The poles of Islay…

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.

Towering Topsham Telegraph Pole

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.

Thirsty Pole Watchers

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.

*1 Underwhelmment really should be a word.

Existential Angst

Until very recently Gary Straiton thought he was alone.  Completely alone.  But let me assure you of this Gary, you are born alone, and you will die alone but in between there is The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society.  You have found us new member #0829 and you are among friends.  Weird friends, but friends nonetheless.

"Anyway," Gary tells us "One of my things is proper railway lines with telegraph poles."  (Ours too Gary)  He sent us the following photos of the poles remaining on the closed (1967) main line between Perth and Kinnaber Junction.   He also told us that when permission was granted to close the line by Barbara Castle one of the conditions was that infrastructure was to remain in case of reopening (insert ho ho ho's here).  The line was shut in September 67 but a section remained open for goods only until June 1982.  It's important to know this formed part of the West Coast Main Line, hence the pole route wasn’t lightweight.

Gary continued "Probably all the remaining TP’s on the Strathmore line are west of Forfar, the section of the line to Perth remaining open until 1982. It would appear that the poles weren’t part of the deal when the scrap men moved in."

   "I have been trying to locate some of the old S&T linesmen who worked the pole routes but finding that difficult. I would really like to know what the wires did at each location and was it by local knowledge or was there are record kept?"

Gary sent us links to his Flickr feeds with some brillilant photo collections that I highly recommend you take a look at.  I'm rather pleased with myself that I've worked out this clever way of shortening the links.  That's what we're here for.  Anyway, the pics are brilliant, thanks Gary.

Kirkinch level crossing

Ardler Station Junction

Mike Mather's Adler Jn pic

 

Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ears

Our Honorary Technical Advisor, Sir Keith S**a* (ooh! I nearly said his name then) continues the search for a telegraph pole with his initials on. The pictures you see below are from his recent foray into darkest Dumfries & Galloway. It was here – whilst tantalising a dozen or more trout with a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear*1 – that Keith came across these seemingly unused poles forming a

A Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, yesterday

makeshift bridge over a ditch for the facilitation of timber extraction.

“I found that one of them is a 9 metre medium pole bearing the initials of my old friend and mentor BK, Bernard Kendall. Bernard was from Birmingham and was the resident Poles Inspector at the pole yard of Calders and Grandidge at Boston Lincolnshire.
I was a young trainee and had to spend 3 months, under the instruction of the inspector, at each of the 7 pole depots around the country to complete my training, so was away from wife and son all week and home at week-ends, then an internal exam to qualify for the job. (I got the best exam marks ever recorded). Anyway, Bernard and his wife Hilda took me under their wing, looked after me like a son, fed me, counselled me, and Hilda always made me my favourite Lemon Meringue Pie. They were the most wonderful caring people I have ever met and as I write I find I have tears in my eyes, they both went to that big pole yard in the sky many years ago.


*1 As a young man-about-town, I always had a three-pack of these about my person.
– More in hope than anything.
– And this is the closest thing to innuendo that I’ve ever been.
– The trout are now cured, smoked and in Keith’s freezer.  I know you were worried about them.  As was the water-bailiff.

This week in telegraph pole land

My week started when Charlie from out of the internet blue wrote to me.   I was a little confused by his punctuation but ultimately he told me that I am the best, that God blesses me, and that I should keep preaching the pole gospel.  He signed it with thanks from friends in Los Angeles.  Goodness me !  Alright then Charlie, thank you.  I will.

There were the usual letters with questions about telegraph poles:  how high, how long, how big a gap between etc.  Then there was another question about a fault that had been reported to a phone line in Yorkshire – to which my answer is always “Yep, we’re right on to it”.  And I would expect no less gittish an answer had I rang the Keighley Valley & Worth Steam Railway and asked them if there is a buffet trolley on the 9:30 Arriva Trains service from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury.  Maybe the distinction between appreciation society and directory inquiries is not so clear cut as I imagined.

Then, of course, there was that brilliant video John Brunsden sent us – see our facebook presence for that particular gem.

And finally, a succint email from Jamie, also from the internet, who asks “Do you accept members from Australia?”  Do boys play football in the park I thought to myself.  We accept anything from anyone from anywhere (at any time)  is probably the best way to answer that question.  Anyway, Jamie sent us the lovely power pole photo you see below together with the caption “High Wycombe, Perth, Western Australia”.  Well, High Wycombe is in Buckinghamshire actually Jamie, so you got that wrong.  And High Wycombe, being in British Buckinghamshire, almost never experiences blue skies like that.  So someone’s got their lines crossed I think.  Speaking of crossed-lines – I counted no fewer than 30 parallelograms created from those bisecting power lines.  So well done me.

