Hands of time have seen centuries pass

By Andrew Bonallack editor@age.co.nz -
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A century-old lathe used by Rhys Mason of Mason's Clock and Watch Repairs, Palmerston North. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
A century-old lathe used by Rhys Mason of Mason's Clock and Watch Repairs, Palmerston North. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Rhys Mason says he is always amazed at the wealth of vintage clocks he finds in Wairarapa -- and the stories that go with it.

Mr Mason, based in Palmerston North, works out of home and travels the lower North Island on clock and watch repairing contracts.

It's something he's been doing for 40 years, and says he still gets surprised by the age of items he's asked to repair.

"It's quite an interesting area, Wairarapa, and the towns there, full of history.

"I was once in Greytown, and I was servicing this grandfather clock.

"I said to [the client], how did this come to be here?

"She said the clock had been brought over on a sailing ship, and had come over the hill on a bullock run."

He said it is not unusual for him to encounter clocks that were older than when Captain Cook had mapped New Zealand.

"People brought over these magnificent pieces of furniture, which are loaded on to carts and pulled by oxen.

"These days, if you move three miles with a furniture truck, you end up with broken stuff."

He said Wairarapa, and especially Masterton, often has old treasures.

"You've got a lot of old families there."

He loves the idea that clocks are constantly preserved.

"I can't think of another significant item that still goes after 250 years -- there's not a lot else that you would see doing that on a day-to-day level, that's still going."

He said it's fun repairing them, and fun meeting the people who own them.

"People have a nice attitude to clocks.

"They often get a clock repaired because of the heirloom value, not the market value.

"It's part of their family heritage, and it's nice that people care about it."

He said clock repairs is a bit like motor mechanics. Some items he can make, and other items he contracts out, like the cutting of cog teeth, done by an engineer in Nelson.

"And the great thing now, with the advent of the internet, it's easy to get advice."

His uncle, Stan Leitch, was a former managing director of the Wairarapa Times-Age, and as a child Rhys was allowed to play with lead type, making up his name.

He started clock repairs while at school, then trained in Palmerston North.

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