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.
Yours etc. Andy York RMWeb Editor”
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.
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.
*1literally translates as “Man*2 with biggest desk”
*2Mrs 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)
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)
I’ve categorized this post under vintage. You see, it’s about our Honorary Technical Adviser Sir Keith S**** H.T.A. T.P.A.S (Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 prohibits me from printing his real name). But anyway, what we do know about this mysterious Rochdale-based former pole inspector is that he used to be a pole inspector and is from Rochdale. By pole inspector we don’t mean the jolly BT chap who knocks the base with a hammer to see if it’s rotten or not – no, Sir Keith, before retirement, travelled the northern hemisphere inspecting entire forests in sub-arctic arboreal landscapes in order to select timber suitable for making into telegraph poles.
These trees once harvested and cut to length had the initials of the inspector chiselled into the butt of the, by now, preserved pole.
And so Keith wrote this week to tell us of his eternal quest to find just one such retired telegraph pole somewhere that has his initials on the butt. For it his plan to take off a slice and make into a display for his not inconsiderable mantlepiece. He has scoured the internet, and wrote to Kilgraney (it wouldn’t send) and so appeals to us to send out an SOS appeal to all BT & telegraph pole contractors to check their stack of recovered poles for one bearing the initials K.S. To help you identify a pole butt with KS here is an artists impression of a pole with KS on it, yesterday. Come on pole gangs, let’s make his day.
I recently attended an evening hosted by the Dull Men’s Club which turned out to be anything but dull. Our host for this conviviality was the wryly enthusiastic assistant vice-president of D.M.C. Grover Click – who doubles as founder of the Park Bench Appreciation Society. Wine, beer and cashew nuts were consumed as we heard talks and presentations from luminaries of the world of esoterics. One of whom was Richard Gottfried, who together with his wife Emily are Crazy Golf champions (possibly) of the World. And they are on a mission to locate, play and document every crazy golf course on the planet – to date, more than 700 courses and counting. Now, I’ve sat through scores of presentations over the years but rarely so engaging and educating as this.
Anyway, on a search of crazy golf courses in Cumbria, and in particular around Barrow in Furness, Richard stopped off at the Hatherthwaite & Lakeside heritage steam railway – as you do – where he spotted this fine pole across the platform at Hatherthwaite station. “Is it of interest to you?” he asks. As If !
One final synchronistic fact. Turns out 21st September is not only Telegraph Pole Appreciation Day, but it is also Miniature Golf Day too. Would you Adam & Eve?
Well this unBritish weather has me all confused. Too hot to be outside, way too nice to be inside. So I’ve had to get all clever about it and so have been sitting in my office all day watching a webcam which I’ve pointed at my missus getting meithered by the midges in the garden. And if I get close enough to the screen I’m sure I must be getting one of my 5-a-day of vitamin D.
But if you’re not actually enjoying this fine summer weather then you are either a chocolate digestive or a polar bear turned left at Svalbard instead of right.
Anyway, not quite summer, but 10th September 1988, Chalmington, Dorset actually – but this completely fabulous photo gave me a rush of late summer. I can’t actually think of any boxes that this picture doesn’t tick. With more than a shade of Eric Ravilious about it, Chris Atkins says it is still one of his favourites and that it gives him a great sense of peace whenever he looks at it. Plus it was chosen by the National Trust as one of 5 best views of this country to go in their magazine. Thanks for sharing it to this particularly appreciative audience Chris.
MY LIFE IS NOW COMPLETE… Here, for your telegraphic delectation, the ultimate in home automata – a robot telegraph pole. Kindly brought into existence by London-based, Gloucestershire-born, artist Simon Handy www.simonhandy.com (and footage from Lottie O’Leary’s mobile phone). Simon, we salute you.
Esteemed member #0654 is Paul Kirkup. He knows a thing or two about telegraph poles. Little ones, model ones, diorama-sized ones. He made the 10 inch model that now adorns our mantelpiece - next to the photo of my bank manager.
Anyway, now that the weather is better, Paul ventured outside to show us some of the things that adorn his curtilage He has a passion for the old London Midland Region of British Railways and this is reflected by the station and platform he has built in his garden. Painted red and cream of course. And what does a station need but a telegraph pole. So...
..."I bought the longest wooden pole I could find and fitted it with a cross arm and two spindles and insulators. As I am also interested in old forms of lighting, I added a suitable light fitting which switches on at dusk and goes off at midnight. There are no wires to the pole - yet - but planning is underway and two-way communication between the house and station should be achieved using a pair of field telephones, Army, type F."
Paul also sent us a photo of the remnant of a crossarm unearthed whilst rummaging in the undergrowth at Craigellachie station...
..."Now mounted on a stub pole which will eventually form part of the station communications network mentioned above. The position I found the relic in, just beyond the end of the station platform, means that it must have been mounted on the pole adjacent to the signal box, a photo of which I found in a book. It is rather nice to be able to see a photo of something now preserved for posterity, or at least as long as I am around to look after it, following which my nearest and dearest will probably chuck it in a skip!"
Paul's cakebox diorama came to the attention of the Editor of British Railway Modelling magazine, who commissioned him to write and illustrate some railway modelling projects for the mag. The second of these articles concerns the authentic modelling of telegraph poles. Paul tells us he feels that most modellers simply plant model poles straight out of the box, without much thought as to their authenticity. This has to change. I feel a campaign coming on.
A sudden letter of underwhelmment*1 this week from Jenny Tailyour recently returned from a journey of unenlightenment:
Dear Sir, Given the legendary ferocity of their thirsts, your membership may be interested in a discovery made during an otherwise disappointing tour of the Scottish lowlands. Attached are photographs of unspectacular poles at Coldstream and North Berwick. The third photograph, however, represents a consummation devoutly to be wished by any lover of those two pillars of civilised society: telegraph poles and alcohol. Yes, finally, a telegraph pole you can actually drink. This bottle of Bush Telegraph comes from the Antipodes yet was found resting on the shelves of an out-of-the-way 'offie' in East Lothian. It is now empty. Yours, Jenny Tailyour.