Moving Hands

How many things that  seemed eternal early in life, have completely vanished?  

The old Boby clock in its new place.











Sometime in the nineteen-fifties

it perched on the hundred-foot workshop,

 where Waitrose’s  entrance is now.

It would pace the working lives of hundreds.

First as boys, learning to master metal or wood,

then as craftsmen, badged by two-foot folding rules

hung from their boiler suit’s  leg-pocket.


Eager eyes had watched those hands move

to signal work’s end and start the stampede.

Earnings lost by a slow morning’s start

signalled by that cruel red hand, 

already primly past the hour.

Robert Boby’s respected works

crouched in the centre of Bury St Edmunds,

 its beating heart that Ferranti clock.

It ticked through the fifties as  slick machines

were made for cleaning all sorts of seeds,

 hands circled ceaselessly during the sixties,

pacing  the build of equipment for malting,

mechanical handling and heavy engineering.


A sudden seizure in seventy-one!

The plug was pulled, the hands stopped,

two hundred and seventy lost their places.

The dial’s hands registered dormancy.


As the site was levelled in seventy-eight

I paid a fiver for that redundant clock.

it hangs outside, on our Annex wall.

As I write, I watch the red  hand race,

sweeping away my limited time.


Boby's works in the 1950's
Boby’s works just before closure
Boby’s works in the 1950’s above. Both images from St Edmundsbury website ‘Chronicle 2000’


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