Keeping time: Repairman puts in decades keeping local clocks running

Have a grandfather clock that just isn’t keeping time? Don’t get your pendulum all out of whack, just call Roland Murphy.

Coastal Point • Maria Counts Roland Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Grandfather Clock Repair, has been in the clock business for 30 years.Coastal Point • Maria Counts
Roland Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Grandfather Clock Repair, has been in the clock business for 30 years.
The owner of Murphy’s Grandfather Clock Repair, Roland Murphy has been in the clock business for 30 years. Starting in Harford County, Md., Murphy was asked by the Daneker Clock company there if he would take over their local distributors’ stores, as they were about to go out of business.

“So I got three months of factory training, while they were preparing to go out of business. That was in the early ’80s.”

Murphy was able to get a lot of Daneker’s stock of parts, some of which he still has and uses while repairing clocks today.

“When I started my business in Maryland, I was working for AT&T. And when they broke the phone company in ’85, I took an early out and we moved down here to be closer to my in-laws. I moved here in 1985, so I’m still new to the area,” Murphy admitted with a laugh. “I’ve been here 24 years.”

Since then, Murphy has been a go-to man for grandfather clock repairs in Kent and Sussex counties.

“It’s a big area, but the clock repair people are like a dying breed. There are no young ones anymore,” he said.

Though there are few people remaining with his skill, he doesn’t worry about the digitalization of clocks and watches.

“That doesn’t bother me. There will always be 1795 clocks around to do,” said Murphy, referring to a clock he was working on recently.

Instead of offering shop hours, Murphy does house calls. Working four days a week, he’ll travel to an area, such as Bethany Beach or Rehoboth, and go to three or four houses, by appointment.

“So what I do is make house calls to their homes, find out what’s wrong with their clock, and then let them know how much and how long it will take to do it.” Murphy continued, “I usually take the works out of the cabinet and bring them back to my shop.”

Working on the repairs in his shop, he tries not to replace any of the clock’s original parts, because it would devalue the clock.

With his work a dwindling art, Murphy has never even had an apprentice working under him.

“I never had a walk-in shop where someone could stay. But I never missed that because I like the freedom of setting my own appointments,” he said.

But the love of clocks runs in the family, as Murphy’s son, Roland G. Murphy, was Swiss-trained in watch-making and now designs his own line of custom watches. Murphy proudly wears one of his son’s creations, a replica World War II pilot’s watch. The two have even worked together in 1990, repairing a clock in Dover.

Not only does Murphy repair clocks, he also dabbles in collecting.

“I have about 30 watches, some of them are nice watches, like a Rolex I bought at a show. It was a basket case, and I had it refurbished,” said Murphy.

His real love, however, is grandfather clocks.

“Most of my work is from the 1950’s up to today’s clocks,” Murphy noted. But he also works on older clocks, like the Dutch clock he repaired in Lewes, which was made in 1750 and, Murphy pointed out, is older than the United States.

Murphy has a wealth of knowledge where timepieces are concerned, from the mechanics of clocks to the history behind them. It’s no wonder that many Delaware residents have him keeping their clocks ticking.

For more information about Murphy’s Grandfather Clock Repair or to set up an appointment, call (302) 424-1112.