Wednesday, 17 October 2012


PAUL Violet is superintendent for Bridport Cemetery, living in a lodge in the graveyard with his wife and daughter. Born in Drimpton, the 47-year-old has lived his whole life in the area, moving to Bridport when he married 25 years ago. As well as caring for the cemetery, Paul has been responsible for the running of the Town Hall Clock for four years.

DO YOU enjoy the job?
I love it. March, April, walking through the banks of primroses and daffodils - it’s just fantastic. I see the buds get fatter and fatter and then a few pop and overnight the rest come out. You see nature day-to-day and it’s brilliant. The wildlife is fantastic.

WHAT does the job entail?
I look after the grounds, do the maintenance and liaise with the undertakers for new burials. I dig the small ashes graves, 2ft by 2ft. We get the machine in to do the full internment graves. If we have a re-opener – a burial that’s going to take place in an existing grave – then you’ve got to double-check,  triple-check to make sure you are in exactly the right place.

DO MANY people visit the cemetery?
Some days you might not see anybody. Other days people come in and out all the time. Now, because of the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? more people are delving into family history so want to find where their relatives are buried. So I spend quite a lot of time looking for burial plots for relatives that have come from all over England, all over the world. I’ve had people from New Zealand, South Africa Canada, all over. It’s not very often we can’t find the grave, although some don’t have a headstone because they were never purchased so it’s a common grave. But if the name’s in the book I can find them in the grounds.

IS IT spooky to live and sleep in a cemetery?
No it’s not. The dead aren’t going to hurt you are they? Quite often I’ll come out here of an evening and just have a wander. It’s peaceful. I wouldn’t say I believe in ghosts, but you never know do you?

HOW did you get to be responsible for the clock?
It was by chance. I went into get a suit one day and Roger Snook used to look after it. It’s a voluntary thing. He’d offered to look after it for three months and ended up doing it for 11 years. He was looking for someone to take it on. When I said I’d do it his eyes lit up and he said: 'I’ll meet you at the town hall clock and I’ll show you what to do.'

IS IT a lot of work?
The first few years it wasn’t too bad,  but it always gained a few minutes every few weeks so I was always up here adjusting the time. Then when we had all the work done on the Town Hall there were lots of issues because I had to stop the clock when the scaffolders were up there and every 15 minutes the workers were getting an earful. When the scaffolding came down everybody was moaning because the clock wasn’t going: I was on holiday. When I got back and restarted it the painters had moved the hands round so we had problems. That was when the clock stopped at the start of the year.

WHAT was wrong with it?
It took me a hours and hours to sort out. It turned out to be a very tight bearing and since then we’ve had it looked at and repaired. Now it runs really well. I haven’t touched it since July and it’s keeping good time. In spite of what people might think it is accurate to my watch which I set to the speaking clock every day.

DOES it need winding?
No, it’s wound with electric now. But back when they had a clock winder he used to have to come in a side entrance and up a spiral staircase. The entrance is still there next to where the ladies toilet used to be.

DOES the clock really strike 13 on New Year’s Eve?
Yes, it’s a tradition in Bridport. As far as I know it’s always been like that. I know it’s 13 strikes because it’s me up there in the clock tower New Year’s Eve doing it. The mechanism is on silent at night so I have to do it by hand.

THE clocks go back this month. Will you be adjusting the Town Hall clock?
Yes. I’ll go into town Saturday and at about 11 o’clock I’ll stop the clock and go to the pub for an hour. Then I’ll go back and restart it. That’s about the science of it!

HOW much do you enjoy your roles in the town?
I love it. For quite a few years of your life you’re around the town and you feel you’re like everybody else – you’re taking things from the community. But now working for the town council you are putting things back into the community. And Bridport is a lovely vibrant town. I have always loved Bridport. When I left school three was never any chance of me working anywhere else apart from here. Bridport has been a good town for me and now I’m putting a lot back into the town, which is really good.

WHO would you have round for dinner?
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Apollo crew who landed on the moon and my grandparents who all died when I was in my early teens. I’d love to hear their stories.

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