Big Ben is not alone in the club of silenced historical clocks. This week several well-known Mount Isa figures demand to know why the town clock has had its chimes muted, indefinitely.
Erected in 2012 after the original clock was taken down, the town clock used to chime every day from 7am to 11pm. But no more.
Local resident Bob Keoghan (91) remembers when the original clock came to town.
“In 1968 the Chamber of Commerce decided to do something in recognition of John Campbell Miles’ discovery of lead ore in Mount Isa,” Mr Keoghan said.
“The clock lasted for several years and wore out. The clock was taken down and it was replaced with a cut glass display by the Mayor at the time. As far as I was concerned, that was sacrilege.”
Unhappy with its replacement, Mr Keoghan took it upon himself to fundraise for a new clock to be made.
“I raised the funds, I had a petition with more than a thousand signatures, I put it to the Council, and the clock was put up,” he said.
Mr Keoghan said he regards the clock tower as sacred.
“If this was an Aboriginal man it would be considered a sacred site. His ashes are buried underneath the column,” Mr Keoghan said.
On top of this Mr Keoghan said there was $14,000 left over, which he gave to Council to maintain the clock.
“I went in to see the Mayor on Monday and she knows nothing about it, and she doesn’t want to know anything about it,” he said.
The mystery of the silent chimes is of interest to several parties, including local history buff, Kim-Maree Burton, who raised the issue in a Council meeting on Tuesday.
Mount Isa Mayor Joyce McCulloch responded by saying the chimes were stopped when hotel guests complained about the noise.
“It was chiming on the hour every hour. Accommodation places in the vicinity were making complaints – guests were having interrupted sleep. Council agreed to dismantle it. It's still there and still gets looked after by council," Cr. McCulloch said.
Albert Hakfoort, who’s family has owned Red Earth and Isa Hotels since 2006 and 2007, respectively, says he was not aware of any complaints in that time.
“I was the first person to contribute to the new clock when Bob started fundraising, so I find it ironic that they are attributing this to me in some way,” Mr Hakfoort said.
Ibis Hotels have no record or memory of any complaints, but have had several new managers since 2012.
Former Mayor Tony McGrady was also baffled, and said he fully supported Bob in 2012.
“I recall when the job was completed, early one Sunday morning, about a dozen of us went down to formally cheer as the clock was lifted into its position,” he said.
“We should just take a little stroll to London where Big Ben has been stopped for a number of years for renovations, and you’ve got members of Parliament saying ‘there must be another way of doing this, than stopping the chimes.”
Jeweller Michaelangelo Grimaldi, who organised the clock’s construction, is also baffled by the claim that tourists complained about the noise.
“I did not go to all that trouble to get a clock, to have some someone just turn it off and bulls**t the people about who or what is going on.”
“Letting visitors to the town silence the town clock without consulting the rate paying citizens? I call bull s**t. A big stinking pile of bulls**t. Let the people decide, not some faceless passers by dictate. I want to see letters and numbers,” Mr Grimaldi said.
The Mayor was contacted on Tuesday afternoon for further comment, but on Thursday evening had not responded.
While it seems bizarre for a Council to stop its own town clock from chiming, Mr Keoghan suspects something sinister at play.
“The chimes were going, and somebody with a grudge has organised to have the wiring tampered with, with the result that the chimes don’t work.”
“Vandals have wrecked it three or four times,” he said.
Mr Keoghan is now calling on the people of Mount Isa to lobby Council.
“All the shop ladies I’ve spoken to since I’ve been here this time, say they enjoyed the chimes and they are sorry they’re not going.”
"I’m trying to stir the people up to say they want it. She is only the Mayor, she has got to supply the town with what they want. All the clubs; the Lions Club, the Boy Scouts, social clubs, sporting clubs, I want them all to speak up for the chimes,” he said.
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