don’t mention food ever to us on the water. We were terribly ill, especially yours truly. And the voyage instead of taking five hours, lasted twelve. We had to go slowly on account of mines, and had to be piloted in. We arrived in Queensborough about six in the evening more dead than alive. Queensborough certainly looked business-like, ugly battleships, warships and odds and ends of the British Navy lying about. At the wharf were thousands of Kitchener’s army in the making, who received us with rousing cheers. The officiers carried our hand luggage for us, the soldiers served us with tea and sandwiches in the train, and after we had finished our refreshments, the bonny young recruits drew up in line and sang “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” with the sweetest voices that one could well imagine. The whole trip was like a triumph, and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. On the way to London we were struck by the almost total darkness. We could distinguish nothing, not even an outline. We wondered why, and learnt afterwards that the top half of the lamps have been painted black in order to deceive the alert Zeppelins. At Victoria Station, the first person whom we saw, was Mr Kiley. He guessed that we would come, and had accordingly brought along his very best car, to aid the travellers. Miss Irving also found us in the throng, so did Mrs Hilda Davenport. Press reporters also bombarded us with questions, and next morning we were amused to see Jean’s interview in the “Daily Telegraph”. Miss Irving, keeping in mind the sad plight of the Belgian refugees, had thoughtfully brought to the hotel for us nighties, handkerchiefs, etc, but when we showed her our many boxes and trunks, she just said “the proverbial luck of the Drummonds.”

We are staying at the Wilton Hotel, quite close to the Victoria Station, and ever since our arrival, we’ve been more or less seeing London and its environs in Mr Kiley’s car. He took us down to Camberley to see the German prisoners, both soldiers and civilians. The former, whom we stared at over a line wire fence, looked a fine handsome lot. They were all a good six feet and broad-shouldered into the bargain. It looked so familiar to see their grey-green uniforms once again.

I forgot to say that on the night we arrived in England, the three cruisers, the Hogue, the Cressy, and the Aboukir were submarined by the enemy. The Emden had accounted for six vessels in the Bay of Bengal, and had set fire to the oil tanks at Madras. Now had we been in Berlin on receipt of this distressing news, we should have wept tears of chagrin, grief and woe, but in England people take things differently, and it was difficult to find anybody even half as miserable as I was myself over this loss.

Are they at war here, or are they not? Jean and I asked each other repeatedly. One sees the youths marching round the streets, uniformed and un-uniformed, save for rifle slung across shoulder. The parks look like gymnasium centres, but the average person apparently goes serenely onwards, “business as usual,” strolling to the Arches of an evening, and watching as an interested onlooker those great searchlights, which scour the evening skies in quest of the Zeppelin.

What a harvest a bomb would reap in London! The streets are packed with people, the houses are sequeezed together, the buses are full, inside and out, the motors just tear round; nobody seems to fear the raid of Germany’s trump card. I wonder will this trump turn out to be a joker! If so, can we throw him out of the pack, take the half-mourning from our street lamps, and bask once more in all the glory of a lighted London night life? I’m tired now. You know what a hotel writing-room is like. People talking on all topics, in all tones from pianissimo to f f . At a table is a French officer, conspicuous by his red trousers. His wife and daughter are with him. He is here on a commission, boots for the French Army. They are from Lille, and left as the Germans came in and took possession. We have fine English officers here too, looking business-like in their khaki suits. I think the English uniforms are the finest I have yet seen. Even the Germans envied them all their pockets. The breast pockets, and the large side ones. Very sensible, aren’t they? There’s also a large number of aged ladies discussing the intricacies of heels and toes in soldiers’ socks. Jean has retired ages ago. She is very prosaic. Loves her bed better than anything else. Goodnight- September was for us an uneventful month. Dare we hope for much in October?

To be continued

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 12.

The Drummond sisters were born and raised on the Clarence River in Australia.

Early in the 20th Century they lived in Berlin, Germany, and worked for the opera company there, for many years.

When war broke out in 1914, they were ‘trapped’ for some time – Behind Enemy Lines. This is their story, in their own words.

‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines

Friday, August 21st– Miss Waller came yesterday to coffee and supper, and we had a great old chat. We laughed till the tears came about the change of front in the newspapers over Japan. First, when they were supposed to fight the Russians, they were a noble, fine class, even postcards were printed depicting the Jap prodding a pitchfork into the tail of the Russian bear, then slices of Siberia were apportioned off to them, including Vladivostock; now they are treacherous, dirty, carnivorous lot who just obey the slightest hint from England. Dear me! England is catching it over this move. It was too clever for Germany. Australia was not left open to an overwhelming attack. Everything is attributed to Sir Edward Grey, in fact. I suppose soon he will have murdered the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, and so will have given this awful war its miserable origin.

It was amusing too to read how everyone knew Japan would do this, how it was well known that they always loved the Russians- in fact, the Russo-Japanese war was merely a little family difference that had to be settled!Did you ever read such nonsense? And now the doggerel gets its fourth line, making the stanza complete:-

‘Jeder Schuss ein Russ, Jeder Stoss ein Franzos, Jeder Tritt ein Britt, Jeder Klaps (slap) ein Japs”

The poor old Siamese in Berlin who might be mistaken for Japs on account of their facial contour and colour are asked to wear a ‘white elephant’ in their buttonhole! (I really must laugh.) And the Chinese are to distinguish themselves by a badge of fine colours, red, blue green, yellow and while, I think. Oh, comedy and tragedy, you might merely be twin sisters, so tiny is the difference at times between you.

Jean was to have had her first lesson yesterday, but neither teacher nor pupil can be solely absorbed in the peaceful arts.

Miss Waller told us that she had a little monetary assistance from the King Edward VII Fund in Berlin. Do you remember when Sir Ernest Cassel, a German friend of King Edward’s founded this fund? He gave so much for the needy Germans in England, and a like sum for the poor English in Berlin.

We also gave her 20 marks to go on with, as she only had 30 pfennigs (3s) in her purse. No one has a penny, and there’s no way of getting money. I’m afraid we’ll soon have to quit Berlin, feeling is very bitter against the English, and one can never know how things will turn out.

And what we hear about the Belgians is awful! How they cut the breast off a nurse,poked the eyes out of a lieutenant who is supposed to be now in a Berlin hospital and other things too terrible to be repeated. I say to Jean,”Don’t believe it,” for in the first place a doctor with his sensitive instruments can hardly poke our eyes out and preserve life at the same time, much less an enraged Belgian with the point of his great bayonet. No one could live after that treatment. It’s funny! The Belgians must have inflicted some deadly blow on the Germans’ plans, else why all these frightful statements? Of their bravery or deeds we’ve heard nothing.

Great victories again today. After defeating the Belgians at Tirlemont, the Germans are in Brussels.

“ There was a sound of revelry by night,

And Belgium’s capital had gathered there

Her beauty and her chivalry.”

Sad, very sad, isn’t it? A desecration- words fail me. Then, an English submarine has been sunk, and various torpedoes destroyed by the wonderful long distance firing of the German sailors on the Kerlsruhe: successful cavalry charges against the French, and along the whole line good prospects. Poor us! We never get any chance of rejoicing in even the semblance of a victory.

One sailor, whose letter was published this morning, is in a very jolly mood. He can’t wait until he fires off a few shots at the thick head of an Englishman, and promises his mother, if she’s good and brave, a real tamed Londoner as a present!

Saturday, August 22nd– Yesterday, another overwhelming victory for the Germans. They defeated and Pursued the French at Metz.They were led to victory by Prince Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria. It may interest you to know that his mother, according to Catholic ideas, is the rightful heir to the English throne, being the direct descendant of the elder Stuart line. His sister-in-law is the Queen of the Belgians.

We read the news with a sinking heart. Poor France! Brilliancy and dash are robbing it daily of its sons. The Germans are doing famously. Victory after Victory! The Kaiser telegraphed “Viktoria Luise” the news at Brunswick, and she immediately hurried off on foot herself to the police barracks to acquaint them of the joyful tidings. Returning home in an automobile, she was constantly stopped by the crowds, to whom she read the good news. On reaching her palace she had to come out on the balcony and make a little speech. Nice, isn’t it? I suppose she’s thirsting for Prince Ernst August to do something brilliant- lead a dashing charge, as it must be a fine feeling to possess a daring, heroic husband.

To be continued