Blimey, that soon came around. This Friday (or last Friday if you're reading this next week) is (was) Telegraph Pole Appreciation Day, This is a day to look up from your iPhone 8 and your facebook feed showing what each of your 861 friends had for tea last night. Look up, look up, and gaze on the telegraphular magnificence of those lovely wooden, tall, sticky, uppy things that BT (formerly GPO) have kindly erected around the country for us to APPRECIATE.
And what finer way to celebrate this wonderful 1/365th [*1] of the year than to give our dear readers this one-off SPECIAL OFFER to get 50% of the price of either our book (Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners) or full life membership of this most sage, august and revered society.
Simply go to our shop page and enter the code APPRECIATE at checkout. This offer expires on 30th September.
So, make my wife's day and help us clear a path to our pantry through this pile of books what we have here as well as finding your own path to telegraph pole enlightenment and wisdom.
What's that you say; you've already got this book. No problem, simply buy another and bring down the average price of the first one by about a third. Buy 2, save even more. Christmas is coming. It's a no brainer win-win. I think. If you bought one in the last week or so, get in touch. What's more, any books ordered on 21st September (exactly) will get a free TPAS pencil too. Gordon Bennett, cut my own bleeding throat why don't I?
*1 1/366th in years whose last two digits are evenly divisible by four, except for centenary years not divisible by 400
And Colonsay, and Jura and Arran. Yes, The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society is back from its annual pole festival - and just in time for Appreciation Day too (September 21st). Turns out it's unimaginable that anyone would visit Islay for anything but the distillery tours (9 and counting). When I said that we were there just to look at telegraph poles they suggested I must already have been at an extended malt tasting session. Honest, that island and its visitors are whisky bonkers. Mostly male visitors from Japan, Scandinavia and (inevitably) USA formed queues to strip to their trunks and dive into the huge copper vats of peated malt whisky then talk bollocks about top notes of butterscotch and salted lemon peel. Then they complained of kidney pain and passed out.
Anyway, while they were doing all that, they missed out on the terrific lines of olde poles that can be found on this Hebridean gem. We found further, albeit fewer, interesting poles on neighbouring islands. Here is a splendid photo gallery of edited highlights for you. I haven't put captions on any of them because I have a banging headache still.
This lump of telegraphular gorgeousity can be found on the A470 just after the village of Llanelltyd a few miles north of Dolgellau, mid Wales. I've passed this pole many times over the years but just this once I was not actually in a dire rush. It's completely on its own and has been rather oxbowed by the road straightening. It escapes the Openreach axe on account of its holding up a phone wire to the house off the layby. When I went to take these pics the man at the house came out especially to tell me how poor his broadband was. Seems that's probably the lot of your average BT personnel.
There was a touch of synchronicity about a couple of emails which crossed my desk here at Telegraph Pole Towers this last week or so*1. The first from Mike Shephard from Devon;
"Do you have this surviving "big stick" on record? The telephone exchange used to be in the main street of TOPSHAM near EXETER, from 1912 to 1949. First, as a manual exchange, then, later from the 1930s, as an auto DSR exchange in the Exeter numbering group. The automatic exchange moved to a new site in the town around 1949. It is still there.
The D.P. 1 stout pole has no date marking that can be seen. The local museum thinks it may date from WW1 era, because a relative of someone who is still alive was involved in the pole's installation. The pole was once even taller than today. The top part of the pole was cut off where 8-way arms once stood. Other 8-way arms were set below them at right-angles. The cut-out positions of the lower 8-way arms can still be seen intact.
Noteworthy are the terminal blocks, which are accessible at ladder height, without the need to scale the whole pole. Good thinking. The pole was last tested in 2013, and is marked "D" Defective. A giant of a bygone age, towering over the rooftops. And still standing proud after maybe a century ?"
Then, in the exact same geological era came this from Mike Trout, also of Devon;
"I have always understood that my Grandfather Walter Finlay Wilson installed a very tall telegraph pole in Trees Court, a tiny yard behind the then Telephone exchange in Topsham. Dia about 17" & over 60 ft tall. People have wondered ever since how it was got into the courtyard, as it is surrounded by 3 storey shop & houses and when. It has a red metal plate on it about 5ft up it with no 3, no 13 & IJK all punched out of it. Below that there is a small sign saying DP1 and small round metal disk with D on it. Can you give us any ideas about when it was installed?"
Surely these two emails are, mutually, self-answering and so I don't need to? But to answer Mike Shephard's first question, yes, we did have it on record already - agent Brunsden, John, #0469, shaken, not stirred, sent us this excited video with his interpretive comments:
"An unmarked 'D' stout pole...look at all those steps !!! I don't know how they managed to get it up in that location all those years ago, and I would not like to have to renew it! The video does not really do justice to the length and girth of this old pole!!"
