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Thurles Reaction To Daylight Saving Act Of 1916

 

A reminder to all; this Sunday, between 1:00am and 2:00am, our clocks and watches will require to be skipped forward by one hour, thus depriving everyone of 60 minutes of precious shut-eye. Those with high tech gadgets e.g. Mobile Phones, Computers, Laptops etc. need not worry, as same time change will automatically occur without any required personal intervention on our part.

With 1916 on everyone’s lips this weekend, due to our celebrations commemorating the Irish Easter Rising, keep in mind that the ‘Daylight Saving Act’ was first introduced in that very same year. The first notion of attempting to not waste our daylight came about following a campaign which was begun in 1907, by the Edwardian British builder William Willett. It took until 1916 for those in authority to realise that this same time changing action would reduce considerable unnecessary energy consumption; while also saving countless lives, since fewer accidents occur in the mornings, when compared to our darker evenings.

So how did Thurles people and residents of our surrounding hinterland take to the first introduction of the ‘Daylight Saving Act’ in 1916? We find our answer recorded in the journal kept by Fr. Michael Maher C.C., Thurles, and then Secretary to the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr. John Mary Harty.

Fr. Michael Maher C.C. writes:

May 21st 1916
“A new ordinance came into force in the middle of May; it was called the ‘Daylight Saving Act‘. It meant that all clocks were to be put forward an hour on the morning of Sunday the 21st May at two o’clock and they were to be left at that standard until the night of the 1st of October.

NPG x91747; William Willett by Elliott & Fry

William Willett (1856 – 1915)

In former years, a Mr. [William] Willet of London frequently introduced a bill into the House of Commons to this effect, but it was always killed with ridicule. The poor man died a short time ago without having his hopes realised and now, when it was found that an immense saving would be effected through the curtailing of artificial light, and as economy was recommended in all possible directions, the bill was introduced again and became an act of parliament without laughter or opposition.

We did not put on the Cathedral clock [Cathedral of The Assumption, Thurles] until after the devotions on Sunday night, because we did not know on the previous Sunday whether the act would apply to Ireland, and so we could not forewarn the people about the change in the hours of the services. The people in the towns fell in with the change without demur and everything went on just as before. We altered nothing except the hands of the clock. Some of the country people kept to the old time except on Sunday, when they had to go to Mass an hour earlier.

It did not suit the country parts as much as the towns, because the morning is not a good time for saving hay or carrying on harvesting operations, the evening is much better, so if the men stopped work at six o’clock by the new time they would leave off when the hay or corn was in the best condition to be put together or cut down. On dairy farms too, the milkers who had to rise at 4:30 or 5:00 o’clock by the old time, would have to part with their beds at an unearthly hour by the new reckoning.

In towns on the other hand it suited admirably because it gave a long bright evening to the populace after shops were closed and work abandoned. It made no difference to the clergy except that the 12:00 o’clock Mass in towns was much more convenient according to the new regulations.”

Roll on those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!

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