£20,000 campaign to reinstate Dollar Park floral clock

Ready to get stuck in...Sandy McGill, Les Pryde, Lynda Ross-Hale and Roy Dewar, senior Criminal Justice supervisor. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Ready to get stuck in...Sandy McGill, Les Pryde, Lynda Ross-Hale and Roy Dewar, senior Criminal Justice supervisor. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

A fundraising drive to raise £20,000 to reinstate the Dollar Park floral clock in Falkirk is being launched today (Thursday).

A joint initiative between the Cyrenians and the Rotary Club of Falkirk, residents are being asked to get behind the campaign.

Logo...designed by Eden Consultancy Group in Falkirk will be used in sticker form to reward those who make donations to the campaign, which launched on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

Logo...designed by Eden Consultancy Group in Falkirk will be used in sticker form to reward those who make donations to the campaign, which launched on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

The Howgate Centre is playing its part by hosting two bucket collection days on Friday, March 30, and Saturday, May 5.

And a display will be set up in Unit 1, next to Trespass, detailing the campaign and the clock’s long history.

Eden Consultancy Group has also pitched in, designing a logo which will be awarded in the form of a sticker to anyone who donates funds.

The Cyrenians and Rotary Club of Falkirk have enlisted the services of Les Pryde, Friends of Dollar Park chairman, who has a long association with the clock.

Floral display in 1969...the first clock that Les Pryde had a hand in overseeing, at the end of his five year apprenticeship with the town council. (Contributed pic)

Floral display in 1969...the first clock that Les Pryde had a hand in overseeing, at the end of his five year apprenticeship with the town council. (Contributed pic)

Les, in fact, planted the clock flower display in 1969 – at the end of his five year apprenticeship with the town council.

And when he returned to Falkirk after gaining a National Diploma at the West of Scotland Agricultural College, he oversaw its planting for many years in his role as principal parks officer and, latterly, assistant director of leisure services.

But Les can’t quite believe he will once again be overseeing it.

The 68-year-old said: “It’s strange, almost 50 years after I was first involved, suddenly here I am helping to reinstate the clock.

“It really has gone full circle! I never thought this would happen or that I would be involved again.”

But involved he is and Les has already secured the services of Edinburgh Council’s floral clock team, who are currently cultivating the plants required to ensure the new face is blooming lovely.

The carpet bedding plants alone are costing £2500 – a bargain price when you consider they can be used, year after year, if well tended in the autumn and winter.

This year, the floral clock will celebrate the Cyrenians 50th anniversary.

But thanks to Falkirk Council installing new electrics to power the clock, and the bedding plants being in hand, organisations will in future be able to bid to have their own celebrations mapped out in flowers in the Dollar Park display.

Les said: “We got an exceptionally good deal from Edinburgh Council as the specialist plants for the carpet bedding would be far more expensive from a commercial grower.

“The plants will be propegated in the autumn by the Criminal Justice Service team and volunteers from the Cyrenians.

“I’ll be on hand to help them too.

“That means we won’t have the same costs every year – the electrics are now in and we’ll have all the plants we need.”

However, to enable the enthusiastic team to get the project off the ground this year, they first need to raise the £20,000 required.

And Sandy McGill and his fellow Rotarians are more than up for that challenge.

Sandy (73) said: “When Lynda from the Cyrenians asked if we would like to get on board, we were more than happy to do so.

“So many different events have been celebrated over the years on the clock – there was a sense of civic pride associated with it.

“I remember it being there when I was a child and I’m sure hundreds of couples in Falkirk will recall it from their wedding day photos.

“We’re just hoping other businesses and individuals will now get behind the campaign and support us.

“We’re not just reinstating a floral clock; we’re returning a much-loved landmark to the park and hope it will once again serve the community, for years to come.”

The Cyrenians first mooted the project after being tasked by Falkirk Council to manage and maintain the park’s walled garden after its restoration in 2015.

With the charity’s 50th anniversary, and its move to Arnotdale House in September, 2018 seemed the ideal time for a new project.

And the floral clock fulfills two aims – helping the charity celebrate its milestone birthday as well as giving its Criminal Justice Service team another project to get its teeth into.

Lynda Ross-Hale, senior manager, said: “We have been fortunate to have heard people’s memories of the clock and would like to build new memories now.”

You can donate in the Howgate Centre, text DFLO77£10 (£sum you want to donate) to 70070 or visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/cyrenians-edinburgh/floralclock.

First clock created in 1925

Falkirk’s first floral clock was the work of William McRae, the superintendent of the cemetery in Camelon.

Around 1925 he created a clock with hands but no mechanism in an “out of the way” corner of the cemetery.

In that year the Cemetery Committee investigated the possibility of providing a mechanism but nothing was done, although the idea remained on the agenda for many years.

It was, however, greatly appreciated by visitors and in 1934 it was relocated to a prominent position near the entrance gates.

By 1937, William McRae was responsible for parks and it was decided the clock would better serve the community in the town’s most popular recreation area, Dollar Park – gifted to the town in 1923 by the philanthropist Robert Dollar, a Falkirk Bairn who had made a huge fortune in the USA.

The clock was placed to the left of the entrance gates, flanked by Dollar’s Chinese dragon statues. In 1941 one visitor said it was “an even finer piece of work than the one in Edinburgh”.

From 1945 onwards the clock was redesigned each year to mark anniversaries and special events and this continued until the 1980s.

The campaign to install a mechanism was revived in the 1950s and in 1959 the Rotary Club of Falkirk funded the task – so at long last the clock hands began to turn.

In 1982, the council decided to reposition the clock at Westbank, near the Municipal Buildings and Town Hall – it was laid out on the banking to the right of the entrance. But by the end of the 1980s it had died on the vine and disappeared.

Les Pryde added: “It will be a proud moment seeing the clock in its full glory this summer, back in its rightful place.”