A granite and concrete clock tower, with four clock faces, erected in honour of Bega’s Dr Montague Evershed.
Cnr Carp Street and Gipps Street, Bega
Accessible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
When Bega’s Dr Mortague Evershed died in 1927 a community committee was immediately formed to erect a permanent memorial in Bega to the man. It was the locals’ way of expressing their appreciation for the contribution he had made to the community over a period of more than 50 years.
Consideration was given to projects as diverse as erecting a memorial fence in his honour, funding the provision of nurses’ quarters at (the then) Bega Hospital, installing memorial gates at the Bega Church of England (‘All knew what a great old churchman the late Dr Everard was’), providing Bega with a drinking fountain (‘but they [Bega] had not the water supply yet’), adding a wing to the Bega Benevolent Society’s Queen Victoria Homes (Dr Evershed was President of the Benevolent Society for many years), installing a memorial window in St John’s Church of England Church, and providing annual education scholarships.
£450 was rapidly raised. In those Depression years that was enough to buy a house in Bega.
Eventually it was decided to erect a clock tower in Dr Evershed’s honour.
It was originally planned to be sited in the centre of the intersection of Carp Street and Gipps Street but, when it was realised this would impede the flow of traffic, it was moved slightly downhill to its present position in Gipps Street.
Sir John Sulman, a highly-respected Sydney architect and town planner and one-time Chairman of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, provided – at no charge – design ideas for the memorial clocktower to local architect/builder Robert Thatcher who built the tower. Some of these sketches are now in the Bega Pioneers’ Museum collection.
The clock itself was purchased from Prouds Jewellery Store in Sydney. The original mechanism (which was replaced in 2017) is now displayed in the entrance foyer to the Bega Pioneers’ Museum.
Granite for the base of the clocktower was quarried from one of Dr Evershed’s local properties. (Robert Thatcher had also built the War Memorial further to the west along Carp Street and it, similarly, features local granite as part of its base.)
The unveiling of the clocktower took place at night in May 1930. The time was chosen to give local dairy farmers the opportunity of attending the function and to show off the lighting that had been installed to illuminate the tower. The local electricity company also erected temporary lighting for the function.
The Sydney Morning Herald (26.5.1930) reported “One of the largest crowds ever seen in Bega witnessed the dedication and unveiling of the clock tower erected as a memorial to the late Dr. Montague Evershed, who practised here for more than half a century… The speakers referred to the life of self-sacrifice and service of the late doctor, who, they said, travelled many miles along bush tracks on horseback in the early days at all hours of the day and night, crossing flooded rivers and creeks to reach patients, and often without fee or reward.”
It is believed that Bega’s Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower was the first monument to have been erected in NSW to honour the significant community contribution of an ‘ordinary’ (non-official) citizen.
A proposal by Bega Valley Shire Council in 2018 to move the Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower from its present position (it was considered to be a traffic hazard) was met with significant community opposition.
‘The District’s Grandest Old Man’
W.A. Bayley wrote this of Dr Montague Evershed in his 1942 “Story of the Settlement and Development of Bega”:
“The most notable character in Bega’s history was the self-denying, self-forgetting and great-hearted Dr. Evershed…
Rough and mountainous bush tracks provided the only communication in the district, and Dr. Evershed made his journeys on horseback. The only bridge in the district was Russell’s, at Jellat, and, by day and night, in rain, wind and frost, the doctor made his journeys to his patients’ bedsides in the outlying shingle-roofed slab huts of the settlements. In flood-time, rivers and creeks had to be swum. At the time of his arrival, pleuro had decimated the cattle and rust the wheat. Adverse times confronted the settlers. Telephonic communication was non-existent, and the only way to secure the doctor’s services was to ride into town with a message. J.J. Green, of Bemboka, related how he would ride to Bega for the doctor in two hours, but the doctor, not being an expert rider, would take four hours to reach Bemboka. The whole day would be gone before the doctor reached Bega again; sometimes he had to remain all night, and, although the customary fee for these visits was £4, the doctor never troubled if he did not receive it from poorer families.
