KK’s wooden clock tower still ticking after 107 years


Before the Second War World in peaceful Jesselton.
Director of Sabah State Museum Joanna Kitingan with Geoscientist and Aviation Historian Bruce Blanche who gave a talk on the ‘Early Flight Pioneers of Northwest Borneo’ at the office of the Sabah Society recently.
The Atkinson Clock Tower today.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Museum reassures the public that Kota Kinabalu’s Atkinson Clock Tower (1905) is not being demolished or replaced with a modern more durable structure with quartz clocks.

Some concerned members of the public were worried whether the historical Atkinson Clock Tower that served as a light beacon for ships entering Jesselton wharf in the early 1900s surrounded by scaffolding is being removed.

They recalled next to the wooden clock tower site, there was a proposed redevelopment of the land after the demolition of an old office building that used to house the state housing board (LPPB) and town planning office.

The Atkinson Clock Tower is one of the few wooden clock towers in the world. It was first built using Meribau wood then, and replaced with Salangan Batu wood in the 1960s.

It remains as the oldest man made structure and most popular landmark of Kota Kinabalu with a history that goes back to the establishment of early Kota Kinabalu (then known as Jesselton) from 1899.

Now a favourite photography spot for wedding portraiture and tourists, it was badly damaged but survived the allied bombing and strafing of Jesselton under Japanese occupation during WWII.

The clock tower was built as remembrance for the late Francis George Atkinson, Jesselton’s first district officer who died of malaria at a young age of 28 on December 1902.

The Sabah State Museum is fixing the Atkinson Clock Tower’s faulty night lightings.

Director of Sabah Museum Joanna Kitingan said, “We all agreed that it’s time to give the Atkinson Clock Tower a new face lift, repairs and new coat of paint and change some of the gears that’s slowing down the clock timing”.

Heritage advocate Richard Nelson Sokial who led a campaign to oppose the construction of a neighbouring towering concrete building that will dwarf the wooden clock tower welcomed the museum’s decision to initiate the clock tower’s repairs.

He said “It’s astonishing how very few people know that the Atkinson Clock Tower still works even after 107 years. It’s a living heritage of Kota Kinabalu, the oldest city landmark since 1905. It deserves respect and protection.”

He hoped that the repair works would keep with the current façade of the clock tower.

The Atkinson Clock Tower has been renovated several times over the last 107 years to improve its appearance and upkeep.

The preliminary repair works on the illumination of the clock’s double faces has been completed, while subsequent repairs on the structure wall and the clock mechanism will be progressing within the upcoming few weeks.

The appointed contractors stated that they in the process of evaluate the condition of the clock tower’s timber structure to decide if it needs an overhaul. The clock mechanism is currently wound up weekly by a family member of a watch smith shop – Yick Ming Watch Dealer every Saturday afternoon since 1946.

CJs are allowed to take photographs there at next year’s convention for a historic remembrance of Kota Kinabalu.

The location of the Atkinson Clock Tower in the early 1900s