At the third stroke: The day the Speaking Clock came to Fife towns

“At the third stroke, the time will be twelve forty-six and ten seconds..."

Sunday, 20th February 2022, 9:45 pm
1962 - Mrs M Fiddler winner of the GPO Speaking Clock competition
1962 - Mrs M Fiddler winner of the GPO Speaking Clock competition

For generations of Fifers, finding out the exact time meant picking up the phone and dialling 1-2-3.

The speaking clock started in 1936, and it came to Kirkcaldy district 20 years later.

It was started by the GPO - General Post Office - and then continued by BT.

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In a digital era where we have clocks on our phones and smart devices around our home, it feels like a throwback to a very different time of telephone operators, round dial phones … and the pips.

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In Pictures: Memories of 1999 in Kirkcaldy from the  Fife Free Press

But it was an integral service for many people/

February 11 1956 saw the Speaking Clock service come to Kirkcaldy, Burntisland, Cardenden, Dysart and Kinghorn - and started at 8:00am, precisely!

The Fife Free Press reported: “Kirkcaldy and Dysart subscribers will connect dialling 952 while in Burntisland, Cardenden and Kinghorn and Thornton it is 9952.

“For subscribers on all these exchanges the charge will be the same as for a local call.”

The report said that “users of coin telephones desiring connection to the Clock should call the operator and ask for the Speaking Clock.”

The charge for this will be the same a a charge for a call to a Kirkcaldy number.

The Press reported that subscribers outwith the towns mentioned will be connected to the nearest exchange

The service was known by the name of ‘Tim’ and was designed and constructed at the Post Office Engineering Research Station at Dollis Hill, and was introduced to the public in July 1936.

Since then it has been extended to most large centre.

The recording of the voice is similar to that used in talking film soundtracks

Every hour the accuracy of the Speaking Clock is automatically checked against the time signal from Greenwich.

Accuracy to 1/10 second is the standard.

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