Change the time on Saturday night or risk untold clock-ups

Time-adjustment errors have affected electoral turnout and even started riots

On Easter Sunday in 2005 my fiancee, Lucinda, and I were driving to Kinnitty, in Co Offaly, for our wedding.

We were due at the church at 2pm, for a rehearsal, so we set off from Dublin around noon, figuring we’d get there with half an hour to spare.

We were so excited that we didn’t notice the clocks had gone forward. (In 2005 our primitive phones didn’t automatically change the hour.)

Stopping off in Mountrath, we realised with horror that it was actually an hour later than we thought it was.


It was pedal to the metal the rest of the way down. By the time we arrived at the church it was almost 3pm.

Luckily for us the ceremony itself wasn’t until the next day.

The clocks go forward tonight, signalling the start of summer time and promising a grand stretch in the evening, but many people are still confused by the twice-annual clock change.

We’ve all memorised the “spring forward, fall back” formula – or is it “spring back, fall forward”? – but many of us will still scratch our heads tomorrow morning, wondering what time it is.

Do we lose an hour or gain one? Can you sleep in for a while more or do you have to drag yourself out of bed an hour earlier?

Get it wrong and you could end up two hours behind yourself, thinking it’s only 11am when it’s actually lunchtime.

In the US it’s known as daylight saving time, in Britain it’s British Summer Time, but here it’s simply called Irish Standard Time.

(In the winter months we adjust to Greenwich Mean Time.)

Whatever you want to call it, the scope for confusion and misunderstanding is wide, especially as many countries change their clocks on different dates.

Americans are already an hour ahead, for example, having put their clocks forward two weeks ago.

So when you’re ringing your aunt in Connecticut just check that she hasn’t already gone to bed.

Wrongful jailing

The time change has been blamed for many clock-ups, including the wrongful jailing of a teenager in the US in 2007.

Cody Webb was arrested after his school received a bomb threat. The hoax call was made to the student hotline at 3.17am on March 17th, and a check of phone logs found that a call was made from Webb’s phone at precisely that time.

The 15-year-old spent 12 days in juvenile detention before authorities realised that the clocks had gone forward and that Webb’s call had actually been made an hour earlier.

More recently, in October 2015, Turkey was thrown into confusion when the government decided to postpone the return to standard Eastern European Time until after its general election.

The idea was that voters would be more likely to turn out at the polls after work if it was still light outside.

Many clocks ignored this edict and automatically went back anyway, causing bemused Turks to vent their temporal frustration on Twitter. “#Turkey united for the first time around one question today: ‘What time is it?’ ” read one tweet. Others blamed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “For the next two weeks #Turkey is on EEST . . . Erdogan Engineered Standard Time.”

The idea of holding back a time change until after elections has been mooted by many politicians in the US.

Since 2007 daylight saving time has been pushed to the first Sunday in November, but some there would like to see it extended even further, to encourage more citizens to vote.

Don’t be surprised if this debate is reactivated for November’s presidential election.

The disruption in time caused by the clock change can be confusing. If we lose an hour on Sunday morning, exactly which hour do we lose? And where does it go?

On this side of the Atlantic you can scratch off the hour between 1am and 2am: it ceases to exist.

The US discards the hour between 2am and 3am. In both cases the timing is meant to cause as little disruption as possible, as most of us will be tucked up in bed and won’t have an urgent appointment on Sunday morning (although people have been known to miss Mass).

But not everyone is asleep at 2am, and many Saturday-night revellers have had their partying prematurely curtailed when the clocks suddenly jumped forward to closing time.

In 1998 students at a late-night bar in Ohio grew angry when the bar, which normally stayed open until 3am, stopped serving an hour earlier, as the clocks had gone forward. Police in riot gear had to be called in.

In November 2007 the clock change resulted in an odd time-swap conundrum when one baby born after its twin ended up being the elder of the pair.

A woman in North Carolina gave birth to baby Peter at 1.32am, followed by his little sister, Allison, 34 minutes later.

But because the clocks went back at 2am Allison was recorded as having been born at 1.06am, making her the elder of the two, and so condemning Peter to forever be the little brother.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: set your clock right tonight.