Walter Mackowski

Clock and watchmaker Walter Mackowski, pictured here, is retiring after 50 years of diligently tending to the clock at the former Southampton Town Hall. Photo submitted

For 50 years, the tower clock has been keeping time on the old Town Hall where Southampton Arts is now housed. That’s thanks to Walter Mackowski, retired watchmaker and owner of the former Vincent Jewellers in downtown Southampton.

In the late 1960s, the Town Hall's clock stopped running for a number of years when the person who had previously been tending it retired. Then, in 1972, town officials contacted Mackowski to see if he might be able to assist with getting the clock running again.

“The Town Hall clock is a different kettle of fish,” said Mackowski. “It was a challenge when I first got into it. It was different than anything I’d encountered, but the principles were the same.”

The clock was made and installed following the First World War, in memory of local veterans. Its electro-mechanical system runs by an impulse sent every 30 seconds from a master clock in the firehall, and governs the tower clock above. Over the years, Walter has tended the clock diligently.

“Often times I’ve had to make the parts for it myself,” said Mackowski, whose career in clockmaking, watchmaking and jewellery began when he apprenticed with his father, also a watchmaker, who opened the family business when they moved to town in 1962. Mackowski went on to study watchmaking and clockmaking in Toronto, eventually winning a prestigious international scholarship to study in Switzerland.

Locally, he diligently tended the town clock for decades, keeping an eye on it daily as he went about his business around town. Noticing when the hands had stopped, often due to the hands freezing, or mechanical slowing in winter, Mackowski would drop in to fix it.

“Most people would say it’s been running nonstop for the last 49 years,” Mackowski said.

Now, after recently moving to Owen Sound, Mackowski is passing on the torch. “I’ve reached an age where going all the way up to the mechanism is getting to be a bit too much,” he explained and has begun showing the ropes to a couple of town employees, who plan to take over maintenance, though, as Mackowski said, “it’s going to be a learning curve.”

"Next time you hear that beautiful chime, send a little thanks to Walter."

This article first appeared in a recent Southampton Arts newsletter. It is published here with permission.

Southampton Town Hall

Town staff will be taking over the clock maintenance at the former Southampton Town Hall. Hub photo