The fourth Boer War clock found

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A FOURTH carriage clock presented to Helensburgh soldiers who served in the Boer War has been found — but is in very poor condition.

Joanne Byrne, who lives in Ireland, contacted Helensburgh Heritage Trust to say that it had been left to her by a friend who liked restoring old items.

The recipient was Sergeant Daniel L.Porter, and Joanne would like to find any descendants so that she can return it to the family.

“Sadly it has been abused and almost lost several times, and the inner mechanism is completely missing,” she said.

The South African campaign was a tough one for the British soldier, men often having to go without basics such as food and water, and enteric fever — which killed many thousands — was a constant drain on manpower. 

This combined with having to fight a guerrilla war against a disciplined and capable enemy made it a very hard campaign. This was recognised at home, so when local men came back from the war they were given a reception in the Victoria Hall in June 1901 by the Provost, Colonel William Anderson, and the Magistrates, in the presence of the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Sir James Colquhoun.

Attending were most of the 22 local soldiers who took part in the conflict, but some of them were still in South Africa. Tea was served before the Provost, local dignitaries and the soldiers in uniform made their way to the stage.

The Provost said: “They answered the first call of duty. They knew that dangers would have to be met, that hardships would have to be endured. These dangers they had met, and met bravely as they knew.”

The Provost said that a carriage clock would be sent to each of them, but in fact they were presented personally at a ceremony in the Municipal Buildings in November of that year.

Sergeant Porter (left) and a fellow Sergeant replied, and three cheers were given for those still in South Africa.

The clocks were made to a special design by Messrs Elkington & Co. of London of oxidised silver and brass. Above the dial is a reproduction of the burgh coat of arms, with South Africa and 1899-1901 on either side.

At the foot of the dial is an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander, a field gun, and an Imperial Yeoman. The inscription reads: “Presented to ………………………. in recognition of patriotic service in the South African Campaign — June 1901.”

The Heritage Trust owns one of the clocks, another by Mrs Mairi Gallagher in Rhu, and the third by Bernie Butler, an ex-pat Brit now living in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada.

The full story of the clocks can be found here.

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