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Historic timepiece returns to Rarotonga after 90 years

Tuesday 8 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Features


Historic timepiece returns to Rarotonga after 90 years
Simon Crispe shows Makea Karika George Ariki how to delicately wind the precious timepiece he has returned to the Makea Karika tribe. The ‘Bledisloe Clock’ was gifted to Makea Karika Takau Ariki from the New Zealand Governor General, Lord Bledisloe and Lady Bledisloe in 1933. MELINA ETCHES /23080714

In a remarkable turn of events, the long-lost ‘Bledisloe Clock’ has finally found its way back to Rarotonga, after 90 astonishing years.

The Bledisloe clock, a magnificent antique English clock superbly crafted by the “Empire” clock company, was gifted to Makea Karika Takau Ariki from the former Governor General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe and his wife, during their visit to Rarotonga in 1933.

The clock was recently returned to Rarotonga after 90 years, thanks to the efforts of Auckland architect Simon Crispe and New Zealand senior journalist Jane Phare.

Crispe’s father had looked after the clock for over 40 years after it was brought into his shop for repairs. When no one came to collect the clock after it had been repaired, he didn’t know where it belonged.

In 1987, Crispe’s father contacted the New Zealand Police to have the clock gazetted, but after several weeks in the newspaper no one came forward to claim it. And so the clock remained in the family.

Crispe recognised the clock’s historical significance and decided to try to reunite it with its rightful owners.

He contacted Phare, a dear friend, who started making contact with Ian Karika and Makea Karika George on Rarotonga.

After a year of searching, Crispe and Phare were finally able to track down the rightful owners of the clock. Over the weekend, Crispe presented the clock to Makea Karika George Ariki at a special “turou” welcoming ceremony at the palace grounds.

Crispe said: “It’s the feeling of completing a circle and the repatriation of this very special clock to the people where it rightly belongs.”

“I felt very uncomfortable owning it, because I knew from the plaque, that this was a very special item that had been gifted by the New Zealand Governor General to the Cook Islands 90 years ago, so it should not have been with me in New Zealand.

“So, I’ve been very proud to have been part of creating this circle of 90 years.”

Phare was also “very moved” by the traditional turou and thrilled to be a part of solving the mystery of the clock.

“It’s an experience we will all never forget … this is such a special thing to do,” she said.

Makea Karika George Ariki expressed his profound gratitude upon the clock’s homecoming.

“I’m really appreciative to Simon and Jane for searching for the owners, they kept on looking, kept on searching and they found us.

“We are grateful, its return represents a reconnection with our ancestors and a time of remembrance.”

The return of this historical timepiece has sparked excitement and intrigue in the Makea Karika tribe, as it reconnects them with a significant piece of their heritage.