The Story Of Morden's Office Clock

by Judy Burgess

In 1920, the Morden mine had a coal output of 94,779 tons for the year, after previous lower yields. Henry Devlin, the Ministry of Mines inspector for the Nanaimo District, reported:

"During the coming year it is expected that a vigorous policy of development will be continued."

"From the average tons to the acre already produced from the worked portion of the mine, it is estimated this territory will yield 1000 tons a day for the next fifty years." *

With every thing looking so rosy, and the work force increased to 196 underground, it was decided housing would be moved from the Company’s recently closed first mine, the Fiddick/Richardson, located, like Morden, near the mining town of South Wellington. Fourteen cottages, two eight roomed houses (for the use of the manager and overman) and one large boarding house were carried along the Company’s connecting railway line, and re-erected, near the tracks, about two hundred yards before the line passed through the Morden mine-site, on its way to Boat Harbour.

The Mines inspector also noted:

"The overman’s office has been temporarily fitted up to accommodate the office and engineering staff until the office is moved from South Wellington." *

There is no record as to whether the office at the Fiddick/Richardson mine near South Wellington, ever did get moved, but it seems likely that the office clock was at least part of the “temporary fitting up” of the overman’s office.

The following year, in 1921, the Inspector of mines report was very different:

"This company did not do any work underground at either its Morden or its Suquash Collieries, employing only one man at each, practically as watchmen." *

How little this bald statement of failure reflects the impact the closing down of the mine had on local mine workers! The office, one is reported as saying, was afloat with worthless pay slips. Another, so incensed with the situation and how much the Company had let him down, took the matter of compensation into his own hands. The Company’s fine office clock still hung on the wall. In just moments this “disappeared”, soon to re-appear on the wall of the miner’s home. Imagine succeeding generations of the miner’s family telling the story again and again. Some no doubt sympathized really strongly with the original action, but maybe others disapproved?

Happily, once the Friends of the Morden Mine Society took on the task of trying to preserve the structures at Morden, themselves a monument to the miners’ struggles of that era, a descendant of the angry Morden miner donated the clock to the Society. The donation was made to the Society, through others, and was stipulated to be strictly anonymous, so it was not possible to seek further details about the life of its previous owner.

However the Society is very grateful to whoever made this donation, as there are so few tangible reminders left of life at Morden, apart from the amazing reinforced concrete structures themselves.

Display at Nanaimo Museum;

From the Summer of 2008 it will be possible for visitors to view Morden’s office clock in the new premises of the Nanaimo and District Museum. The Society have offered to loan the clock to the Museum, so that it can be displayed, with its story, as part of the Museum’s new coal mining history experience.

* Annual Reports of the Minister of Mines, 1920 and 1921