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Edinburgh’s time machine
Runs three minutes fast,
Reaching forwards
Into unknown time, and
Experiencing a future
Before we get there,
Saving us anxiety
By building a buffer
Between the then,
And the now;
I always
Used to wonder,
If something
Happened in
Those three
Short minutes,
Could we get
That time
Erasing our
As if they
Hadn’t really
We should all wind
Our watches forward,
And live,
In three minutes
Of grace.


Listen to the Poem

Behind the Picture-Poem

Since 1902, the hotel’s clock has been set three minutes fast to ensure that the people of Edinburgh wouldn’t miss their trains. The only day that the clock runs on time is on 31 December (Hogmanay) for the city’s New Year celebrations. The clock tower, at 190 feet (58m) high, forms a prominent landmark in Edinburgh’s city centre.
Resulting from a competition in 1895, the hotel originally opened on October 15, 1902. The building’s architecture is Victorian, influenced by the traditional Scottish baronial style. It was designed by architect William Hamilton Beattie, and for most of the 20th century was known as the North British Hotel, or simply the ‘NB’, a traditional railway hotel built for the North British Railway Company adjacent to their newly rebuilt Waverley Station.

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