Silent WitnessesJanuary 18, 2010
The Royal Arcade in Melbourne has always been one of my favourite places. My father often took me to see the giants – Gog and Magog – when I was a little girl and then, a dozen or so years later, I would scurry up the Royal Arcade to catch the tram up Bourke Street to my first job, or scurry down as I weaved my way through the arcades to catch the train home.
I remember being a bit scared of them as a little tacker and as an adult, I never passed beneath them without bidding them “G’day” in my mind. I don’t know why I would do that, only that it felt discourteous not to acknowledge them.
One time, when I was a little girl, dad took me to the Royal Arcade one Sunday and there was hardly any people around. We were walking towards Gog and Magog and I was being a silly sausage, shouting at the top of my voice: “When I grow up, I’m going to marry you, daddy”.
The innocence of childhood, eh?
Melbourne city is full of arcades and the Royal Arcade was originally built in 1869 and is the oldest surviving retail arcade in Australia. It has always been home to the most fascinating , well-known and beautiful shops as well as the practical drycleaners, shoe repair and key-cutting stalls.
The two figures of Gog and Magog were installed in 1892 and still ring their bells every hour and the clock is still entirely mechanical.
The inscription under the clock reads:
(Left side) “These two 7-feet giants have been striking the time on Gaunt’s clock since 1842. They were carved from clear pine and modelled on the figures erected in Guildhall, London, in 1708 to symbolise the conflict between the ancient Britons and the Trojan invaders.”
(Right side) “Mythology tells of the giants Gog and Magog (also known as Corineus and Gogmagog) having been captured in battle by the Trojans and made to serve as porters at the gateway of an ancient palace on a site later occupied by the Guildhall. It is traditional for Gog to stand to the north and Magog to the south.”