Changing Time

Among the many sensible decisions made yesterday 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. I’m only disappointed that this won’t happen until 2021 as EU countries have to enact the necessary legislation according to their constitutional processes.

The marvellous poster above is from 1916, when British Summer Time was introduced. I was surprised to learn recently 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 organisation 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 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 and 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, ie 34 minutes and 39 seconds as in the poster.

Britain will probably not scrap British Summer Time immediately as it will be out of the European Union by then. British xenophobia will resist this change on the grounds that anything to do with the EU must be bad. What happens to Northern Ireland when Ireland scraps Daylight Saving Time is yet to be seen.

Moreover the desire expressed by more than one Brexiter to return to the 18th Century may be behind the postponement of the Brexit deadline from 29th March to 12th April may be the result of an attempt to repeal the new-fangled Gregorian calendar (introduced in continental Europe in 1582 but not adopted by Britain until 1750). It’s not quite right though: 29th March in the Gregorian calendar would be 11th April in the Gregorian calendar…

6 Responses to “Changing Time”

  1. I agree that changing by an hour once a year is not necessary. For me personally it is not a big deal. However, the way that this has been decided makes Brexit look like ideal democracy: an online questionnaire, non-binding, non-representative, answered by a small minority, mostly from Germany. To make matters worse, essentially after this had been done, it was decided that each country should decide whether to have permanent normal or permanent winter time. This is completely stupid. (Some people are thinking about changing time zones as well. There are really too many countries one hour ahead of Greenwich.)

    • telescoper Says:

      Why is it stupid to decide which time to go with? Seems rather sensible to me!

      • Several issues (more important on the Continent than on the islands). First, it is absurd to have daylight-saving time in, say, Sweden, German, and Belgium, but normal time in, say, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg. Second, if one stops switching back and forth, one should be on normal time, not daylight-saving time. Third, one of the functions of the EU is to make it easier to move people, money, goods, and services from one country to another. Imagine a train timetable for a train going through several countries. Fourth, basing anything on a non-representative online questionnaire, answered by a small majority, mostly from one country, is completely absurd.

      • telescoper Says:

        The proposal may have been initiated by questionnaire but the final directive was voted on by the full Parliament representing all EU countries, and passed by a very large majority.

        I don’t see that there’s a fundamental reason which is `normal’ time anyway. The choice is arbitrary – the day isn’t any longer or shorter as a result of either choice.

        I think national governments (apart from the UK) will also be sensible enough not to introduce differences between their clocks and their neighbours, i.e. they will discuss it before implementation. Sweden might make a different choice from Malta, however, and that is reasonable.

      • Yes, you’re right—just like Brexit! Whatever one thinks of the outcome (I prefer getting rid of changing twice a year), the vote in Parliament was clearly influenced by the non-representative questionnaire, which I think is a bad precedent.

        Sure, it’s arbitrary, but many want to have daylight-saving time because it gets dark later in the evening. Of course, this would mean that it gets light really later in the morning in the winter as well.

        I’m not sure that they will be sensible enough, especially since the preferences vary from country to country.

  2. Time zones are silly. We should all adopt Zulu!

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