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02 Nov 2009 322 views
 
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photoblog image The One O'Clock Gun

The One O'Clock Gun


The One
O'Clock Gun - part of a tradition which lasted more than a century in the Port of Liverpool. For generations its familiar boom alerted people to the correct time - it could be heard for miles.

A cannon at Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead was fired remotely from Bidston Observatory at one o'clock each working day, triggered electrically by a specially adapted Robert Molyneux clock. On the dockside, the cannon, a relic of the Crimean wars, was loaded, and at 12.30pm each working day a member of staff tested the connection between the clock at the Observatory and the cannon. At one second to one o'clock the switch would be thrown at the Observatory, the firing being triggered by the next swing of the clock's pendulum. On clear days the flash could be spotted from across the Mersey.

This service was performed from 1867 until July 18th 1969, apart from a break during the Second World War. An extra firing heralded the start of the 20th century. An attempt was made to scrap the time signal in 1932, partly because it was no longer necessary, due to the advent of radio, but also because of the cost of maintenance of the gun, said to be approximately one hundred pounds a year. There was a public outcry at the prospect of the ending of this tradition, so the War Office provided a new cannon, a 32 pounder from Woolwich Arsenal, which arrived on April 26th 1933.

There are other One O'Clock guns around the world, including  one in Edinburgh that is still fired today, or so I believe.


The One O'Clock Gun


The One
O'Clock Gun - part of a tradition which lasted more than a century in the Port of Liverpool. For generations its familiar boom alerted people to the correct time - it could be heard for miles.

A cannon at Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead was fired remotely from Bidston Observatory at one o'clock each working day, triggered electrically by a specially adapted Robert Molyneux clock. On the dockside, the cannon, a relic of the Crimean wars, was loaded, and at 12.30pm each working day a member of staff tested the connection between the clock at the Observatory and the cannon. At one second to one o'clock the switch would be thrown at the Observatory, the firing being triggered by the next swing of the clock's pendulum. On clear days the flash could be spotted from across the Mersey.

This service was performed from 1867 until July 18th 1969, apart from a break during the Second World War. An extra firing heralded the start of the 20th century. An attempt was made to scrap the time signal in 1932, partly because it was no longer necessary, due to the advent of radio, but also because of the cost of maintenance of the gun, said to be approximately one hundred pounds a year. There was a public outcry at the prospect of the ending of this tradition, so the War Office provided a new cannon, a 32 pounder from Woolwich Arsenal, which arrived on April 26th 1933.

There are other One O'Clock guns around the world, including  one in Edinburgh that is still fired today, or so I believe.


comments (8)

  • zed
  • Australia
  • 2 Nov 2009, 07:20
What a marvelous tradition Les, unless you lived close by smile
Les Auld: It certainly scared he seagulls Zed, thanks for the comment.
  • Chris
  • England
  • 2 Nov 2009, 07:33
I had no idea of this tradition Les - but I have heard the one in Edinburgh. I think they use a modern field gun there
Les Auld: They do now Chris, I think they mainly existed in ports so the ships chronometers could be set accurately. Thanks for the comment.
This is all news to me Les. What a great tradition.
Les Auld: I do remember it going off when I was very young Ron, thanks for the comment.
What a lovely tradition, its nice to see its still in place even if not used.
Les Auld: It was put back when they opened the riverside walk Linda, thanks for the comment.
  • Ellie
  • England
  • 2 Nov 2009, 15:09
It's a bit sad when useful traditions die out because it's too expensive.
Les Auld: It is indeed Ellie, traditions should be upheld, and they do provide us with interesting photo opportunities as well. Thanks for the comment.
Fascinating bit of history Les, and what a grand old cannon.
Les Auld: I think this one is third of the cannons they used Brian, thanks for the comment.
It's a shame it is no longer fired, beats the pips any day!
  • Louis
  • South Africa
  • 2 Nov 2009, 20:13
Now let that be a challenge - to capture the flash as the canon is fired ...
Les Auld: It would be Louis, thanks for the comment.

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