When you put your clocks forward this Sunday spare a thought for the man who began it all
Talk of adopting different times in summer has been discussed since ancient times and Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding father’s of the United States even mooted the idea of everyone getting up a bit earlier in summer. Franklin is often credited with being the inventor of daylight saving but in fact, the chap we really have to thank is one William Willett of Chislehurst, Kent.
Willett was out riding his horse early one summer’s morning in Petts Wood, he noticed how many blinds were still down and began mulling the idea of daylight saving.
In 1907 he published a pamphlet called ‘The Waste of Daylight’, in which Willett proposed that all clocks should be moved forward by 20 minutes at 2am each Sunday in April and then back by 20 minutes at 2am each Sunday in September. It’s not a bad idea, and does negate the loss of a large chunk of sleep on ‘move the clocks’ day in Spring. Though we’d be quite sad to lose our extra hour in bed come October, it must be said.
Progress was slower than a watched clock, however, and by the time Willett’s plan was gaining the required support, World War I was on the horizon.
So eventually, it was not until 1916 that the Summer Time Act was passed, introducing British Summer Time as being GMT plus one hour and Dublin Mean Time plus one hour.
Sadly, and rather ironically, this came too late for William Willett who died in early 1915. If only he could have turned the hands of the clocks back just a little more.
Since 2002 the Act has specified the last Sunday in March as the beginning of British Summer Time. We’ll miss the hour in bed but like Willett, we’ll be glad of the extra light evenings. We might even take our horses for a little trot around the village in the semi-light dawn to celebrate.
In our March issue, our regular ‘Analogue’ feature is about a horologist and her love of clocks and watches. The issue is on sale now.