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The Keepers of the Clock (VIDEO)

Thanks to a handful of committed volunteers, the clock atop Abbot Hall is always right on time.

From the lighthouse on Marblehead Neck to the narrow streets of Old Town, Abbot Hall's clock tower can be seen and heard for miles.

Though many enjoy the sound of her tolls, few know that Abbot Hall's clock is kept accurate by a handful of devout volunteers who climb up into the tower and hand-crank it every Thursday morning.

Even before town employees arrive to start their day, The "Abbot Hall Cranks" begin assembling near the building's main entrance, laughing and swapping stories.

As 8 a.m. draws near, Abbot Hall's longtime maintenance man Steve Ware retreats to his office and returns with an atomic clock to test the bell tower's accuracy.

Thursday's 8 a.m. toll came 21 seconds late, earning a "not bad" from Ware.

All together, the volunteers pile into the building's small elevator, not missing an opportunity to crack a joke about the machine's estimated weight limit.

Once they step off at the third floor it's up they climb; up a narrow set of stairs and into the clock tower itself. Then it's another 50 feet up a ladder to the clock room, a cramped space that houses the clock's many working parts.

Each volunteer takes their turn toiling at the crank, which hoists a one-ton stone high into the building's rafters.

Although The Cranks seem like a friendly and care-free bunch, they live by one very important rule: everyone who comes along takes a turn at the crank - even journalists.

I can safely say turning the crank isn't as easy as it looks, and I can understand why some of the volunteers consider all the climbing and cranking an early-morning workout.

On their way back down to the ground floor, the volunteers stop and take in the well-earned view of Marblehead from the bell tower. A view that has been enjoyed by town residents as far back as 1877.

On hand Thursday morning were David Draves, Jack McKay, Steve Ware, Raymond Briggs, Keith Hall, Dave Kinney, and Fred Kraybil.

"I ring at twelve the joyful rest of noon; I ring at nine to slumber sweet of night; I call freemen with my loudest tones, 'Come all ye men and vote the noblest right." - Abbot Hall Bell

Betty Kennedy February 15, 2013 at 12:43 AM
We live on Bassett St and really enjoy the bells from Abbot Hall...The church bells around town are on electronic players and are no way the same as what comes out of the bell tower. Every time it's different and that is what music all about. It would be a shame not to invest in this unique aspect of Marblehead. Maybe musicians in town can do fund raisers are raise money for this project... I would be willing to do it!

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