British Summer Time


Here in the UK, we’ve all grown up with the concept of moving the clocks forward in March by an hour as British Summer Time starts. Just as much as we take for granted it needs to move back an hour in October.

That whole concept has its roots back in pre WW1 years. British Summer Time was first established by the Summer Time Act 1916, after a 1907 campaign by English builder William Willett. His original proposal was to move the clocks forward by 80 minutes, in 20-minute weekly steps on Sundays in April and by the reverse procedure in September. Needless to say, it was a proposal too complex. He published a pamphlet called The Waste of Daylight, campaigning to advance clocks at the beginning of the spring and summer months and to return to GMT in the autumn. He wanted to encourage people to get out of bed earlier in summer.

By WW1, the concept seemed sensible, if only and primarily to save energy and help with the war effort. (Longer daylight hours meant working days could be longer). Authorities agreed on moving time by +1 hour exactly.

In 1916, the very first BST began on 21 May and ended on 1 October. Willett never lived to see his idea implemented, having died in early 1915. It proved so successful, that the time shift was implemented annual, and moved back to start earlier in the year.

As 1916 Britain adjusted its time for the first time, countless problems were forecast which never really came to anything (a bit like the Millennium bug of its time!). In Blantyre it was reported that the community on the whole welcomed the change. It was extra daylight in an otherwise dark time. Summer outdoor sporting activities like football at the Vics and the Blantyre Bowling Club especially welcomed the opportunity of ‘extra daylight’ in the warmer evenings.

There was however, one complaint that did attract my eye in the Hamilton Advertiser that month. A week after the time change started, a fed up Blantyre mother wrote into the letters section with a ‘most serious complaint’ that her children were used to being put out the house with instruction to strictly be back home before darkness fell. The change meant it near impossible to get children to “come back” at the right time, wandering in well beyond the household bed time! That did make me laugh.

Picture: For Illustration only.

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