*1Loosest, most exaggerated, definition of "last week or so" - it was July actually.
Fahan, Co. Donegal
Just finishing up our annual jollydays in Ireland with a spot of getting-in-the-damn-way on board a sailing yacht on Lough Swilly - that's me in the lurid puke green in picture #4 - when Mrs TPAS, quite averse to getting-in-the-damn-way on a boat, stayed ashore. Serendipitous, as she wouldn't otherwise have spotted this fine five-armer just outside Fahan Marina. Completely overlooked by the Eircom telephone pole removals people as this was on a run of just one pole.
Keeping the railway theme going, had a letter this week from recent member Andy York who definitely gets the society “jizz” and writes:
“As a new member I thought I’d send a pic of something different over to you. Although they are poles and stick up and probably were used for their intended purposes in a previous life their existential purpose is stopping something falling down rather than holding it up.
Taken on the West Somerset Railway in April 2016 (between Williton and Stogumber – two fine names) the stringy bits are obviously intended to stop the wiry bits falling down enough to entangle big moving metal bits.
I really couldn’t and wouldn’t have put it more eloquently myself Andy, and to answer your other question, YES, September 21st is always Telegraph Pole Appreciation Day. And one day Wikipedia*1 will reflect this as fact and I will then know that my time on earth wasn’t wasted.
*1 Other online ipedias are available, probably.
July, as is usual for the time year, and The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society closes its extensive office complex and our entire HQ staff buggers off on holiday. For this trip we chose Ireland again and whilst there took the opportunity to visit the famous Leaning Poles of Gleneely. That Ireland has had a troubled political history is a well established fact. That the Irish choose their political leaders according to which way a run of telegraph poles leans is less well known.
These simple telephone poles first started their movements some time around the proclamation of Irish independence in 1916 but their association with political bias remained largely unnoticed until around the time of the first constitution in 1937. Their movement back and forth was assumed to be due to prevailing winds and the weak structure of the soil locally.
The poles can be found on the R238 between Gleneely and Culdaff in Co. Donegal. They were planted perfectly perpendicular but by the mid 1930s they were most definitely leaning in a westerly direction – coinciding with the election of Éamon de Valera of the Fianna Fáil party to the position of Taoiseach*1. The poles leaned this way until over the course of five nights in 1948 they changed direction and swung over to lean eastwards once more. This was just prior to the election of John Costello of FIne Gael where both he and the poles remained for the next three years.
These six poles have swung east and west ever since and the switch is always complete at least a whole week before the elections take place. There was a seventh poll-predicting pole but one reverted to its original upright position following the resignation of Charles Haughey in 1992 has not moved an inch since.
With Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael) incumbent in office, the poles, for now, lean towards the east. All Irish eyes are watching for even the tiniest change in direction.
*1 literally translates as “Man*2 with biggest desk”
*2 Mrs TPAS says this should say Person otherwise I’m a sexist.
Right, it’s not everyday that we plug a service or product on here. In fact, it’s never happened before. So here goes and with good reason.
Previously, you could have described your life as complete if you were a member of this venerable society, and had also read our magnificent book Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners (Key Stages 1-4). I’m sorry to say the goalposts have moved a little insomuch that to declare life completeness now you must also have read the August 2018 issue of British Railway Modelling Magazine. Always a recommended tome anyway, but this particular issue features an article by doyen of dioramas and TPAS society member #0654 and is published in a magazine edited by member #0834 no less. And starting on page 80 is an article called “Improve your Telegraph Poles”. Come on, what more does a life need for proper completefaction?
For a lesser publication we would have recommended that you just block the aisle in Smiths and read it there and then whilst completely ignoring those squeezing past grumbling “you’re supposed to buy the bloody thing you know!”. Definitely NOT this time – get it bought. (just £4.75 with free DVD for goodness’ sake)
#0654: Paul Kirkup
#0834: Andy McVittie
Regular contributor and vertical wooden structure enthusiast and climber, John Brunsden sent us this amazing picture this week:
“Following on from the lovely Dorset photo on the TPAS website… Only last weekend my friend Nath, who dabbles in house clearances*1 as well as other things (a sort of ‘Lovejoy’ character) presented me with this artwork. Even the wife who usually mocks my telegraph pole interest, said she quite liked it !
Well that’s her Christmas present*2 sorted then 😉”
The artist name appears to be “Sana”, was painted in 1996 but I can’t tell from here (Wales) whether it’s original or a print. Either way, it must be worth at least a million quid. It’s quite beautiful.
*1 Jez Palmer from my year at school is presently serving 2 years for a touch of nocturnal house clearancing!
*2 If Mrs B doesn’t want this, my wife would love it (to give to me)