Big thank you from

One community, but two time zones

by the Rambler  09/11/2001

THE change of the clock from winter time to summer time, which was first imposed early in the last century, caused a good deal of resentment.

By the religious, it was taken as an affront for 'them', ie, the authorities, to meddle with 'God's time'. Farmers were particularly peeved. Cows are used to being milked at the same time each day, for example. The only practical reaction was to ignore the ,'new time' and that was exactly what was done.

The result, in rural areas was the creation of two kinds of time zones - old time and new time. I have been told that there was even cacophony in the sounding of church bells. One side of the house rebelled, the other conformed. Gentlemen farmers went with the government, peasant farmers stuck to the old time. Adjoining fields had different timetables!

A significant amount of complications set in. For example, if there was a funeral announced, it was necessary to check whether it was 'old time' or 'new time'. Very few families had more than one clock If a farmer was rich enough to possess a pocket watch, he wouldn't have worn it at field work, or around the haggard where dust, chaff and hayseed abound. Only an idiot would have worn a pocket watch when handling a plough where the glass of a watch wouldn't have lasted long.

Gentlemen farmers, eg squires, sported hunter or half-hunter watches which had metal cases over the face with only a small circle bare of metal to enable the wearer to see the position of the hands - but squires were few around the fields of South Antrim: Davy Mairs and R D Best, both JPs, were about all who might have had hunter or halfhunter watches.

The ordinary 'five-eight' might have had a modest 'railway time keeper', some of which only went when the wearer went!

The 'townies', of course, had town clocks and mill horns, but those weren't enough, so each street had a knocker-up who earned a few ha'pence (and I mean half-pennies) by going round in the mornings knocking up neighbours who had no clocks.

A poor old soul of my acquaintance, called Bella, had an alarm clock but hadn't the IQ to tell the time and she regularly brought the clock out and asked a passer-by to tell her the time. She was 'more to be pitied than laughed at' in the opinion of my parents, but, need I say it, treated as a joke by the unkind members of her community.

We might as well admit it! We have all become slaves to the clock. There is one ever in our sight, maybe half-a-dozen. The dials face us on all sides. The present generation could scarcely conceive what life was like before the era of the clock and the timers.

Personally, I well remember the first time I heard Big Ben striking. What a thrill it was as the sound reverberated from the ear-piece of a headphone attached to a crystal wireless set powered (sic) by a 'cat's whisker'.

By way of contrast I now have a radio controlled timepiece which registers the correct Greenwich time, correct to a millionth of a second. I am not particularly affluent, but sitting here I can tot up a dozen timepieces which I had to adjust for the advent of winter time. What a chore! Why can't they leave the clocks alone!

I have family abroad some one hour ahead (to the East, some five hours ahead, to the West). The Euro may sort out the money-changing problem, but even the almighty commission cannot harmonise the clocks.

If I am to catch the last post collection, I had better conclude. Time was, when I lived within earshot, 'The Last Post' sounded by the army had a much more sombre meaning. When it is on Sunday, to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, let us remember them.

PS, The tool displayed by Brendan Hannon (last week's picture) is a drag designed to drag, sods and other silt from a 'sheugh', ie, a field drain.

Ulster Star