A clock tower on Strahans Road in Pattalam, constructed in 1948, in memory of the co-founder of the first labour union in the country lies in shambles. Last restored in 2004, residents say that the four-faced clock lost its glory after tall buildings sprung up, blocking the view of the dials.

The 62-year-old Master and Slave tower clock and the park on which it stands were unveiled in memory of Selvapathy Chettiar. Chettiar and Ramanujalu Naidu were the founders of the Madras Labour Union in Binny Mills in 1918.

“The trade union was the first in the country of which Annie Besant was also a part. In commemoration to his services, the clock tower and the park around it were named after Selvapthy Chettiar and opened to public on August 4, 1948, by Dr. U. Krishna Rao, the then Mayor of Madras,” says historian V. Sriram.

Set up by well-known clockmakers Gani & Sons, the four-faced and four-feet clock working on a Master and Slave system was a landmark in Choolai .

In 1965, a bell was attached to the clock which locals say was rung every hour by the caretaker of the park. “The clock and the park were in excellent condition. People used to come in the evenings to relax and listen to the municipal band played in the park those days,” reminisces 61-year-old Venkatapathy, a long-time resident of Strahans Road.

Reinstated in 2004

The tower clock lost its significance over the years as tall buildings started to come up eclipsing the view to the dials on its four faces. However, in 2004, the Chennai Corporation planned to refurbish the Selvapathy Chetty Park and also approached Gani & Sons to restore the clock.

“We reinstated the clock after setting right the electrical and battery equipment connected to it,” says M.M.J. Namazi, owner of Gani & Sons.

But the lack of maintenance has left the clock and the tower in a dilapidated state. The dials are broken, the huge bell is rusted and the tower is home for birds and squirrels. While the park is well maintained by a caretaker appointed by the Corporation, the historic clock tower inside it has been under lock and key for the past seven years.

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Petlee PeterJune 28, 2012