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Clock once used by Hansard reporters

Timekeeping is an essential part of the reporter's job. Reporters work by dividing up the parliamentary day into time slots and sharing out the workload, each reporter being responsible for reporting the debate in their allotted time. Two reporters are in the Chamber at any one time, and when one reporter's time is up, the second reporter indicates which phrase in the Member's speech marks the end of the first reporter's work. All of this is done with strict regard to the second-hand of the clock. Accuracy and impeccable timekeeping are imperative because lateness means giving colleagues additional work. A commonly shared stress dream among reporters is that of being late to the Chamber. The way the parliamentary day is divided up is known in various ways – “turns” in Westminster, “takes” in the Oireachtas, and “whacks” in 19th century newspaper reports of debates. They are currently of five or 10-minute duration, but were as long as 45 minutes in the 19th century. Charles Dickens, who was a parliamentary reporter in the 1830s - for his uncle's 'Mirror of Parliament' and for the 'Morning Chronicle' - made a verb of the phrase, telling the Newspaper Press Fund dinner in 1865, “I once ‘took', as we used to call it, an election speech of my noble friend Lord Russell … under such a pelting of rain, that I remember two good-natured colleagues, who chanced to be at leisure, held a pocket handkerchief over my notebook, after the manner of a state canopy in an ecclesiastical procession”.