Surely ‘Dublin Mean Time’ is one of the great pub quiz/pub banter phenomenons of Irish history? DMT meant that for many years we in Ireland were in fact 25 minutes and 21 seconds behind of ‘them across the water’, a situation that remained in place until October 1 1916, when the Time (Ireland) Act brought Ireland into line with Great Britain.
Incredibly, prior to October 1916, there had been some hostility to the idea of synchronizing our watches with Britain. In August 1916, a letter appeared in the Irish Independent arguing against it on nationalist grounds! The writer noted that “the question is whether we should give up this mark of our national identity to suit the convenience of shipping companies and a few travellers”.
The Time Act became a political football in Ireland, an Ireland changed (changed utterly you could say….) by the events of Easter week. Edward Carson, The Irish Times of August 12 noted, failed to understand the controversy of it all. “All he could say was that if certain hon. members stopped this bill he would see that the Dublin Reconstruction Bill, or other bills, would also be treated as controversial and not allowed to proceed”
At a meeting of the Dublin Corporation, reported in the same edition of the Times, it is noted that one Mr. Briscoe opposed the motion of support for the adoption of Western European time, on the grounds that “…there was too much of the German method about European time.”
I first heard of DMT when reading 50 Things You Didn’t Know About 1916 by Mick O’ Farrell, but was recently delighted to see that having consulted the archives of The Irish Times for more information, Frank McNally would pen an excellent (as most of them are) An Irishman’s Diary on the very subject. It can be read here.
Even so, Dublin Mean Time had science on its side. It was also known as “Dunsink Time”, after the astronomical observatory in Finglas where the measurements were made. And as such it had gained a place in literature, via the inevitable James Joyce and Ulysses .
I’ve always told tourists and visiting friends alike that things move at a much slower pace in Ireland, but once we were a different people, 25 minutes or so behind of the busiest city in the empire.