It is recorded that on returning from a 50-mile ride to attend a sick family he once said, ‘I can’t charge these people; they seem poor’. To him no journey was too long to relieve suffering and pain. He would drive to Tantawangalo, including a change of horses at Kameruka, and collect nothing for it.”
Dr Evershed was born in Sussex, England, and was apprenticed to a doctor there. He became the ship’s surgeon on H.M.S. ‘Sabroan’ which visited Sydney in 1870. There he learned of the need for doctors in many of the colony’s country towns.
He returned to Sydney shortly thereafter as Surgeon on Board the ‘Agnes Muir’ and in March 1873 set up his medical practice in Bega. For many years he was the only doctor serving the area from Tilba to the Victorian Border and west to Bombala…and he had never ridden a horse before moving to the Bega Valley!
He married Louisa Welby, the daughter of a local schoolteacher, and they had 5 children. One of his sons, Arthur Clifford (known as Clifford), was killed in November 1916 while on active service in France.
Montague Evershed was a passionate cricket lover and gardener. His wife was Captain of and later became Patron of the Bega women’s cricket team.
His compassion – especially for those who were not well-off or struggling - became local legend, with the Bega District News noting in March 1928 “If Dr. Evershed had collected one-tenth of what was due to him he would have died a wealthy man” and the Cobargo Chronicle observing that his practice was “never once closed to a patient during his long residence in Bega.”
Around February 2017, The Bega Valley Shire Council decided to repair the mechanism of the above clock, which had been out of action as a working clock for about eighteen months. Locals joked that the four clock faces facing north, south, east and west told different times, and in any event were not moving anyway.
A firm who specialised in town clocks was the successful tenderer for the work.
They proposed to replace the mechanism almost entirely, replacing it with quartz crystal controlled clocks, one for each face. They further proposed that these clocks be synchronised by earth satellite to maintain accurate time, even to the point where the onset and cessation of daylight saving each year would be automatically compensated without human intervention.
Walking past the clock when work commenced, Peter Rogers, a Committee member at the Bega Pioneer’s Museum, decided to contact the Council to ask if any surplus parts discarded in the repairs be donated to the Museum for safe keeping as relics. Two days later a Council utility delivered what proved to be almost the entire mechanism, apart from the clock faces and the final gearing to the clock hands.
A suitable display case was found, Bill Fletcher, another volunteer built a wooden mount for it in a Perspex display case which formerly had been in the Canberra War Memorial. Almost made for the job.
Intrigued by the mechanism, Peter calculated the swing period of the quite massive pendulum, the length of which he measured at approximately 105 cms. This gave a calculated period of 2.04 seconds for the swing, which given the difficultly of ascertaining the exact centre of gravity for the weight at the end of the pendulum was pretty close. Many will realise that the earth is not an exact sphere, being slightly flattened at the poles which means that gravity varies slightly depending on location which is reflected in the calculation, so the figure, which was hoped to be exactly 2 seconds was pretty good. It might be added that there is an adjusting screw on the pendulum to move the weight up or down for fine tuning the swing period. (The length of a pendulum is important in determining its period.)
As mounted, the pendulum wouldn’t swing properly and dragged a bit on the frame. This had us all puzzled. Along came John Van Wijngaarten, another volunteer whose expertise in a previous life was as a Telecom technician. Using a spirit level John carefully set the unit exactly level, (as no doubt it would have been in the original clock tower). He brought an old motor-cycle battery from home, hooked it up and set the pendulum swinging.
I should explain the Prouds Ltd, the original suppliers had installed what is termed a ‘ Hipp and Toggle’ (as named by Prouds) mechanism, which when the pendulum arc of swing reduced (as it always will be, due to air resistance ) a toggle switch is activated by the slowing speed into closing, which in turns sends a brief pulse of current through a solenoid. This is an electro magnet which when briefly magnetised by the Hipp toggle switch, then activates a swivelled arm which gently nudges the pendulum into continuing its swing. It only does this every dozen or so swings. On some occasions it will get a push in quick succession, it is mesmerising to watch it closely to note if and when the pendulum needs that slight push to maintain its swing.
