THURSO’S town clock could soon be switched from manual to electrical control based on a time signal sent from Germany.
Once a week for the past 13 years, local man Bill Brown has been climbing the stairs in St Peter’s and St Andrew’s Church to wind the clock in Princes Street on a voluntary basis.
Mr Brown (86) told the Courier, “This has worked out, over the period, at the equivalent of lifting a weight of 200 tons to the height of the top of the church.
“At last I see the prospect of retiring from the job, as it is proposed to change the mechanical clock to electrical control, based on the time signal from Frankfurt.
“This system will be the most modern available, will keep correct time, even automatically changing the hour in spring and autumn.
“The strike on the bell will be retained, so there will be no difference felt by the townspeople.”
Describing himself as fairly fit, Mr Brown said: “It is no bother to do it, I am back down in 10 minutes a wee bit puffed, but I would be very grateful to give it up.”
He stressed that he would be happy to keep on the job until the switchover takes place.He said the clock had given great service to the town, adding that the public quickly notice if it ever stops.
The job has not been without incident as around 10 years ago, Mr Brown made the headlines when he became locked in the clock tower.
Local Highland councillors are still looking into the funding of the project, but it is hoped to complete the changeover this year, with the possibility of putting the old clock mechanism on display in Caithness Horizons being explored.
The clock dates from around 1836, and was refurbished in 1986 by Dounreay apprentices. The German national time and frequency transmission is broadcast from Mainflingen, near Frankfurt. Known as the DCF-77 transmission, it has been in continuous operation since 1959 – one of the oldest in the world.
The transmitters are currently operated and maintained by the German telecommunications company T-Systems, a sub-division of the German Telecoms group Deuche Telecom. There are two transmitters located at Meinflingen to provide a back-up.
Caesium atomic clocks maintained by the German National Physics Laboratory provide a highly accurate source of time for the transmission. The broadcast has a relatively high power output of 50 kilowatts, which can be received up to 2000km from Frankfurt. This range covers most of central and north-western Europe.
The church was built to a design of William Burn in 1830-2, a simplified version of the Church of St John the Evangelist, Edinburgh, which is also attributed to Burn
St Peter’s and St Andrew’s Church was opened in 1833 and the clock and gardens in front of the church were a gift from Sir Tollemache Sinclair.