Monday, 23 March 2009

Colborne's bell to return soon

The bell which once warned kids off the streets may soon be back in its place in Victoria Square in Colborne.

The bell was donated to Colborne in 1906 by James Coyle Sr, great grandfather of Brenda Irish.
Coyle was an orchard owner over a hundred years ago when the fruit industry was a major employer in the Colborne area. One of his storage buildings was on Creek Street, in the core of the former village of Colborne.

James Coyle Sr. originally rang it at noon and six p.m.
He was followed at some point Chief Jamison.

Most long-time residents recall it as a curfew bell but it was used for more than that.
Joe and Art Hodge ran a service station near Victoria Square, on Toronto St. They rang it to mark noon.

Colborne octogenarian and lifelong resident, Bill Ball says the bell was rung for the curfew in the thirties, but not during or after World War II.

There was a rope and a wire running down from the top of the bell, says Ball. The wire, on the north side was shorter so that the kids couldn’t reach it. The wire was pulled and the bell was rung repeatedly to signal a fire and to call the firemen. The south rope was used for curfew and noon rings.

Ball, like most of those who lived here 70 years ago, remembers the bell ringer and town handyman and cop, Joe Farrell who rang it daily. Some say he checked the time on the “turn of the century” style wall clock mounted in Mayhew’s Jewelers on the north side of King St. E.

Harold Mayhew married the daughter of the store founder John Rutherford and took over the store in 1894, running it until 1956 when he sold it to Ed Rimmer. Harold and Joan Harnden were the last owners, finally closing in 1991 after 21 years in the business.

Rutherford launched the store in 1882. He was a first cousin of Walter Rutherford’s grandfather.

Walter lived in east Colborne as a child and says you could hear the bell ring on a clear day or when the wind blew the right direction. He and his buddies weren’t often downtown at night. They preferred the open fields on Parliament St. where they could play ball until they got tired, drifting off home. Even thought he wasn’t directly affected by the bell, he knew its ring meant it was time to be home.

Walter remembers Joe Farrell as the town foreman, and street cleaner. Farrell was the sole non-office employee of the village at the time. When the rink needed to be flooded, Joe was the man for the job. Farrell even made the cement culverts needed by the village, using a portable mixer.
He was followed in his position by George Blyth, known by many for his quick wit and strongly held views.

For a time after it was removed from the park, the bell sat on a cairn on the Church St. E. lawn of James Coyle Jr, grandson of the donator, and brother of Helen Irish.

Many years after the bell had last been rung, James Coyle Sr.’s granddaughter, Helen Irish, gave it back to the town. It has sat in the township yard in Colborne for several years.

The committee organizing Colborne’s 150th anniversary is hoping to restore the bell to Victoria Square in time for the celebrations on August 1.

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