LONDON: As the world eagerly anticipates the arrival of the New Year, London’s iconic Big Ben marks the centennial anniversary of its live broadcast “bongs,” which have become a cherished tradition since their debut on New Year’s Eve in 1923.
BBC engineer A.G. Dryland’s daring recording from a rooftop opposite the British Parliament initiated this annual spectacle.
The resonant chimes of the “nation’s timepiece” are a quintessential part of daily life, heard at 6 pm and midnight on BBC radio, as well as during the nightly News at Ten on ITV. Even amid the recent five-year restoration, exceptions were made, allowing Big Ben to continue marking pivotal moments like New Year’s Eve, Armistice Day, and Remembrance Sunday.
While London revels in New Year’s Eve festivities, clock mechanic Andrew Strangeway and the dedicated timekeeping team ascend the 96-meter Elizabeth Tower for last-minute checks. Ensuring precision within fractions of a second, the team ensures the clock’s accuracy, a responsibility they take seriously.
Despite the minuscule chances of a mishap, Strangeway recalls a significant incident during the 1970s when metal fatigue caused the clock to stop. However, he reassures that the primary concern during events like New Year’s Eve is whether it will operate flawlessly and stay on schedule.
Completed in 1859, the structure was initially known as the Clock Tower but was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to honor the late queen’s Diamond Jubilee. While modern technology calibrates the clock via GPS, the traditional method of adding or removing old pennies from weights attached to springs persists to adjust the timing mechanism.
Strangeway expresses excitement about being “right next to the bells at that moment when everyone is looking at that clock for the start of the New Year.” As London bids farewell to the old year and welcomes the new, Big Ben’s enduring tradition resonates globally.