Sunday, 27 March 2022

Why Do We Change the Clocks?

 On the 27th of March this year we put our clocks forward one hour for British Summer Time (BST).

    We don't question this, we just do it. But I started to wonder: why do we do it? Is there an advantage to getting up an hour earlier and having a longer light evening?

    I know we are told it is because you can do more stuff in the evening. But you haven't lengthened the day, there are still the same amounts of daylight available whether it runs from 6 am to 8 pm, or 5 am to 7 pm.

    Our ancestors didn't change their clocks - they didn't have any clocks to start with. They got up when it was light and went to bed when it was dark. So what o'clock you called it wouldn't make any difference.

    So it is pretty obvious that putting the clocks forward in Spring and back again in Autumn must be a fairly recent thing. Oh and incidentally, why do we have the clocks forward longer than back? As we put the clocks forward in March, logically they should go back in September, but no! we have to wait until the last Sunday in October!

    Personally I love the longer nights. I can't wait for the clocks to go back in October, because that means the magical nights are back, and Samhain is upon us!

    So I had a look on the internet and what I found really surprised me.

    It was in 1916, only just over 100 years ago, that Germany changed their clocks during the first World War, in order 'to save energy'. Europe and the UK followed this within weeks. WHY!?

    This means that until 1916 Britain ran continually on Greenwich Mean Time, and obviously had no problems doing so.

    Actually changing the time by an hour only gives an 'advantage' for a very brief time and only in certain latitudes. Go further North and in Summer the sun never sets (this is very much the case in Scotland - not that much further North) where the Simmer Dim gives twilight nights during the Summer. And go towards the Equator and there is very little difference between day lengths in Summer and Winter, so no point in changing the clocks.

    I remember when I was at school we stuck to BST for a couple of years as an experiment, but the Government found that there was little if any advantage to this. 

    Also these days we often live 24 hour lives, so BST really is irrelevant.

    Personally I blame Ben Franklin.

    In 1784 Benjamin Franklin was staying in Paris and was fed up with the way the Parisians took ages to get going in the morning. So he wrote a joke to a friend about changing the clocks to try and get the Parisians up a bit earlier, and suggested this should be enforced by ringing church bells and setting off cannons in the streets.

    Saddly it seemed someone took his suggestion seriously!

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