Pulchritudinous Perthshire Poles

Praise be for thesauruses (thesaurusii?) - for helping me find the pompous splendiferosity that is the word "pulchritudinous".  Definitely not part of my everyday lexicon, nor indeed anyone that moves in my immediate circle and I suspect that Thomas Hardy was probably the last person ever to make use of it without sounding a pretentious twot.  And I bet he wasn't describing such telegraph poles of pulchritude as these sent in by Openreach Engineer Daniel Ferrier who correctly guesses that they would be to our liking.  

"They are situated outside Meigle Village in rural Perthshire opposite the Belmont Arms (PH12 8TJ) along what used to be the old railway line. There are at least 5/6 that i could see but I believe there are more further along. All of which are cross arm poles many of which still have the original insulators and wire connected along the route."

And there I was feeling really clever because I snapped a brilliant pole in South Wales that I was going to post today only to be completely blown away by these from Daniel.  My one can wait.  Time to check out the ale pumps at the Belmont Arms I think.  Appreciate away folks...

The Telegraph Poler’s Brain

The amygdala is a small but important region within the frontal temporal lobe of the human brain. This dense bundle of nerve tissue is thought to be part of the limbic system, responsible for our emotional responses, memory and survival instincts. What is less well known is the role it plays in the proper appreciation of telegraph poles. A double-blind study by Scientists at University of Port Vale-Nil discovered that subjects with a strong emotional attachment to redundant telecommunications equipment experienced a surge in activity within the β-adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors when exposed to images of telegraph poles or ceramic insulators. Subjects who had previously declared indifference to such things demonstrated no such activity.

So if you were to cut out a lid from the top of Aaron Bailey's head, plunge your hand into the warm, moist interior and rummage around in all the jelly and stuff for two distinctly almond-shaped pieces of brain you would be holding an organ positively fizzing with love for all things telegraphpoleic.

This thought passed through my own frontal lobe when Aaron, from Hull, wrote in to tell us about his recent insulator hunt along the disused Hull and Barnsley railway line. For here he discovered various olde telegraph poles both standing and grounded and in various stages of decay. Pictures below. Aaron has previously reported on HCT (Hull Corporation Telephone) poles but could find no markings or dates on these but did notice that they were thick as well as short. I should point out here that it was Aaron and not me who mentioned that this was also how the ladies of Hull preferred their menfolk.

Aaron also recommended the pole you see in the last two pics as possible POTM. This slim, moss-covered pole in a relaxed position is on the Hull to Withernsea line. Complete with two crossarms, a pothead insulator and, until recently, two perfect 1940 GPO double-groovers. These by strong coincidence are now to be found in a jug of vinegar in Aaron's workshop. From here they will likely spend eternity surging activity in Aaron's glucocorticoids.

Anyway, sadly, our rules disqualify this pole from the Pole of the Month competition. Rule 7a[i, iii, iv] states that a pole must be tall, wooden, sticky-uppy and wires all coming out the top. This pole clearly fails on the first count insomuch as due to it's low lying position it would be described as wide rather than tall. Bad luck Aaron.

Cruel Cuts

This post has rather jumped our highly regulated in-house publication queue due to its intense ambrosial delectability.

These photos were sent in to us by Telegraph Pole top-tabler, member #666 Dave Bennett who was on his way to deliver some artwork to the National Truss at Avebury when he spotted this at Great Wishford, Wiltshire. No I’ve never heard of it either.

Evidently this pole has been neglected for decades – long enough for a good covering of ivy to grow – maybe due to cruel funding cuts. The essential pole info had been covered so the ivy has been chopped off ( much in the manner of the good old ‘basin-cut’ haircuts I suffered in the ’50’s – more cruel cuts!) but funds didn’t extend to trimming the rest of the pole thus leaving it in this caterpillar-like state. They’ll need a tree surgeon to climb this one.

Thanks Dave, that is a corker.

Now I also know this for a fact – Dave’s girlfriend Sally’s mate Trudy gave her husband a copy of Telegraph Pole Appreciation for Beginners (Key Stages 1-4) for Christmas and he said it was “the best Christmas present ever”.  Just saying…

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