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Mayo Sundial

Kiltimagh Museum

Ormsby Dial

The rapid spread of the railway network in the nineteenth century led to "Greenwich" or "Railway" time, as it was sometimes known, being adopted by Act of Parliament in 1880. This led to a real need for a simple, accurate, method of converting local sundial time to Greenwich standard clock time. One solution to this problem was the invention of a precision sundial which, by the means of an 'Equation of Time' cam mechanism, could display Greenwich Mean Time. It was called the 'Helio-Chronometer' by its inventor, George James Gibbs, and he was granted a patent for it in 1907. Gibbs did not have the money to set up in business on his own, so went into partnership with William Renard Pilkington to manufacture the 'Pilkington & Gibbs Helio-Chronometer' in Preston, Lancashire. They produced about 1000 dials in all, each bearing a serial number
(there is a Helio-Chronometer at the Moyvalley Hotel, Kildare)
The relationship between Pilkington and Gibbs did not get off to a good start as the inventor, Gibbs, wanted to call the Company, "Gibbs and Pilkington", but Pilkington, the factory owner, insisted that his name should appear first. Unknown to Gibbs, Pilkington started work on an alternative design, the 'Sol Horometer', which he patented in 1912, before the outbreak of the First World War. By the end of the war and the proliferation of accurate watches, there was no longer the same need for precision dials and production of the 'Sol Horometer' ceased. Only about 50 'Sol Horometers' were made, some without serial numbers. In 1924 the BBC started broadcasting a time signal which sounded the final death knell for precision sundials as essential time keeping devices.

The bronze Pilkington 'Sol Horometer' in the Kiltimagh museum has a 225mm diameter circular face and sits on a 900mm high stone pedestal. The fixed centre of the dial is engraved with the months of the year, each month being sub-divided into the appropriate number of days with an equal space between each day. There is a movable outer ring which also shows the months and days but these are calibrated with an unequal space between the days to compensate for the 'Equation of Time' ( Click here for info on the Equation of Time ). There is a time ring showing 4a.m. to 8p.m., in hours and minutes, around the outside of the movable ring. There is a movable light box, with a thin slit in each end, mounted on the top of the dial. The time pointer at the end of the light box is offset to compensate for the difference in longitude between the dial's location and Greenwich ( 4 minutes of time for every degree of longitude ). To read the time the outer ring is turned until today's date is aligned on both date scales. Next rotate the light box until the sunlight shines through both slits. The pointer at the end of the light box will now indicate Greenwich Mean Time on the time ring

The dial was originally owned by the Ormsby family, local landlords , and was situated in the walled garden of their house at Ballinamore. Ownership of the house, and with it the sundial, passed to the St. John of God Sisters in 1938 who passed it on to Western Care Association in the 1960s. At present it is on permanent loan to the Kiltimagh Museum from Western Care Association.

Lat 53° 51' North    Long 9°00' West

Irish Grid    M   133942    289511

For opening times of the museum see their website Kiltimagh Museum

Many thanks to Noel O'Neill for bringing this dial to my attention.

If you know the location of a sundial in Ireland (NOT a mass produced DIY Store garden ornament) please email it to me (Click here to email M.J.Harley) - a member of British Sundial Society