Folks who’ve had meetings in Upper Canada College’s Jubilee Room over the past few weeks may have been startled when the antique clock in the southwest corner chimed on the hour. After all, it hadn’t done that for years.
But that changed when science teacher James Weekes recently discovered a drawing of a longcase clock (which may be better known to most people as a grandfather clock) in an 1893 book titled A History of Upper Canada College 1829-1892 that he recognized as being the same one he’d often looked at in the meeting room adjacent to the Upper School’s Bernick Family Foyer. The caption under the drawing (which you can see among the photos at the bottom of this article) says the clock was more than 60 years old, so it dates back to the earliest years of the school.
Weekes says the clock hasn’t worked since he started at UCC in 1998 and, after realizing that it was of historical significance to the school, he asked the administration if he could try and repair it. Weekes has a house full of clocks that he’s repaired as a hobby over the past 20 years and when he was given permission to take a crack at this one — as long as it didn’t cost too much — he thought that it would be a good project for UCC’s Engineering Design Club.
They found that the clock’s crutch, a fork that holds the pendulum when it swings back and forth, had a missing arm. After finding it in the bottom case of the clock and soldering it back on, the next step was to take the reproduction weights it had been outfitted with sometime in the past that were a little bit too light and replace them with vintage weights he had at home. Gluing part of the case and waxing it were the finishing touches on the job, which took Weekes and eight boys two weeks to complete during the club’s weekly sessions.
“The thing’s been working ever since, bugging Connie [Scire] on the front desk with its bell every hour,” says Weekes, who winds the clock once a week to keep it going.
“It’s a good timekeeper. The mechanism was likely imported from England, but the case was likely made in Upper Canada because it’s pretty rustic. The top of the case actually covers up part of the dial that they probably couldn’t handle making because it would have been an arch top. So they made it square and obscured the top.”
People have signed their names and written messages inside the clock dating back to the 19th century, and a Post-It note stuck inside it says it was last repaired on Oct. 26, 1979 by Beverly R. Paling through the generosity of John C. Rykert ’49. Rykert passed away approximately 30 years ago.
The oak and mahogany clock — which measures 213 centimetres high by 43 centimetres wide and 28 centimetres deep — features a face decorated with floral motifs and birds. The face also includes a calendar aperture and subsidiary seconds dial.
Weekes copied and framed the drawing from the book and will hang it on the wall beside the clock so people will know about its historical significance.
“On eBay it wouldn’t go for much because it’s not a really good clock,” says Weekes. “But its provenance would give it value. Its connection to UCC would give it significant value.”
Here are photos of the drawing of the clock, the repair process and what it looks like now: