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Tireless John Girt calls time on 15 years of dedicated clock-keeping at Ipswich’s St Margaret’s Church

PUBLISHED: 11:54 22 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:44 29 May 2017

John Girt, of St Margaret's Church, has been hand winding the clock twice a week for 15 years. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

John Girt, of St Margaret's Church, has been hand winding the clock twice a week for 15 years. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

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An Ipswich octogenarian who has devotedly wound the clock at his local church for the last 15 years has made his last turn of the timepiece as it heads for restoration.

John Girt in the Bell Tower at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.John Girt in the Bell Tower at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich.

St Margaret’s Church parishioner John Girt has been a committed bell ringer at the church since the late 1970s, but first began manually winding the clock 15 years ago when the regular volunteer left.

From there the chirpy campanologist continued to wind the clocks twice a week – once on a Thursday and once on a Sunday – until it was removed for restoration last month, where it will be overhauled with an electric winder and regulator.

(L-R) Roger Coley and John Girt with the bells from St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN(L-R) Roger Coley and John Girt with the bells from St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“I have been ringing the bells for a large number of years and there was somebody else doing the job with the clock,” the 82-year-old said.

“He just got too old and then stopped coming so I just picked it up. I didn’t give it any thought that I would still be doing it – it’s just one of those things you take on and that was it.”

John Girt teaching bell ringing to Saffron Burdett.John Girt teaching bell ringing to Saffron Burdett.

But despite having made the role his own, Mr Girt says moving the heavy winder, known as a strike mechanism, is not one he will miss.

“I shan’t miss it in terms of having to do the physical work,” he said. “I am quite happy it will be automatically wound and hopefully keep it in time. It’s a bit of a beast to keep it exactly in time!”

John Girt manually winding the clock at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. Picture: DAVID EVANSJohn Girt manually winding the clock at St Margaret's Church in Ipswich. Picture: DAVID EVANS

While Mr Girt may have called time on his clock work, the active octogenarian has no plans to unwind himself as he keeps busy with his role as captain of the bell-ringers.

Last week the 450-year-old bells were removed for restoration as part of the church’s quarter-of-a-million-pound restoration, largely financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. When they are returned in November a new viewing gallery will be created, while Mr Girt is the chief behind a programme to get youngsters involved in bell-ringing.

John Girt, of St Margaret's Church, has been hand winding the clock twice a week for 15 years. Picture: NIGEL BROWNJohn Girt, of St Margaret's Church, has been hand winding the clock twice a week for 15 years. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

“We are actively teaching people, and this is part of the project,” Mr Girt said.

“It’s not just to have the bells re-hung but also to introduce more teaching.

“We have got one or two of the school children we are teaching ringing, and with the gallery being publicly viewable it will look very good.

“I am very proud of everyone, but there is a lot more to do as yet!”


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