When Crossmaglen’s prime public building in The Square was completed in the 1870s, local landlords promised to supply the town clock for the space left in the building for that very purpose. Henry Brooke, agent for the local landlord was responsible for the task.
The dumbfounded populace woke to find a wooden circular board with painted-on hands and numbers looking down dumbly on them. It was believed that the celebrated verse that shortly afterwards mocked the situation was composed by local teacher Michael Watters and tenant farmer Denis Nugent. This verse – and the widespread ridicule it attracted – is thought to have brought the wrath of luminaries that shortly after sparked the infamous Crossmaglen Conspiracy.
High up above our market hall and looking o’er the Square
A strong and wondrous clock is seen, by skilful hands placed there
Admired by all, by young and old, by sage and learned men
And guarded as a treasure is the Clock of Crossmaglen.
Your clumsy clocks must follow time, both minute hand and hour
But this great work has stopped time’s course, and proved it’s magic power;
Now, sneer not, cynic – ’tis the truth – time has not moved since when
This clock was placed among us in the town of Crossmaglen.
It has no wheels, it needs no weights, there is no tick or stroke,
’tis not of gold or silver wrought, but good old Irish oak;
Yet stranger far than Strasbourg chimes, its hands at twelve past ten
Full often fill with laughter wild, the Square of Crossmaglen.
Now ’twas our landlords gave this clock, the truth I vouch to you
Then listen not to Parnell’s cries, nor to his noisy crew
But, down with rent reductions! We’ll prove true and loyal men
And stand by our dear landlords in the town of Crossmaglen!
The above article was written by John McCullagh for The Newry Joournal
Saturday, 19 February 2005