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Clockwinding event celebrates tradition and its evolving role in changing times

Elizabeth Bonfield proved to be a most competent and congenial representative from the U.K. as she continued the Clockwinding Ceremony that was first held on Oct. 20, 1948. At that time, British representatives of their country’s wire industry—headed by John Rigby—presented the grandfather’s clock in thanks for support during World War II. Ever since, it has been a cherished piece of history kept at WAI’s headquarters.
WAI President Kurt Breischaft welcomed Elizabeth Bonfield, who was accompanied by her husband Steven, to the Association’s offices in Madison, Connecticut. “As an industry we appreciate the relationship between the U.S. and U.K., and this symbolic act for that, so thank you for coming.” The audience also included WAI BoD members Rebecca Cranford, David Fischer and Chris Tucker; WAI Past President Jim York; and Association staff, including WAI Executive Director Steve Fetteroll.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here,” Bonfield said. She has worked at the director level in the engineering, manufacturing and construction sectors for the past 20 years, most recently for Skills 4 UK, a Leeds-based consultancy firm. She observed that “we should pay our respects to John Rigby, and the forefathers who brought this clock here.”
Bonfield said she was familiar with many of the people in photos of past clockwinders on the wall in the lobby area. She pointed out John Rigby, and his son, Peter, who twice (1979 and 1998) served; Darrell Fox (1992), whose business is not far from where she lives; Peter Siddal, who came in 1999, “a wireman through and through,” who returned in 2010 with his wife, Kate, who worked in the industry and served as the Clockwinder; Steve Rutherford (2003) from Briden Wire, now retired; Lindsay Millington (2019), the Under Warden of The Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers alias Wire Workers; followed by Martin Thacker, who served twice (2020-21) via zoom before doing it live in 2022. The tradition has continued over time, yet it too is part of the life cycle. “Sadly, we lost two clockwinders, Peter Rigby and Peter Siddal, since the last time the clock was wound,” Bonfield said.
The Clockwinding ceremony ties together many aspects of the industry. Bonfield said that the meaning is still felt in the U.K., and that it was an honor for her and Steven to be there. “Your friendship, commitment to continued collaboration is just a delight, so I feel very privileged to wind the clock.” She proceeded to do just that, checking several times to verify she was not over-tightening it. Assured that the Clock indeed was ready for the next year, she turned over the key, with a smile that reflected a look of relief that all had gone well.
While Bonfield talked a lot about the people who have been part of the Clockwinding ceremony, she also shared a historical tidbit about one practitioner in the U.S. wire industry. Paul Revere, who in addition to being a patriot that went on a well-known midnight ride, was for a period, during “lean times,” also a dentist. He would wire in false teeth made from walrus ivory or animal teeth, and became the first person to practice forensic dentistry in the U.S. “How brilliant the use of wire can be,” Bonfield said, adding that it makes one wonder “what will be going on 250 years from now.”
It was fitting that there was a twist to the tradition of giving the U.K. representative a Clockwinder tie. This year, the memento was a stylish scarf designed by WAI Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications Janice Swindells.
After the ceremony, the participants met for dinner at the Madison Beach Hotel, where there was further talk of tradition and cooperation. There was also a free flow of conversation that went into many directions, capturing the bond of those who are part of the field, and genuinely enjoy the company of their peers. It is that spirit that hopefully will enable the Clockwinding ceremony to continue for future generations as they face new challenges.

Read 245 times Last modified on November 5, 2023