Wagga Courthouse clock has been maintained by the Breust family for 58 years

In the middle of the night, while this NSW Riverina city lay sleeping, Des Breust climbed the familiar rungs of the ladder to the bell tower above the courthouse.

He and his family have done each week for 58 years. But on this particular night, while he stood five storeys high, he spotted something that gave him pause and has become one of his favourite stories to tell.

"We often tell the story ... we were up there coming down in the bell tower and we saw a bloke coming out of Romano's. He was worse for wear, he was going two steps forward, four steps back," Mr Breust recalls.

"So I leaned over the thing and yelled out 'God will punish you!' and he looked around and he didn't know where it was coming from so we did it again and he took off to the police station. We never saw him again."

Stepping away from the job he started when he was just 17 years old, Mr Breust said he would miss the being able to keep the city's time running smoothly.

"My mother wanted me to have a trade," Mr Breust said of the decision to become an apprentice jeweller when he was freshly finished school.

"A job came up to be an apprentice across the road [from the courthouse] at Hunter's, so I took it. Unfortunately, my mother passed away about two years after I started."

To keep the Wagga Wagga clock running smoothly, Mr Breust would ascend the spiral staircase inside the tower toward the vertical steel ladders which then lead into the clock mechanism.

"The main thing is the maintenance of it and the weekly winding of it," Mr Breust said.

"It has to be wound each week without fail otherwise the big weights end up sitting on the bottom [of the clock tower] and you've got big problems.

"It's a big commitment."

Describing the job as a "labour of love", it has been something Mr Breust has shared with his family. Each of his sons has trained to keep the clock moving as well.

But now, the Breust family will retire from maintaining the clock, giving the job over to the Wagga Historical Engine Club.


On Monday, the NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman arrived in Wagga to unveil a plaque that will be set into the ground beneath the clock tower to honour the Breust family's long service.

"This family has looked after perhaps one of the most iconic sites in Wagga," Mr Speakman said.

"The courthouse has been here since 1982, but the clock predates that and I understand it's largely a replica of Big Ben [in London].

"It's pretty remarkable to have one family climbing that tower every week for 58 years looking after that clock."

Beginning this week, the job will now be taken over by the seven members of the historical engine club. President Lance Tucker described it as an honour and a privilege to be given the responsibility.

"It's a totally different view you get up there to down here," Mr Tucker said.

"You can just about see all the way to the Commercial Club from up there. There's nothing like it."

This story Family retires after almost 60 years of keeping this city's clock running first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.