Passions: No April fool - The Speaking Clock emailed me and he's Scottish - Gaby Soutar

I love a surreal happening like this

I thought I’d been April-fooled earlier this week.

In my Spam folder, I discovered an email from the Speaking Clock.

It was one of those lovely surreal moments, like when you see someone walking a Boston terrier with a yellow rubber glove in its mouth. (Also spotted recently).

Best of all, it turned out not to be a prank.

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The Clock had read my Scotland on Sunday column, about the hour springing forward.

In the piece, I’d explained that I’d recently tried ringing 123, to see if the Speaking Clock still existed. It’s a service I used to use regularly, back in the day, when we didn’t rely on mobile phones for timekeeping.

When I rang, the recorded woman’s voice gave me the time, “sponsored by 02”.

However, it turns out that it’s Dundee-based Alan Steadman - the man who emailed me - who is the official BT one. He is, so to speak, the Timemaster.

Unfortunately, as I’m not with that provider and no longer have a landline, I can’t call to listen to him reciting; “At the third stroke, the time from BT will be….”. I always remember the recording as including ”sponsored by Accurist”, but that brand only sponsored the service from 1986 until 2008.

According to Steadman, he’s the first Scottish voice in its 88 year history. The first was Ethel Jane Cain in 1936, who got the job (and ten guineas) after a nationwide search to find a golden voice. In order to bag the most recent gig, the current Speaking Clock entered a competition run by BT and BBC’s The One Show.

“I found out about the competition with just one day to go, sent off a demo and discovered a few weeks later that I was on a shortlist of three out of around 6500 entries,” he told me. “After recording the script, they told me I had won - live on the show in November 2016”.

Although I assumed that nobody uses it anymore, Steadman says that, along with New Year, the change to British Summer Time is one of the busiest times for the service, and they still attract over 10 million calls per year. They are very much still in action, and I felt a kinship. In common with newspapers, vinyl records and bookshops, reports of the Speaking Clock’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

At the third stroke, the time from BT will be... whatever Alan says it is.



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