The upper end of the pendulum meanwhile, on each completed swing moves the 30-tooth escapement wheel exactly one tooth at a time so that it completes exactly one revolution per minute. (30 teeth at 2 seconds gives exactly a minute.)
This motion is then reduced by a differential gear which slows it by 60 to 1 for the correct minute hand speed of rotation, then splits the rotation into four directions at right angles, one for each face. This drives the minute hands of the clock at the right speed
While we don’t know for sure, we surmise that a further reduction of 12 to 1 is made at each clock face to drive the hour hand. We didn’t inherit that part of the mechanism so we can’t say for sure.
The mechanism has been running without missing a beat ever since it was re-erected at out museum in April 2017, just as it had done for eighty odd years since the clock was dedicated in 1930. We are thinking about fitting a clock face on the cabinet just so we can calculate over a period how accurate it is, but the escapement wheel rotation as timed by a mobile phone seems pretty good!
I might add that a phone call to Prouds was helpful in they suggested a 6 car battery was probably the original power supply and that the solenoid might run a little hot with double the voltage at 12 volts, however the Museum has taken careful measurements of this and the coils show no sign of heat at all, the impulse is so brief and short it does not seem to be a problem.
The firm in earlier times, originally employed three horologists, all born the UK, but they were unable to designate which of them would have designed and constructed our particular clock. Whoever it was, he was a master mechanic! We look forward to another 80 odd years!
Footnote: A Quartz crystal clock uses a tiny electric current applied to a piece of quartz rock, which causes it to vibrate at always exactly at 32768 times a second. Electronic circuitry can be made to easily count the pulses of vibration into 32768 of them for one second. This can then produce seconds, minutes and hours and apply the timing to a clock face, or a digital display, even on something as small as your wristwatch. (Just about every clock and watch now sold uses the quartz principle.)
The Hipp and toggle mechanism was invented and named for Matheus Hipp, a German-Swiss Clockmaker who was inspired to apply electricity to a pendulum clock mechanism in 1840 to maintain its swing.
Peter Rogers (President of the Bega Valley Historical Society) at 2.00 am on Sunday morning at the onset of daylight saving in 2017, went and observed the action of the new mechanism of the Clock in Gipps Street to make sure the time advanced by one hour at the appointed time. He is pleased to report that it did so!
It was financed by community contributions and was designed and erected as a result of community efforts.
It a significant landmark in the town and is the feature of the town that most usually represents ‘Bega’ township.
It is listed in Schedule 5 of the Bega Valley Local Environmental Plan 2013
Dr Evershed’s house at 55 Parker Street, Bega.
Various of medical instruments belonging to Dr Evershed, now in the collection of the Bega Pioneers’ Museum.
Interrelationship with Other Objects:
The Bega Soldiers’ Memorial Arch, at the western end of Carp Street, was also designed and built by R. W Thatcher. It is also constructed of concrete and Bega granite and the Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower was thereby intended to ‘match’ the Bega Soldiers’ Memorial Arch.
Works Depicting the Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower:
As a major town feature, it has been depicted on postcards (e.g. the “Greetings from BEGA ‘The Beautiful’ South Coast NSW” set of 12 produced in 1930 [in State Library of Victoria collection, accessible via Trove] and ‘The Gem of the South East Coast of NSW BEGA” set of 9 produced 1940 – 1945 [also in the State Library of Victoria collection, accessible via Trove]) and various souvenirs of the town (the following in the collection of the Bega Pioneers’ Museum):
Photographs Depicting the Dr Evershed Memorial Clock Tower:
Numerous held by Bega Pioneers’ Museum
‘Recollections’ Issue 7
Monument Australia website (monumentaustralia.org.au)
Dr Evershed file in Bega Pioneers’ Museum
Contributors to the Above:
Peter Lacey 6.2.2019
Bega Valley Historical Society
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