Time has been ticking away in storage for Porty’s historic burgh clock.
But now, over 15 years since it was removed for repairs, the town’s timepiece could be reinstated to its former position on Portobello Baptist Church.
Presented to the people of Portobello by baillie James Falshaw in 1868, it was taken down by Edinburgh council in 2004 who agreed at the time to repair the clock, at a cost of £47,000, on behalf of the community when pieces of iron started falling off.
But they refused to accept responsibility for necessary repairs to the stonework of the building which would allow the clock to be hung again, claiming the clock was owned by the church and not the council.
The stand-off, which has left the historic clock languishing in the storage for 15 years, has now ended after extensive research by local heritage groups and the council’s archivist uncovered documents detailing the clock was under the council’s ownership.
The historic documents show that when the building, that is now the church, was first sold in 1878, the clock was excluded from the sale.
And when the Baptish church bought the building in 1920 they were very clear that they did not own the clock.
John Stewart, chairman of Portobello Amenity Society, who along with Portobello Heritage Trust has campaigned doggedly for the reinstatement, said despite the long journey he is pleased to have reached this point. “The church was very clear that it did not own the clock and the council, for many years, refused to admit that they actually did.
“Thanks to help from the city archivist we discovered that the clock was actually on the common good register and therefore the council do indeed.
“Ironically James Falshaw presented the clock to the people of Portobello on one condition – that it should never be removed,” Mr Stewart explained. “It’s a focal point for Portobello and although we have got a clock on what is now the police station, and used to be town hall number two, Portobello High Street bends and the clock on the church could be seen from east and west.
“It’s long being part of our heritage and we are delighted that it could soon be back in its rightful place.”
Mr Stewart said, since discovery of ownership, the council have been “very helpful” in moving the process forward. An application has now been made by the city council for listed building consent to allow necessary works.
One clock face has already been renewed and further repairs are being made to the cast iron detailing and the roof but there is no approximate timescale yet for completion.
Portobello Cllr Callum Laidlaw has been working with the local groups.
He said: “Since my election in 2017 I have been supporting the Portobello Amenity Society and Portobello Heritage Trust in their long fought battle to have the Burgh clock repaired and reinstated on the High Street’s Baptist church.
“While the council appears to have dragged its heels for years I’m pleased that this historic landmark of Portobello will soon be reinstated in its rightful place.”