My Grandfather's Clock

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"Grand-Father's Clock" was first published in 1876.

"Grandfather's Clock" is a song written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, the author of "Marching Through Georgia". It is a standard of British brass bands and colliery bands, and is also popular in bluegrass music. It has also been sung by male choruses such as the Robert Shaw Chorale. The Oxford English Dictionary says the song was the origin of the term "grandfather clock" for a longcase clock.[1] In 1905, the earlist known recording of this song was performed by Harry McDonough amd the Haydn Quartet(Known then as the "Edison Quartet").

Tune[edit]

The opening bars of the tune are very similar to a motif used in the Allegro section of the 14th number (Andante-Adagio-Allegro) of Beethoven's Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, opus 43.

Storyline[edit]

It was in this Piercebridge hotel that the author encountered a remarkable clock that inspired the song.

The song, told from a grandchild's point of view, is about his grandfather's clock.

The clock is purchased on the morning of the grandfather's birth and works perfectly for 90 years, requiring only that it be wound at the end of each week.

Yet the clock seems to eerily know the good and bad events in the grandfather's life – as it rings 24 chimes when the grandfather brings his bride into his house, and near his death it rings an eerie alarm, which the family recognizes to mean that the grandfather is near death and gathers by his bed. After the grandfather dies, the clock suddenly stops, and never works again.

Sequel[edit]

Work published a sequel to the song two years after, and again the grandson acts as the narrator.

The grandson laments the fate of the no-longer-functioning grandfather clock – it was sold to a junk dealer, who sold its parts for scrap and its case for kindling. In the grandfather's house, the clock was replaced by a wall clock, which the grandson disdains (referring to it as "that vain, stuck-up thing on the wall").

However, the sequel never reached the popularity of the original.[2]

Since the original song was covered many times, the sequels in other languages may vary. For example, in Czech version, sung by Taxmeni country band, the song continues with an additional, joyful strophe, narrating about further events in grandson's life: a birth of his baby son, and purchase of a new clock at the same day, to keep the family tradition.[3]

Covers and inspirations[edit]

"My Grandfather's Clock" was often played in Britain on Children's Favourites and during that period was recorded by the Radio Revellers. In the United States, a version, without the last stanza of lyrics, was on an extended-play 45 rpm record on the Peter Pan label (the other song on that side was The Syncopated Clock, and the flip side had The Arkansas Traveler and Red River Valley). Johnny Cash covered the song on his 1959 album Songs of Our Soil. Evelyn Knight recorded the song for Decca Records. Also in 1959, it was included on The Four Lads' album, Swing Along. Other versions became popular in other countries; it is well known to many generations in Japan, with a cover by singer Ken Hirai becoming massively popular in 2002.

In March 1961, on his album, 'Swing Low' (Side 2, Track 1), Sam Cooke did a rendition of the song.

Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album 101 Gang Songs (1961).

The song was the inspiration for the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Ninety Years Without Slumbering".

A popular clock toy, marketed by Fisher-Price from 1962 to 1968, had a dial on it that, when turned, caused the music box mechanism in the toy to play the song along with clock-like ticking and moving hands on the face of the clock. An updated version of the toy (which is completely made of plastic and with other activities like a clicking plastic mouse on the side) has been manufactured by Fisher-Price since 1994. Imitations of the toy made by various companies exist and are sold in various countries worldwide.

In 1983, Fred Penner, a Canadian children's entertainer, covered "My Grandfather's Clock" on the LP album Special Delivery, which was later rereleased as Ebenezer Sneezer on CD in 1994.

A version of the song was recorded by Red Grammer on his 1994 family music recording, Down The Do Re Mi.

It was parodied as "My Grandfather's Grunge" by the Kenneth Williams character Rambling Syd Rumpo on the BBC radio show Round the Horne, written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman.

"My Grandfather's Clock" is a playable song in the 2008 video game Wii Music.


This song was also used in the game, Five Nights at Freddy's 2, made by Scott Cawthon, which was released on November 10, 2014. The chorus of the song plays whenever the player winds up a music box to keep away the evil animatronic characters.

Lyrics[edit]

The City Green in Union Park of Middletown, Connecticut includes this bust of the author near his birthplace.

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopped short never to go again when the old man died


In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours he spent as a boy.
And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,
With a blooming and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place — not a frown upon its face,
And its hands never hung by its side.
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopped short never to go again when the old man died.


It rang an alarm in the dead of the night —
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight —
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side;
But it stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
His life's seconds numbering,
(tick, tock, tick, tock),
It stopped short — never to go again —
When the old man died.[4][5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary" (available online to subscribers, also in print). Retrieved 2009-04-19. Grandfather's clock [suggested by a song which was popular about 1880], a furniture-dealer's name for the kind of weight-and-pendulum eight-day clock in a tall case, formerly in common use; also grandfather clock (now the usual name): [1876 H. C. WORK Grandfather's Clock, My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf, So it stood ninety years on the floor.] 
  2. ^ "Sequel To MY GRANDFATHER'S CLOCK - 1878 - Tom Roush". YouTube. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2015-11-18.  Link is broken because Tom Roush deleted the video and re-uploaded it. Here is the new video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ehhQ89b8_nw
  3. ^ Taxmeni (1977). "Dědečkovy hodiny". YouTube.  Czech cover version of My Grandfather's Clock
  4. ^ Henry C. Work (1876). "Grandfather's clock". New York: C. M. Cady. Retrieved 5 May 2012. original publication uses "tick, tick, tick, tick", "tock" was added later 
  5. ^ "History of the Grandfather Clock". The Clock Depot. Retrieved June 29, 2012. 
  • Zecher, Henry (October 2005). "How an old floor clock became a grandfather". The Pride of Olney (Lion's Club of Olney, Maryland) 30 (76). Retrieved August 12, 2013. on Henry Zecher's personal website

External links[edit]