Cat and Fiddle Arcade is the hub of Hobart's CBD and is a key shopping locale. But the best bit of the arcade is something that all Hobart locals hold with more than a little fondness in their hearts…the animated clock.
It's more retro than sherbert and bellbottoms combined. On the hour, the clock starts moving to music of the nursery "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon." There are no high-tech computers involved here – it's all metal and wood pieces built onto a mechanical gadget that makes the cow jump over the moon, and the dish run away with the spoon. The melody was produced by a glockenspiel and vibraphone and was recorded in Melbourne.
Cat and Fiddle Arcade opened in July 1962 thanks to Hobart retail pioneer Charles Davis, and pulled a pretty impressive crowd all keen to be delighted by its modern wonders. The fountain is long gone, but owners say the clock will never be removed.
The arcade opening in 1962 Image from Cat and Fiddle Facebook page
Even today, if you hover about just before the hour, you'll see parents waiting with their children, and even adults lingering by, all wanting a glimpse of this lovely historical relic in action.
In the past few years, the arcade was given a $16 million upgrade, 16 new shops, and a new glass façade on Elizabeth Mall, featuring images from the past. Owners successfully renovated sensitively, maintaining the arcade's historical features.
Even though the arcade opened in 1962, Cat and Fiddle has been a key feature of Hobart for more than 100 years. It started off as a somewhat seedy alley back in the colonial era, and was the site of the Cat and Fiddle Tavern. It opened in 1817 with just 20 houses, stables, fellmonger's yards and brothels.
The Cat and Fiddle Arcade clock plays on the hour seven days a week between 8am to 11pm.
What I'd like to know is, why does the cat now have it's top paw facing the wrong way? Even the logos for the centre have been changed to show the paw facing the wrong way. Did they really not notice that it's now playing the fiddle by using the back of its paw on the bridge instead of its claws as shown in the original black and white photos?