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Christopher Betcher
Marist College Penhurst
Mortdale, Australia

The time in Mortdale is:

The Oatley Clock

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The clock in these pictures is dedicated as a monument to James Oatley, one of the earliest watch and clockmakers in colonial Sydney.   Although the clock itself was only installed in 1983, it commemorates the achievements of James Oatley as one of Australia's best known early clockmakers.  The clock in the picture is actually located in Frederick Street, Oatley, in Sydney's beautiful southern suburbs.

James Oatley was born in Staffordshire, England, about 1770.   On 21st March, 1806, James Oatley, aged 35 married to Sarah Bennett, was found guilty of grand larceny at Warwickshire Lent Assizes, of stealing about a ton weight of cheese.  He was sentenced to transportation for seven years.  However, as James Oatley's sentence was only seven years, it would not have been economical for the government to transport him, as they would have had only a few years' labour from him as a "government servant" in the colony.  So in October, 1812, James Oatley received a free pardon from the English government.

On his release from prison, Oatley found himself in Hampshire.   Within twelve months he was in goal again, charged with having privately and feloniously stolen from the dwelling of William Loves Esquire. This time, he was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until he was dead - but he was reprieved, instead to be transported beyond the seas for the term of his natural life.  James Oatley remained in Winchester Gaol for almost six months before he sailed from England forever on the "Marquis of Wellington" on 1st September, 1814.

Oatley had been trained as a watchmaker back in England, and when he arrived in New South Wales, his transportation papers showed his calling as "clock and watchmaker."  Oatley was selected as a "mechanic" who immediately came under notice because of his occupation, for Governor Macquarie was now planning for the development of Sydney township.

Oatley was originally appointed the Keeper of the Town Clock at a salary of thirty pounds per annum. He asked for a portion of land to provide for the future of his family, and eventually Governor Brisbane approved a grant of 300 acres.   This is now the suburb of Oatley in Sydney, where the clock in the picture is located.

James Oatley was responsible for the turret clock in the Hyde Park Barracks, he also made the clock for the Prisoners' Barracks, it being the first made in the Colony.  The dials on James Oatley's long case clocks show evidence of being made from brass derived from name plates and marine sources.

Soon after his arrival in Sydney, James Oatley set up in business as a clock and watchmaker, and by 1816 he is recorded as "watchmaker in the colony."   On September 28th 1822, Oatley purchased a dwelling in George Street, Sydney which was his place of business until his death in 1839.  Convicts were assigned to work under Oatley and he is shown as employing five men in his George Street business.

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Members of the Oatley family say they have seen watches which were made by James Oatley among their family possessions.  Long case clocks made by James Oatley are still in existence today, and are prized antiques.   At least twelve have survived, each dial being engraved "Oatley, Sydney."   They date between 1820 and 1827 and are numbered between 7 and 31. Clock number 19 is now in the Mint Museum.  It is dated 1822 and has an eight day weight driven movement with a thirty inch long seconds pendulum.  It strikes on the hour.

James Oatley sold his long case clocks for about forty pounds each.  Interesting features are the circular glass doors and circular dials and the continued use of Roman numerals.

After his father's death in 1839, Frederick Oatley carried on the business in his father's George Street premises.

By Byron Hoffman, Tim Ray, Simon Evans, Andrew Flood, Charlie Mourad and Charlie Challita
With only a little help from Mrs Teazel and Mr Betcher
Marist College Penshurst, Sydney Australia


James Oatley was a convict

A very smart convict

My word, he was!

Even at making clocks

Some of the very best clocks

Oh my, they were good

And he had a descendant named Robert

The one who dedicated this clock

Late in 1983

Everybody loves it, and we think of him for

Years to come