Iconic Irish Times clock back where it belongs

 

A FAMILIAR face is back on Dublin's streetscape with the unveiling yesterday of the refurbished Irish Times clock at the newspaper's offices at the junction of Tara Street and Townsend Street.

The newspaper moved offices from D'Olier Street to Tara Street in October 2006 but planning permission and refurbishment meant that it took longer for the clock to make the journey.

The precise age of the clock has never been established, according to architect Maolíosa Ó Floinn of Henry J Lyons and Partners, but it dates from the early 1900s.

It was originally erected on the old Irish Times building at 31 Westmoreland Street, but was removed when the front office moved to D'Olier Street and somehow it ended up in a laneway at the office.

The now-retired finance production editor Eamonn Kelly was working in the caseroom when he noticed the clock languishing in the alleyway.

"We used to park our bicycles in the laneway between the EBS and the Times and for a long time we had noticed this big bundle wrapped in plastic.

"Then one day the covering was torn and we realised that it was the clock," he recalled.

He mentioned it to the security staff, word spread and chief executive Major Thomas B McDowell heard about it.

The oversight was quickly corrected and the clock was erected on D'Olier Street soon after. It was subsequently moved a few doors to a better location.

The clock blended in seamlessly to the office block which was part of a terrace of protected buildings from the early 19th century.

It was here that the clock gained its iconic status and it even inspired the title of the since-defunct in-house newsletter Under the Clockwhich detailed the very active social lives of the Irish Times staff.

The clock found itself without a home again after the company sold the premises in 2006. Developers P Elliott and Co bought the property and are planning a mixed development with offices and retail space. Work began earlier this year.

The clock remained at D'Olier Street for more than six months after the staff moved to the new Irish Times building.

This didn't go unnoticed by eagle-eyed readers, particularly when the newspaper inadvertently failed to publish the annual paragraph noting the end of summer time, in October 2006.

In a letter to this newspaper, reader Catherine Shaw noted: "You obviously left the clock (and the calendar) behind you in the great move from D'Olier Street. Let's hope the clock soon follows you to Tara Street, and will help you to be more grounded in the realities of Irish life, as the paper was in former days."

The company had always intended to bring the clock with it to its new location and in June 2007 it was removed and dispatched to Stokes Clocks and Watches in Cork for a facelift.

Planning permission had to be sought from Dublin City Council to remove the clock as it was part of a terrace of protected buildings.

The council also needed to give its consent as landlord to the re-erection of the clock on the new Irish Times premises.

This relocation hit a hitch when the clock was found to be too heavy to put directly on to the building. A structural steel frame clad in aluminium was designed to support the timepiece, requiring a fresh planning application. Work on the structure began in May and the frame was recently mounted on a reinforced concrete base. The clock was lowered into place earlier this month under the eye of Sisk project quantity surveyor Edwin Crinion.

"The clock is about one to one and a half tonne, so it was a delicate job," he said.

The internal workings and electrical details were added in the past fortnight.

Observant clock-watchers will see two changes to the timepiece.

It has been illuminated from the inside and will automatically light up at dusk.

It has also been automated, which eliminates the unpopular job of climbing up twice a year to adjust the time.

So a new light is shining on Townsend Street and the Irish Times clock is back where it belongs.