I have just hung a new pendulum clock in the Physics Museum. It has a long history, most of which I don't know.

It was originally donated, maybe in the 1980s, by Arthur Page, a well known amateur astronomer and benefactor of UQ.  He had bought it from a second hand dealer and used it as the main timekeeper in his domestic observatory for many years.

It lacked a pendulum, so he had used a rifle cleaning rod. It was in a Brisbane-made silky oak case that dated from the 1930s. At first, I thought it was an amateur copy of a Synchronome clock, but later realised that it was a very rare, perhaps experimental, model made by A.G. Jackson in the very early days, around 1907, of the Synchronome Electrical Co. of Australasia in Brisbane.

Much of that history, deduced from letters Jackson exchanged with Frank Hope-Jones in London that came to light when a group of members of NAWCC Chapter 104 compiled a booklet on the company published in 1998 (G. Bianchi et al, SYNCHRONOME BRISBANE 1903-1991, NAWCC Chapter 104, 1998), is recounted in articles in Horological Journal by Tony Roberts and Norman Heckenberg.

A pendulum rod and bob were made according to instructions given in Chapter 6 of Hope-Jones’ book ‘Electric Clocks and How to Make Them’, Percival Marshall & Co. Ltd, London. That also post-dates the clock movement by many years.

The clock was at my home for many years, waiting for a complete overhaul, and somewhere to hang it, and just maybe, a more appropriate case. In 2009, a somewhat similar clock turned up, in very poor condition, in a case that could be dated to the first decade of the twentieth century as it had been made in England and could be compared with those shown in Robert Miles’ book ‘SYNCHRONOME Masters of Electrical Timekeeping’. The case was in such poor condition that the owner made a new one and passed the old one to me. It took several years to straighten the backboard (which has now been braced at several places) and part of the door, but in 2015 it was possible to reassemble and finish it. A number of missing parts were replaced with ‘fruitwood’ stained with ‘walnut’ stain to match the original parts. I could not replace the old locks so adapted some jewellery box locks. The whole case was finished with shellac as was used by Synchronome at that time.  The silvered nameplate and the dumpy lead pendulum bob were kindly donated by the former owner.

The result is something that will look rather like the master clock installed by Jackson in 1914 (Dec 31!) to run 112 dials all over the Central Technical College at Gardens Point. That campus included the building used by the recently established Queensland University, and in fact the company records show that a master clock was installed there on February 4, 1911. According to an advertisement, the case for that clock was locally made of silky oak, and it had a slave dial installed inside the case. I have not fitted one here as it would obscure the workings of the movement, and it was not uncommon in the early days to have no dial within the case of the ‘controller’.

In the museum, the master is connected to an enamel dial slave clock of similar vintage. In fact, until at least 2000 there was a similar one still over the front door of what was the University Building, now called Old Government House. I think it disappeared when the building was restored to a nineteenth century appearance.

There are some photos and links to more information at

http://physicsmuseum.uq.edu.au/synchronome-master-clock-1

Norman