In tune with the times: ‘Nkosi sikelela iafrica’ to ring out over city centre today at noon

2008-12-03 00:00

Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika will ring out over Pietermaritzburg’s city centre at noon today — from the city hall clock tower.

It is believed that the capital has the first and only town clock in the country to chime the national anthem.

The clock, built more than 100 years ago, could change its tunes each hour, but according to local horologist (clock maker) Mark Webber, the mechanism that played the tunes went missing over the years.

Innovative thinking by Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell and Webber has led to the introduction of the national anthem. “We have created a drum, like a music box, and it is programmed to play the anthem,” said Webber.

The new drum has been installed into the carillon, which, like a music box, rotates a barrel fitted with a series of pins. The pins release, in rotation, 24 hammers that strike on the 12 bells.

The clock, bells and carillon were manufactured by Gillett and Johnston in Croydon, England, and installed in 1900. The original barrel contains the tunes of Auld Lang Syne, Rule Britannia, God Bless the Prince of Wales, Blue Bells of Scotland, Rockingham and Tom Bowling.

The barrel containing our national anthem has space for a further five tunes.

“The pealing of our national anthem at noon on Thursdays will … add a new contemporary element to our city’s historic landmark building,” said Haswell.

Webber is contracted to maintain the city’s clock. He services it every month and checks and winds the clock three times a week — completing 1 000 turns each time.

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