Glasgow: the city where time stands still

AS SCOTLAND’S style capital, Glasgow prides itself on having its finger on the pulse – but in one key respect, the city has failed to move with the times.A survey by Scotland on Sunday of public clocks in Glasgow has revealed that at least seven prominent timepieces have stopped or are displaying the wrong time.

These include clocks on landmark buildings such as the Alexander “Greek” Thomson-designed St Vincent Street church of 1858 and the National Trust for Scotland’s Hutchesons’ Hall in Ingram Street, built in 1802.

Also at a standstill are three clocks at the busy Charing Cross junction at the west end of the city centre – on the Cameron Memorial Fountain, Charing Cross Mansions and St George’s Mansions.

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The clock on a 135-year-old former pumphouse near the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, which is seen by thousands of motorists each day from the Clydeside Expressway, also shows the wrong time.

Elsewhere, the clock on the 149-year-old Ibrox Parish Church is forlornly stuck at 2.28.

The revelation has prompted a debate about what clocks say about a city, with some saying they are a barometer of neglect due to economic impact or lack of civic pride, and others saying that the role of public clocks is, in the day of the cheap wristwatch and ubiquitous mobile phone , a anachronism from empire days.

Heritage campaigners expressed anger that so many Glasgow clocks were not working and called for them to be restored. Torsten Haak, director of Glasgow City Heritage Trust, said: “We feel very strongly that functional clocks are very important.

“Funding is available for repairs as part of the refurbishment of buildings.”

Haak said that the trust had provided some £50,000 towards restoring Bridgeton Cross in the east end, including its bandstand and clock.

Experts on Greek Thomson are equally aggrieved. Professor Gavin Stamp, the honorary professor of the history of architecture at Cambridge University, and a leading authority on the architect, said: “Clocks are raised on public buildings to show the time to the public, not as an ornament.

“On a landmark such as the St Vincent Street Church, a building of superlative distinction, it is all the more important that they work. Being right twice a day is not good enough.”

The church said the clock stopped a year ago because of a power supply problem. However, Alan Midleton, the curator of the British Horological Institute, said: “Public clocks are big and expensive to maintain, and require specialist engineers.

“People can buy cheap, reliable and accurate watches so they do not need to think about time any more.

“The real need for clocks is no longer there. Churches also often struggle to get them repaired because of the cost.”

The National Trust for Scotland said the Hutchesons’ Hall clock had stopped because the power was switched off for refurbishment of the building two years ago, and a new tenant is being sought.

A spokeswoman said: “Hutchesons’ Hall is without electrical supply at the moment – it was removed while refurbishment work was carried out. As a result, the clock is not working.

“It is in good order though, and was recently assessed as part of a programme of work to look at the condition of all the clocks that are in the charity’s care.

“The building is currently empty while the National Trust for Scotland seeks a tenant, and the electricity supply will be restored when the building comes back into use.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Harbour, which owns the Pumphouse, said it would also be restored, but could give no timescale.

He said: “We acquired the Pumphouse from the city council last year when the Tall Ship moved to its berth at the Riverside Museum. It is now part of the overall Glasgow Harbour development and the clock will be restored as part of the redevelopment.”

The Rev Elisabeth Spence, minister of Ibrox Parish Church, said its clock had been switched off because the chimes disturbed residents overnight. She said: “It would be nice to have the clock working, but it is not high on our list of priorities.”

By contrast, Scotland on Sunday found that all of Edinburgh’s major clocks show the correct time, including at Frasers department store at the west end of Princes Street, the Tron Kirk, the Bell Clock Tower near the Usher Hall, and the street clocks in Tollcross and Morningside.

The Balmoral Hotel clock remains its traditional three minutes fast to help passengers catch trains at the adjacent Waverley station.