THE best thing about climbing the 50 plus spiralled staircase at All Saints Church to wind the clock is that it ‘certainly keeps you fit’, says Bernard Lawes.
“That and the satisfaction that I’m doing my bit to help the church. After a while you get very attached to to the place.”
Defying his 80 years, Bernard has climbed the tower at the church, in Blackpool Street, Branston, three times a week for the last 40 years, without fail.
You could say he goes about his task like clockwork.
“Time just flies by but you don’t notice it,” Bernard, also of Blackpool Street, said.
“People ask me what about when it comes to holidays.
“But I haven’t had one - I’ve got a very understanding wife though.
“You can see the Washlands from our back window so that’s like we’re in the county.”
Bernard took charge of winding the clock after befriending the church warden when they both worked at Allied Breweries in the 1970s.
He said: “He told me that the person who looked after the clock had retired and asked if I could do it until they got a replacement – that was in 1973 and I have carried on ever since.
“I think the people at the church are quite impressed – but I don’t like to brag about it.”
Bernard said the clock is in good shape shape, despite its age.
He said: “It’s never been changed in 100 years so it will still be there when I’ve gone.
“I think some people think it’s electric but it is actually controlled by weights so if it starts running quick or slow you can add or take weights off.
“I’ve always taken pride in keeping the clock ticking and over the years so I’ve got quite attached to it.
“I always keep it as close to the right time as I can by checking it with the talking clock on my phone.
“Bus drivers come up to you and say thank you for doing it because they know passengers can rely on it being the correct time.”
Bernard has had a long association with the church.
As a child he was confirmed there by the Bishop of Shrewsbury. The church was also the venu for his wedding in 1966.
Bernard said: “They are a great family at the church and I feel privileged to have been part of that family for the last 40 years.
During one of his trips to the clock tower in the 1990s Bernard came to aid of an injured woman who had suffered a fall.
He said: “I came down from winding the clock and I heard someone shouting for help but I couldn’t see anyone.
“Then I heard it again and there was a lady by the pulpit who had slipped on the stairs and cut her head open.
“She could have laid there for hours if I hadn’t been there and you don’t know what might have happened.”
Bernard said every time the clock is wound it will last almost three days.
“It goes for about two days and 16 hours. But I do it three times a week so that way I don’t have to go to the church at night.
“I do it every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings so i get a few days break in between visits.
“And that way I always get to go in the daylight.”
But despite his exemplary record, Bernard refused to commit himself to another ten years of service to the church.
He said: “I will carry on doing it for as long as I’m still fit. Hopefully I will know when I won’t be able to climb the stairs any more.
“I have been lucky all my life until now – but the one thing I can’t say for certain is that I will make it until 50 years.
“That is just the way it goes I suppose.”