The Alteration of Time

It’s that time of year again. The clocks went forward at 1am on 26th March, when I was in bed.  I  scheduled this post for exactly that time to see what would happen. By the time I get up tomorrow morning I’ll be on Irish Summer Time and it will probably take me most of the day to work out how to change the clock on my oven again. Still, at least there will be a slight reduction in the amount of confusion over the timing of next week’s batch of telecons.

Among the many sensible decisions made recently by the European Parliament was to approve a directive that will abolish `Daylight Saving Time’. I’ve long felt that the annual ritual of putting the clocks forward in the Spring and back again in the Autumn was a waste of time effort, so I’ll be glad when this silly practice is terminated. It would be better in my view to stick with a single Mean Time throughout the year. This was supposed to happen in 2021 but has been delayed and I gather there are no plans to make it happen in the foreseeable future.

The  splendid poster above is from 1916, when British Summer Time was introduced. You might be surprised to learn that the practice of changing clocks backwards and forwards is only about a hundred years old, in the United Kingdom. To be honest I’m also surprised that the practice persists to this day, as I can’t see any real advantage in it. Any institution or organization that really wants to change its working hours in summer can easily do so, but the world of work is far more flexible nowadays than it was a hundred years ago and I think few would feel the need.

Anyway, while I am on about Mean Time, here is a another poster from 1916.

Until October 1916, clocks in Ireland were set to Dublin Mean Time, as defined at Dunsink Observatory, rather than Mean Time as defined at Greenwich. The adoption of GMT in Ireland was driven largely by the fact that the British authorities found that the time difference between Dublin and London had confused telegraphic communications during the Easter Rising earlier in 1916. Its imposition was therefore, at least in part, intended to bring Ireland under closer control of Britain. Needless to say, this did not go down well with Irish nationalists.

Ireland had not moved to Summer Time with Britain in May 1916 because of the Easter Rising. Dublin Mean Time was 25 minutes 21 seconds behind GMT but the change was introduced at the same time as BST ended in the UK, hence the alteration by one hour minus 25 minutes 21 seconds, i.e. 34 minutes and 39 seconds as in the poster.

One Response to “The Alteration of Time”

  1. Hmm… I’m a bit confused. Did Ireland not move to Summer Time in May *officially*, or was this the de facto situation on the ground? The language in the second poster suggests the latter, as otherwise the following situation arises:

    If on the 30th of September, the official time in Britain was 12:00 BST, then the official time in Ireland would be 10:35, as Ireland had *not* moved to Summer Time (i.e. moved their clocks forward an hour).

    Then on the the 1st of October, if the official time in Britain was 11:00 GMT (which if the clocks had not gone back earlier, would be 12:00 BST), and the clocks in Ireland went back 35 minutes, the official time in Ireland would be 10:00 …

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