end March - Time to Spring forward

Written by Anne 2nd April 2019

It’s that time of year again.

The ritual of trying to work out which of your electronic gadgets automatically adjust for clock changes, and which don’t.

British Summer Time (BST) officially starts at 1am on 31st March, when the clocks go forward an hour to 2am.

Time is a strange man-made thing. Until the needs of railway timetabling took over, time differed around Ireland, depending on when the sun was at it's peak locally.

To make the trains run on time, in 1880 Irish Standard Time was adopted. However, because the sun was at its zenith later in Dublin than in Greenwich, Irish time was standardised at 25 minutes and 21 seconds after British time.

Bradshaw’s 1914 Railway Timetable mentions the need to adjust your watch to Irish time when taking the mail-boat to Dún Laoghaire. This remained the situation 'till the Rising in 1916 triggered a decision to move Ireland to GMT.

Since 1884, the international standard for time zones is based on the meridian through Greenwich. Previously individual countries and regions operated their time systems from individual reference points ranging from Ujjain to Mecca, Cádiz to Washington. The French held on to Paris time until 1911, and Ireland also went its own way until 1916.

It is more than a 100 years since the changing the clocks was first established.

British Summer Time was first established by the Summer Time Act 1916, after a campaign by builder William Wilett. 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.

Summer time arrangements were mainly introduced to save energy, although they were also brought in for road-safety reasons and to increase leisure opportunities later into the evenings. Germany and France were the first countries to introduce the practice during the first World War. To conserve coal and electricity In Ireland, the Summer Time Act of 1925 brought in summertime.

The United Kingdom and Ireland abolished their previous summer time arrangements in October 1968 and adopted British Standard time all year round on an experimental basis, remaining on GMT+1 throughout the year. This had the advantage that in the winter the time in Ireland was the same as in Germany and France. It also meant that it was bright later in the evening, potentially moving peak demand for electricity in the winter. This took place between 27 October 1968 and 31 October 1971, when there was a reversion to the previous arrangement. Britain decided to drop this experiment in 1969, partly because people were travelling to work and school in the dark in winter.

Ireland debated as to whether we should again follow the British example or re-establish Irish time but followed suit.

European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has been championing to abandon summer time in the European Union, saying:

“Clock-changing must stop. Member states should themselves decide whether their citizens live in summer or winter time.”

In 2023 Ireland uses Irish Standard Time (IST, UTC+01:00; Irish: Am Caighdeánach Éireannach) in the summer months and Greenwich Mean Time (UTC+00:00; Meán-Am Greenwich) for the rest of the year.