Saturday, 04 July 2020


Delight and relief as Whitianga's town clock tells the time once again

Time is no longer standing still in Whitianga with the hands of the much loved “town clock” finally turning again after a lengthy interlude.

Harold Abrahamson, who owns the building at 33 Albert Street where the clock sits, said he was delighted and relieved that it was working again. “I was embarrassed about it and I felt sorry for the people at the council office. People kept calling them up to complain thinking they owned it,” he told The Informer.

It was Harold’s idea to incorporate the clock into the design of the building back in 2000. “I thought it would be nice for the town to have a clock tower,” he said. The timepiece was built by the late Joe Tomlin, a horologist (clockmaker) from Tairua who eventually installed it in 2002. “He was an amazing man, with an incredible amount of skill. He also built the Thames town clock. There just aren’t many people like that left nowadays.”

According to Harold, Whitianga’s new landmark ran perfectly for around six years but then started to slow down. “We would re-set it and it would be okay for a while and then it would slow down again, so the time was always wrong. Eventually we just had to turn it off. I tried to get in touch with Joe to ask him to come and fix it and was sad to learn he had passed away,” Harold recalled.

Numerous attempts to find someone else to come and repair the clock failed and so the hands of the clock stood frozen for more than ten years until sheer frustration spurred Harold into action a few weeks ago. He got in touch with Ian Pilbrow who is part of a renowned family of clockmakers based in Taupo. His son, Rowan Pilbrow, is currently president of the New Zealand Horological Institute. “I wanted him to come up to have a look at it, but he was just too busy. But he did give me some help in that he advised the problem was most likely to be electric and I should look at that option first,” Harold explained.

Dock Dockerty from Docktronics in Whitianga was the man contacted to investigate the electrical unit that controls the clock and, armed with Joe’s part typed, part hand-written instructor’s manual created back in 2002, he and Harold set about solving the problem.

“It was trial and error to be honest. Neither of us were too sure what we were looking at,” said Harold. Through a process of testing and retesting, Dock eventually worked out that the electrical pulse travelling up to the clock was moving too quickly. He was able to readjust it so the pulse was travelling at the correct speed, allowing the clock to run on time once again.

Harold then climbed up the ladders to the specially made platforms in the tower of the clock to oil the mechanism. “We were advised it would only need to be oiled maybe every 10 or 15 years, but with our marine conditions I think every five years is probably more realistic,” he surmised.

Thoughts of replacing the clock with a digital version were quickly dispelled by the Taupo expert. “He said the digital face would be too hard to read from the street and if we look after Joe’s clock it will go forever.”

So with the clock telling time once again, Harold hopes the people of Whitianga will be happy and will forgive the lengthy delay, and that 100-year-old Ruth Tomlin in Tairua will be pleased to know that her husband’s masterpiece sits idle no longer.

Pictured: Whitianga's "town clock" on Albert Street has finally been repaired.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.