Sanford Fleming: New sun dial on waterfront to honour Kirkcaldy's time lord

A public art project celebrating Kirkcaldy’s heritage and the work of Langtonian inventor and engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, who created the system of standard time, is being installed at the town’s waterfront.

By Debbie Clarke
Friday, 10th September 2021, 11:10 am

A sun dial, which will be created by specialist iron workers, is being erected on greenspace, opposite Merchants House Cafe.

The initiative is part of the first phase of the £1.6m Council-funded Waterfront Regeneration Project, which is aimed at better connecting the waterfront and the town centre.

The sun dial is fitting reminder of the work of Sir Sandford who was born in Kirkcaldy in January 1827 and where he studied engineering and surveying.

The ground work has begun for the public art project - a sun dial which will celebrate the achievements of Sir Sandford Fleming, the inventor of Standard Time, who was born in Kirkcaldy.

At the age of 18 he emigrated to Canada where he worked as a railway engineer before going on to become chief engineer of the Northern Railway of Canada.

In 1876, confusion over a railway timetable gave him the idea to bring in a single 24 hour clock for the world.

A few years later he proposed linking this to the Greewich Meridian and introduced a system using standardised time zones around the globe.

There is already a plaque dedicated to Sir Sandford in the town’s War Memorial Gardens which was unveiled in 1973, so this will be a second public piece paying tribute to his achievements.

The ground work has begun for the public art project - a sun dial which will celebrate the achievements of Sir Sandford Fleming, the inventor of Standard Time, who was born in Kirkcaldy.

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Andrew Walker, economic adviser with Fife Council’s town centre development unit, explained: “Sandford Fleming is one of the most interesting but probably not widely known of Kirkcaldy people.

"The idea behind the creation of the sun dial is to celebrate his life and tell his story.

"It comes from the waterfront project as a way of highlighting the gateway into the waterfront and the Merchants’ Quarter – it gives us an interactive piece of public art and hopefully another draw to that end of the town.

The design for the sun dial which will be installed on Kirkcaldy's Waterfront.

“The initial groundwork is being carried out by the waterfront contractors and the dial itself will be created by specialist iron workers. The groundwork is going in as we wait for the construction of the dial which will be dependent on supplies of materials.”

The project has been welcomed by local councillors.

Cllr Neil Crooks, who represents Kirkcaldy north and is convener of Kirkcaldy Area Comittee, said: "The idea of using public art to capture the heritage of Kirkcaldy is very much a community led initiative.

"Public engagement with consultations has highlighted that there is substantial emotional civic pride around and we have so many individuals who have made a national and sometimes global impact on society.

The unveiling the plaque in Kirkcaldy dedicated to the inventor of Standard Time and railway engineer Sir Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) in October 1973.

"The small grassed area chosen for this project lends itself to the Sandford Fleming story, changing a bit of grass into a depiction of a sun dial, the earliest form of measuring time.

"It’s the first of many historical and heritage initiatives for the town I hope."

Cllr Alistair Cameron, who represents Kirkcaldy Central, said: “The sun dial is going to set off the start of the waterfront at the east end. It will create a lot of interest with people coming to have a look at it – and they can start walking along the waterfront from there.

"Sandford Fleming is one of the unknown heroes that we have from Kirkcaldy. The sun dial will be a prominent feature and a way of marking his achievements.”

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