Clifford Bird

Michael Pollitt, obituaries editorA passion for clocks started at jumbles sales for Norfolk author and horologist, Clifford Bird, who has died aged 78.The retired international oil company executive had started buying clocks when he was just 12 years old and later accumulated one of the world's largest collection of more than 500 Norfolk-made Metamec Clocks.Michael Pollitt, obituaries editor

A passion for clocks started at jumbles sales for Norfolk author and horologist, Clifford Bird, who has died aged 78.

The retired international oil company executive had started buying clocks when he was just 12 years old and later accumulated one of the world's largest collection of more than 500 Norfolk-made Metamec Clocks.

After working around the world, he moved to Diss in 1991, partly because of the region's rich heritage of clocks. He became involved with local affairs including working to re-open the Diss Museum, which became a reality two years later.

He was a member of the general council of the Antiquarian Horological Society, chairing the East Anglian section, and was diocesan adviser on turret clocks in Norfolk and Suffolk.

His definitive book on the history of Norfolk and Norwich clockmakers, covering about 200 years from 1650, was also well-received.

Born in Surrey, he also studied at the Surrey Conservatoire of Music. But his family had strong links with East Anglia and he traced ancestors to the Suffolk village of Cransford. He was a member of the Society of Genealogists for more than 20 years, which helped his investigations.

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After school, he joined Mobil Oil as a salesman and early appointments brought him to East Anglia, first to Bury St Edmunds and then to Beccles, where he married Yvonne. When he was working in East Anglia in the mid 1950s, he was able to acquire some long case clocks for as little as 30 shillings or �1.50.

He travelled the world on Mobil's business including the United States, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and China and held a number of managerial roles including before retiring as the company's UK lubricants manager in 1988.

He helped the Samaritans for about 20 years but clocks were always his main hobby. As a collector of Metamec clocks, which spanned five decades, he featured on Anglia TV's That's Your Lot programme in February 2004.

He spent six years of research to write a history of the company, 'How Metamec Grew, Flourished and Faded,' which was written with his wife's help.

The company, originally Bowman Models in Dereham in the late 1920s and early '30s, was run by Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins and Bernard Smart. When they parted company, Mr Smart set up Jentique furniture, and later decided to go into clocks. He designed a mains electric synchronous clock movement and Metamec was born.

During the 1960s and '70s Metamec employ 800 staff in its heyday. It produced 350 different models of clock, and made 25,000 a week but in December 1984, due to declining sales, the company went into receivership.

In December 2007, he was made an honorary citizen of Diss and was described in the citation as 'a great asset to the town' notably for his involvement in the town's museum. He had also been a prime mover in raising funds to buy a 1637 map of Diss.

He leaves a widow, Yvonne, three children and grandchildren.

A memorial service was due to be held today St Mary's Church, Diss at 1pm.

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