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Of Time Balls and Fuzzy Bears

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Margate’s Clock Tower with working time ball, January 2016

Back in 1887, the people of Margate voted to build a Clock Tower to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which opened officially in May 1889, on the 70th birthday of the Queen.  The five-foot wide clock faces were powered by gas, and the tower housed five bells that chimed every quarter of an hour.  At the very top of the tower is a copper time ball, that was raised and lowered at precisely 1:00 pm each day to allow ship navigators to set their marine chronometers accurately, then essential to the determination of longitude at sea.  Perhaps hard to appreciate in our days of mobile phones and electronic radio signals.

Needless to say, due to the passing of time and the spraying of the sea, the clock has required some renovation over the years.  The bells were replaced in 1908 and again in 2005, this time with an electronic version.  The time ball stopped working in the 1920s, but finally underwent major renovation just a few years ago and came back into use on the 2014 anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birthday,  becoming one of a handful of operating time balls around the world.


a1_20160206_cc6666_150 x 200Hex colour reference:  #cc6666

A colourful note: fuzzy wuzzy is the Crayola name for this orangey-brown colour, which looks so smart at the top of that Clock Tower.

When it first appeared as a crayon in 1997 it was known as True Blue Heroes Crayon Color #3 but was later renamed to fuzzy wuzzy.  The wilder names that appeared in the late 20th century were quite a cultural change for Crayola, who initially used traditional terms, taking the book “Color: Universal Language and Dictionary of Names”, published by the U.S. Bureau of Standards, as their guidance.  In 1993, though,  they launched a big competition to involve the public in the naming process, and run similar campaigns from time to time.

This still makes me wonder where the name came from, and it may have been inspired by a nursery rhyme: “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?”, lines that you can use to practice your pronunciation on the British Council website.  The poem originally came from Rudyard Kipling, in a collection of 1892, and honoured the bravery of the  Hadendoa warriors who fought the British army in the Sudan and had fuzzy wuzzy hair.


Linked to Blue Monday
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 7 February 2016



18 replies »

  1. This was so interesting. I never knew Crayola had this color and bot the old and new ways they name their colors The “Fuzzy Wuzzy” color is certainly unique!.


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