Clock stolen after 'a few beers' returned 65 years later

Dunedin man John Dore says the clock has been ticking for more than 50 years to return a treasured family heirloom to its rightful owner.

Yesterday, he finally delivered, handing a 141-year-old antique timepiece over to Dunedin Railways chief executive Craig Osbourne.

Mr Dore (71) told the Otago Daily Times the clock — made by the United States-based Ansonia Clock Company in 1878 — had "appeared" in his family home in the 1950s.

Growing up, he had always believed it once belonged to his grandfather, who had eventually passed it on to Mr Dore’s father, Wallis, in 1954.

The story stuck as the clock was proudly displayed as a "centrepiece" near the front door of the family home — until it broke and was put away in a closet, he said.

About 15 years later, Mr Dore decided to rescue and restore it, before putting it on display in his own home in Portobello.

It took pride of place there, too, even after a visitor asked Mr Dore: "Where did you pinch the railway clock from?"

"I said ‘Don’t be bloody smart — it used to belong to my grandfather’. I thought it was my inheritance."

John Dore with a clock his father purloined from the Caversham railway station after a trip to...
John Dore with a clock his father purloined from the Caversham railway station after a trip to the Wingatui races in the 1950s. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
But the question nagged at Mr Dore, who  relayed the story to his mother a year or so later.

"I happened to mention it to my mother, what this guy said, and she sort of looked a bit embarrassed.

"She said ‘ahem — I think you’ll find your father and [a friend], after the races on a Friday night, stole it from the Caversham railway station after a few beers’."

Mr Dore said he had been "a bit flattened" by the revelation — although it was not out of character for his father, who was in his early 20s at the time of the heist.

"I thought ‘there’s my inheritance shot to pieces’."

But, given the passage of time and being an antique collector himself, Mr Dore decided to hold on to the clock — at least for the time being.

"I’ve had it ever since, and I thought I must give it back to them one day. I’ve been meaning to do it for quite a while."

Yesterday, he finally fulfilled that promise by handing it over to Mr Osbourne — along with a brief explanation — in the ticket office of Dunedin Railways.

Mr Osbourne said it was a "really cool" gesture and one that would be recognised by the company.

The clock would be displayed in the ticket office, along with an explanation of its back story, and Mr Dore and his family were offered a free train trip as a gesture of thanks.

"It’s a lovely story. Sixty-five years it’s been away, and it’s come back."


Admire your honesty Mr Dore