|Clock tower built in 1948 in honor of two labor union founders, Chennai .thehindu.com|
A city or town without a majestic looking clock tower is something like a man with a bare body. Clock towers are a common sight in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe. Some form part of iconic buildings like the Elizabeth Tower in London (usually called "Big Ben", although strictly this name belongs only to the bell inside the tower).
|Clock towerin honor of two labor union founders, Chennai riramv.wordpress.com|
At Chennai, a couple of decades ago when I went past the clock tower on Strahans Road in Pattalam (in Tiruvottiyur), I was fascinated by it, it was not a big one, nor was it massive, decorative and highly embellished. Its simplicity that attracted me very much. At that point of time my interest in Indian monuments and heritage sites was very much limited. Frankly speaking, I do not know the status of this clock tower now, weather it is repaired and restored. However, from the article appeared in the Hindu dated 01 May 2012 (updated 6 July 2016), I understand the clock tower so far has neither been repaired nor undergone basic maintenance work to keep it functional. The park in which the clock tower is located is not given due attention either.
Last restored in 2004, according to the residents the four-faced clock lost its charm and glory due to appearance of tall buildings near-by blocking the view. Besides, the corporation officials do not take steps to prevent the old clock tower from getting further into a mess. If it begins to crumble due to carelessness, redemption is impossible, resulting in the loss of an old structure that connects the posterity with the past.
An interesting fact is this 62 plus year-old Master and Slave tower clock and the park on which it stands came up in memory of Selvapathy Chettiar and Ramanujalu Naidu. They were the founders of the Madras Labour Union in Binny Mills (a British company then) in 1918. These two gentlemen acted as a bridge between company management and workers, guarding the workers' rights. Many British companies treated the workers shabbily and paid poor wages and, while on work, their safety was no guarantee. It is good to recall the services of advocate V. O. Chidambaram Pillai (Kappallotia Thamizhan;he founded the first Indian shipping company) who frequently had a row with the management of Coral Mills of Tuticorin (1808) regarding labor welfare and wages. Thus he earned the ire of the British government who sided with the Mills. The point I am trying to make is it was a tough job to run the labor unions in those days as the colonial rulers would keep an eye on the union leaders. That the clock tower built in honor of two union labor leaders is in shambles is a sad story.
“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,” according to historian V. Sriram. Dr. Krishna Rao was a famous surgeon then in Madras and adjacent areas.
Well-known watch merchants Gani & Sons, fixed the four-faced and four-feet clock working on a Master and Slave system.
It is said until 1965, the clock and the park were in good shape and people used to visit the park for relaxation. Besides, the famous clock used to chime every hour and the chiming was quite familiar to the local residents of this place.
Because of negligence the clock tower and the clock are in a poor state - the dials are broken and the huge bell rusted. However, the park is fairly well maintained by a caretaker appointed by the Corporation. The sad news is the historic clock tower remains closed for the past several years. Only like-minded people and heritage lovers can save this clock tower from further damage.