For whom the bell tolls

The top of the water tower at the former Royal Marines Barracks, Eastney.'This is from where seventeen rings of the bell rang out at midday.
The top of the water tower at the former Royal Marines Barracks, Eastney.'This is from where seventeen rings of the bell rang out at midday.

THIS WEEK IN 1976: Big crowds for the big band sound

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You may remember I published a ‘then and now’ photograph of the main gate and clock tower at Eastney Barracks some months ago.

The photo brought back some superb memories for Jim Kellaway, now of Bedhampton.

Jim tells me he was working at the top of the clock tower at the barracks in the 1960s with a mate, Jed Knight.

At the top of the tower were dormer windows which they were replacing.

Every 15 minutes the clock struck the quarter and then on the hour it clanged out the time in strikes.

This drove Jed to distraction, so one day when the clock struck the dozen at noon Jed grabbed a club hammer and continued with the strikes.

Marvellous. My type of man.

When he had struck 17 he gave up.

Can you imagine?

People in their homes opposite were looking out of their windows wondering what on earth was going on.

The Provost Sergeant of the Marines came over to the tower also wondering if his marines were having a skylark.

Jim and Jed ran downstairs to the floor below and hid behind a cast iron water tank which was behind the clock face.

It was so filthy they guessed that no-one would come looking in their best uniforms.

On another occasion the clock cabinet where the pendulum swung had to be painted.

It was about eight feet high, six feet wide and three feet deep.

One Friday Percy Perring, a painter, was told to paint the inside of the cabinet.

He asked Jim to stop the swing of the pendulum so he could paint the rear of the cabinet and he would restart it after a few minutes.

Jim stopped the pendulum and went downstairs and just a few minutes later Percy finished painting, but at the same time someone called out ‘tea up’.

Percy left the scene without restarting the clock and it was 20 minutes before he remembered.

I expect many were late on parade that day.

The original clock was water-powered and Jim wonders if the tank is still up there.

Jim also heard that the original pendulum was stolen for its scrap value.

At the top of the tower there was a flight of wooden stairs that led to the top of the tower where the flag pole was.

After years of many Royal Marines climbing the stairs the centre of each step was worn away.