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‘God Save The Queen’ clock sells at auction for £84,000

An Irish clock that chimes God Save The Queen every half an hour recently went under the hammer at an auction in Naas, County Kildare. The Francis Johnston Speaker Clock, as it is known, was sold for £84,000.

The grandfather clock is made of mahogany, and crested with a scallop shell, flanked by a hound and a cherub. The piece is inscribed with the words “Nunquam Non Paratus”, meaning “never unprepared”.

The Francis Johnston-Speaker Clock

The Francis Johnston-Speaker Clock

Actioneer George Fonsie Mealy described the timepiece as “a highly important mahogany long-case clock”, adding: “There was a huge interest in the piece given the wealth of history it represented. We expect it will go on public display eventually. Its bells need a it of an overhaul as the tune isn’t clear as it should be, but that will be straight-forward enough.”

The 220 year-old clock was built by James Waugh, a member of a family of reputed clock makers, who worked in Armagh, in Northern Ireland, producing an astronomical clock for use in the local observatory. In 1795, he made the grandfather clock, which plays eight different tunes, including the distinctive British National Anthem – although, given that King George III was reigning in Great Britain at the time, it probably chimed ‘God Save The King‘.

The clock derives it name from the architect of Dublin’s General Post Office and the Armagh Conservatory, Francis Johnston, who was the owner of the clock at one point. In the 18th century, the time piece stood in Henry Grattan’s parliament in Dublin’s College Green. However, after the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, the Irish House of Parliament ceased to be, and the clock was moved from Dublin. Centuries later, it was bought by businessman Frank Kerins, who loaned it to the Irish Legislature in 2007. Unfortunately it was damaged to by the heating system in Leinster House, which is where the Legislature sits.

The most recent owner of the clock was Patrick Guinness, a descendant of Sir Arthur Guinness, the founder of the famous Irish brewery. The piece went up for auction as Mr Guinness and his wife are selling their Furness home. It was bought by a private investor.

The Francis Johnston Speaker Clock was one of 700 items put up for auction by Patrick Guinness, including a set of caricature prints entitles “The Gentle Art of Making Guinness” and a pair of metal-bound stout barrels inscribed with the company name. “We’ve been working on this now for the last fortnight and I think it has gone pretty well,” Mr Guinness said about the auction. “Some lots go very well and others don’t. There’s always surprises, I suppose.”

Photo credit: Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers