The man with time on his hands

If you're going to have a hobby, why not make it a really good one?

Friday, 8th April 2016, 3:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:41 pm

Ernest Smith did just that after a trip to the library to search out information about sundials kick-started an obsession with clocks – and everything that made them tick.

The year was 1980 and, to misquote the late, great Douglas Adams, most of us were so amazingly primitive we still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea.

Not Mr Smith, though. From the depths of his workshop in Emsworth he produced a fascinating mixture of model time pieces, constructed using wood, plaster and brass.

A report in the Observer described his hobby as blossoming into “virtually a full-time occupation”, and his clocks were so popular they were displayed at Bognor library.

Mr Smith said at the time: “I like to think that my exhibition is educational. Children today only have to press a button on a digital watch to tell the time and simply have no idea how time was told in years gone by.”

Any youngsters who visited the library would have received a crash course in the history of time-telling.

Mr Smith’s collection included an Egyptian shadow stick, a jewelled gold Saxon clock which worked with the help of the sun and was divided into months so our ancestors knew when to pray.

Mr Smith’s interest in clocks began when he wanted to fit a sundial to his house.

He said: “Because the building does face east, I could not make the dial work all day, so I went to the library to find out more about the subject.

“From then on I became fascinated with clocks and my collection grew from there.”

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