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His time

My old grandfather lost his head
And all the minutes that made his day.
His movement failed; his hands stopped.
His time was up and quiet he went away.

Morris Thomas was a Welsh clockmaker
From Boot Street in Caernarvon.
I look round now for what he made
Two centuries on but find it gone.

Impressive enough, all those time-worn years,
But, oh, the machinery.
I cannot match his ancient tools
With all that delicate symmetry.

What ancient means?
How Mr Thomas made these eternal balances
On a crude age-calloused wooden bench
Peering through draught-tossed dim candles.


Really! Is that really all?
A broken click-spring causing time to stop.
Inverness clockman, Mr Livingstone, said,
‘Badly worn that pivot.’

OK, but how many countless revolutions
Turned those fine-toothed wheels,
Defining the time, striking the hours
That summoned us to work and meals?

Restoring his health might have cost more
Than the old gentleman is worth.
But we don’t count pounds for a grandad
Who’s counted the hours since your birth.

And for many Welsh folk before
His escapement took him to England.
Then the pendulum swung again
To over the border and Highland.


So, now back home and fit for another
Two hundred and fifty years;
Brass barrels turning, pallets rotating
Driving chains engaging gears.

Polished by my mother for fifty years,
To shine the old oak carcase.
Otherwise with as much life as
A dry and ancient sarcophagus.

Alive again, he might smile in his corner,
Proud, ageless and erect.
Once again keeping good time
Pendulum bob duly adjusted and correct.

Ticks and tocks measure the day,
And lumpen lead weights gather the cables
Freeing timeless gravity to charge the energy
That tolls the bells.

© RM Meyer
November/December 2021, The Highlands