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The Four Faced Liar

A very interesting account of the clock, shortly after its erection was given by John Francis Dwyer in his book, The Industrial Movement of Ireland published in Cork in 1853, in which the writer gives the following details of the Shandon Clock:

The dials four in number are 15 feet, 8 inches in diameter. The four sets of hands with their works weigh 5 cwt. The frame of the clock which contains the works is 14 feet, 6 inches long, 4 feet wide and 5 feet high and weigh with the machinery two tons and a half. The striking hammer weighs 100 lb and falls through a space of 12 inches — which shows the great power of the mechanical force exerted in the striking part of the clock; and the chime hammers, four in number, weight each 26lb … The pendulum is 14 feet long, the ball weighing 3 cwt. That this is a work of extraordinary magnitude, these dimensions are a sufficient proof; but that the whole machinery is of the very highest order, I have had the opinion of those whose judgement, to say the least, was not biased by over partiality.

Canon Salter, author of a work on the church describes the clock as follows:

The clock mechanism is unique in many ways, mainly because of its size, this being 4,450mm long, 1,757mm high and 1,117mm wide. The length of the pendulum is 4,450mm and has a two second beat. It is the largest caged clock in Europe.

The escapement is a pinwheel escapement and functions on the dead beat principle, i.e. no recoil action. There are quarter chiming and hour striking units as part of the clock, and these in themselves are rather unique. It is the normal practice on quarter and striking trains to have one striking force, which is normally a barrel onto which is attached a driving weight. Whatever the driving weight is, it is this force that is applied to the teeth at the point of contact. James Mangan, in his design, has two barrels, each having half the "driving force" suspended in weight form, thereby halving the pressure on each tooth form.

The clock shows time on four dials that are 4,775mm in diameter and these are applied chapters to the fabric of the tower. The drive from the clock to the dial motion work is the normal solid rod and expansion joint couplings. In using the pin wheel dead beat escapement on such a large clock proves the faith that James Mangan had in his ability to design a clock to such precision that wind forces would not affect the mechanism.

'The large clock at Westminister in London and other identifiable large clocks, have a unique gravity escapement and it is this escapement design, first used in 1854, that is the norm for large tower clocks. James Mangan proved that it need not be the norm.'

Visiting the Four-Faced Liar in Cork
Shandon Street is quite a steep climb. Half way up the hill to the right is Shandon Steeple. Seen on TV as the background to a Murphy's Stout ad, its tower is open for visitors to climb and (for a small price) ring its famous chime of 8 bells or (for free) simply admire the amazing view of Cork City and the Lee Valley from this spectacular vantage point. The interior of the Cathedral and its collection of 17th-century books, including letters by the poet John Donne, is also well worth a visit. The Shandon Craft and Firkin Crane centres are located nearby in the old Butter Exchange, which used to house the weighing scales for the butter-casks (firkins) that were exported world-wide beginning in 1770. Nowadays it is home to an arts, dance and theatre centre.

Incidentally, a fiddle reel of the same name has been written about the clock and is often played with two other reels, "Baggett Street" and "Witch's Kitchen" in a medley, representing Cork, Dublin, and Blarney.

This page relies on the following books and websites:
Mac Carthy, W.G. A Short History of Cork. Cork: Killeen, 1996. (originally published 1869 by Francis Guy of Cork.)