Morecambe's seaside clock turned time into a spectacular story

A popular (and free) entertainment on Morecambe’s central promenade in the early 1960s was the Guinness Clock , writes Peter Wade.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 3:46 pm

This timepiece was designed by John Lansdell and Willy Szoomanski, and made by FB Elcom Ltd. It came in three sections weighing a total of four tons.

Every quarter of an hour the clock came to life with moving characters representing a zookeeper and a whole menagerie of creatures, familiar from the Guinness adverts of the day.

The simple story was that of a chase where the zookeeper was trying to recover his bottle of beer, stolen by the animals.

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Guinness clock, Morecambe by Robert Wade.

As the tableaux unfolded, doors in the central drum opened to reveal the changing seasons.

To its right, shutters in a caravan opened to allow a procession to pass, led by the zookeeper with bottle in hand, only to be replaced by a second in the opposite direction, led now by a bear and bottle.

The chase continued upwards as figures rose beneath striped parasol-like onion domes. At the other side, a small box-like fort opened its straw roof to reveal an ostrich.

Such mechanical marvels were hard to maintain and, with the animals no longer featuring in Guinness adverts, the Guinness Clock was scrapped in 1966.

Guinness clock and Moby Dick, Morecambe thanks to MS by Mr Robert Wade.

However, this wasn’t the only Guinness Clock to be seen in Morecambe The first was recorded for posterity seen over the shoulder of Joan Plowright in an exterior shot from the film The Entertainer.

This was one of several scaled-down copies of the Guinness Festival Clock created for the 1951 Festival of Britain whose 70th anniversary we celebrate this year.

It, too, featured Guinness’ familiar zoo animals (notably the famous Guinness toucan) making off with a zookeeper’s beer.

The clock was the brainchild of Guinness’s advertising manager, Martin Pick. It was designed by Jan Lewitt and George Him and made by clockmakers Baume & Co. It stood 25 feet high and incorporated nine electric motors, as well as three synchronous clocks.

Morecambe’s copy of the clock was installed in Happy Mount Park in time for the 1952 Illuminations. Another copy was sent to Southend though the clocks toured widely as well.

Another connection with the Festival of Britain came through the curious mechanical devices of Roland Emmett.

Emmett’s eccentric miniature railway was one of the hits of the Festival on London’s South Bank but he went on to design various other contraptions displayed in Happy Mount Park as part of Morecambe’s Illuminations.

Roland (or Rowland) Emmett was a cartoonist whose whimsical kinetic sculptures brought his drawings to life.