Changing times (Object 81)


Watch & Clock Maker’s Handbook, 1938

Here is another exhibit from the regional branch of the Usmeum (Brother 2’s house). This is Dad’s copy of J.F. Britten’s  Watch & Clock Maker’s Handbook, Dictionary & Guide, published by E. & F.N. Spon in 1938. At least, we had always assumed it to be Dad’s, but I am professionally appalled and ashamed to see the legend “Glasgow Public Libraries” embossed on the cover and stamped on the title page! And no sign of a “Withdrawn” stamp…maybe we should return it next time they have a fines amnesty.

The book is a treasure nonetheless, full of fine illustrations of delicate timekeeping mechanisms:

Text and illustrationsClock illustration

It contains even more treasure for us, though, in the form of bits of paper inserted by Dad with his own diagrams sketched on them.


Dad’s diagrams

Dad was a true craftsman and although he became an aircraft maintenance engineer in later life, he kept up with watchmaking on the side, working for friends and neighbours in a tiny workshop in the attic of our home. As a child I used to love to sit and watch him at work, and he would give me old watchsprings to play with. He also had a proper shed in the garden – his “hut” – in which he would potter for hours, making things. If he was stuck with a particular job, unable to find a suitable tool for the task, he would invent one and make it himself, however small or delicate. I also have many of his notebooks in which he would sketch out ideas and designs; here is one of a “table clamp” for “bazaar” (presumably the Morning Star Bazaar, for which he made many wooden toys and artefacts to sell):

Table clampMy Dad came from that generation of patient, painstaking, working class craftsmen who are rarely found in today’s western world (although both of my brothers have inherited some of his skills). When he died my Mum donated his tools to the British Horological Institute, thinking they may be useful for a young watchmaker just starting out. Of course, times had  changed in the timekeeping profession by then; his tools were antiques which the BHI sold at auction, returning the money to Mum. This wasn’t what she wanted, but she donated the funds instead to a good socialist cause that Dad would have supported. And I was pleased to come across this old BHI membership certificate of dad’s in the archives, from the year in which he first met my Mum:

BHI membership certificate

Dad’s BHI membership certificate from 1951

All of this ephemera reminds me of so many happy times with my watchmaker Dad.

Dad and hut

Dad and his Hut



About Hoarder of Babylon

A chartered librarian and curator of my family archives.
This entry was posted in 1930-1949, 1950s, Books, Clocks and watches, Dad. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s