Edinburgh time ball goes back to the future

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01 time ball calton hillBy Michael MacLeod

AN historic Scottish landmark was restored to its former glory today (Tuesday).

Every day for 150 years, the time ball atop Edinburgh’s Nelson Monument on Calton Hill dropped at 1pm to help sailors and captains to set their watches accurately.

Nine years later in 1861 it was accompanied by the world-famous One O’clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle, to help nautical travellers on foggy days.

But in recent years historians were upset at the demise of the time ball, as the decades of use resulted in it falling with a thud each day.

They will be watching on anxiously when the monument emerges from scaffolding in August to see if the £50,000 refurbishment gives the time ball a smoother descent.

The work was part of the Twelve Monuments restoration project involving the city’s council and Edinburgh World Heritage.
A time-lapse video of the restoration project, along with an exhibition of the history of the Nelson Monument, will be on display in a newly opened room at the bottom of the structure.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage is confident that the new mechanism will work smoothly.

He said: “No longer will this great institution drop with an ignominious thunk, instead the repaired historic mechanism will ensure it glides to its resting place each day at 1 o’clock.
02 time ball calton hill
“This is great news for Edinburgh, and marks an important milestone in the Twelve Monuments Project.

“As the project has progressed we have learnt more about the importance of time ball and its place among other mechanisms around the world.”

Martin Fairley, Historic Scotland Head of Investment and Projects, said the scaffolding will be cleared as soon as possible.

He said: “Nelson’s Monument is an Edinburgh icon and the striking image of the scaffolding surrounding the tower has been an obvious reminder of the investment Edinburgh World Heritage is making across the World Heritage Site through a range of projects.

“I am sure that a lot of people will be delighted to see the time ball return.”

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