The Famous Leaning Poles of Gleneely

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 leaning poles of Gleneely swing to the west
The poles forecasting the rise of Bertie Ahern in 1992

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.

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.

Icelandic Poles

Surprising isn’t it that I never start any of these posts with the letter “i”.  Truth is, the fancy dropped-capital letter thing what I do looks crap with letter i’s.  So anyway, what I wanted to say is “It may just be that we never really imagine Iceland – the Björkish north atlantic country – not the British supermarket chain – ever having poles.  Well they do and our Icelandic correspondent, Hâfi Martinsdottir*1, has just reported back from there with these magnificent photos.  These are from near Vik*2 in Southern Iceland.  And whilst more power than telegraphic in nature, they still have that aesthetic enchantment that keeps people like me fixated upon them. Njóta


*1Our correspondents are so poorly paid that Miss Martinsdottir spent 14 days sleeping in the back of a Skoda Fabia in the middle of winter in order to acquire these pics for our voracious readership.  Dedication indeed.
*2 The Sinex Nasal Spray and the stuff you rub on your chest has a “c” in it : Vick.

Path puzzle #1 – Help Chairman Mao answer the right phone

Our society has a wonderful membership – a diverse aggregation who enjoy a shared enthusiasm for big wooden sticks with wires coming out of the top.

One friend, member and regular correspondent is Carter Wall (#0487H) – a Massachutetian* Managing Director of a Boston energy company.  So what she doesn’t know about poles with wires on could be written on the back of a postage stamp.  Not only does Carter’s executive boardroom status lend some high-ranking legitimacy to our membership, but she also has friends who are professors.    Now, to the rest of us,  a professor is someone who didn’t stare out of the window during school lessons, did all their homework and who put their hand up because they knew the answers and not because they needed the toilet.A tangled telephone pole in Beijing

And it was Carter’s professorial friend Kate Lingley from the University of Hawaii who took this photo for us.  She was on a business trip (see, that’s what you also get for paying attention at school) and like me, was amazed at this tangle of  electricity. (click image to enlarge)

Carter has thoughtfully provided the address of this pole of entanglement as she feels that certain of our membership may like to arrange pilgrimage there.  It is at the corner of Dongzongbu Hutong and Gongyuan Xiadjie in the Dongcheng district, Beijing.  I’d be prepared to forego our usual week at Mrs Meredith’s guest house in Aberystwyth if I could find some suitably similar accommodation in Beijing and could persuade Mrs TPAS of the merits in this as an interesting alternative.

By the way, I’m told that Prof. Lingley and friends – presumably even more professors – were suitably impressed to hear about our society.  Well who wouldn’t be?

* I made up that spelling

French Telegraph Pole Porn

Tis the 1st of August already and the nights are drawing in.  The year is in terminal decline and I’ve had to dust down my S.A.D. lamp and box of anti-depressant St. John’s Wort pills.  So what better way to cheer myself than to indulge in some serious internet telegraph pole porn.  This photo, courtesy of the wonderful archive of James Bancroft just floats my boat.  It’s got poles disappearing perspectively into infinity,  those gorgeously curvy french insulator pins, a railway line and that sultry look of a foreign holiday.  James is a serious collector of insulators and cataloguer of poles.  His Double Groove website is a must for every connoisseur.

A line of telegraph poles alongside a french railway

An interesting adjunct to all this is that as I was perusing James’ website, my wife – a fine figure of a woman – had just gotten out of the bath and came to stand next to me.   That, with hindsight, was my cue to turn my admiring lustful gaze from said telegraph poles onto her naked womanly form.  Something I regrettably failed to do.  I think I may have to go and make a bed up in the spare room tonight!

Peruvian Potential Pole of the Month

Very excited to be nominated as Pole of the Month (P.O.T.M.) for October 2011, Maynard Floyd decided to have another crack.  This photo, from Maccupiccu*1, he readily admits is not a stunning pole,  but made him chuckle as he arrived into town following a gruelling four days climbing the Inca Trail.  There seems to be something of a theme with Maynard – holidaying in hot, exotic and sweaty places.  And if it’s not hot enough, then he climbs mountains until he is hot and sweaty.  There’s a winegum thing going on there too it seems.

Anyway, our esteemed P.O.T.M. Committee convenes with startling infrequency, and they will not be swayed by previous nominations, personal status or lobbying. They can however be persuaded with cash in brown envelopes left behind radiators etc.  Cheques too apparently*2.

Presently, they are retired to separate hotels across the country to consider the nomination for July 2014 POTM.  Their results will be published on these pages at some point prior to the next ice-age.

Here’s the pole, outside Gringo Bill’s Hotel.  Please cast your votes…. now!

Telegraph Pole with sign attached for Gringo Bill's Hotel, Machupicchu, Peru

*1 I always thought Maccupiccu was something to do with Pokemon?
*2 Visa/Mastercard/Amex/Paypal/Gold teeth too

Tonight’s Feature Film

Yes, for the first time ever in Telegraph-Polular history, we have a video on this website.  Not terribly good subjects for films are poles.  But not put off by this, Olivier Mehani, who has been on a trip to Thailand sent us this video of a particularly noisy transformer up a particularly busy electricity distribution pole on Koh Samui, one of the islands in the eastern gulf of Thailand.

So, grab yourself some popcorn, turn down the lights, and turn up the volume and enjoy tonight’s main feature…


Olivier also sent us these couple of pics of what can only be described as a frenetic pole, carrying an accumulation of telephone lines, a layer of 240v wires with a topping of higher voltage lines. All complemented with the mandatory transformer (not a robot in disguise).


Co. Sligo

May 2014 was when the entire staff from the headquarters of the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society caught the ferry from Holyhead to embark upon the grand Telegraph Pole Spotting expedition to Co. Sligo, Eire.  Not just telegraph poles, of course – that would be stupid.  Electricity poles too and pylons of course.  There followed several days of walking and driving around the county being mesmerised by the blooming display of election posters on every vertical structure.  All punctuated with shouts of “stop the car!” there’s a pole I want to photograph.

Co. Sligo is a largely unspoilt part of the world and in many ways is like stepping back 50 years:  small fields, villages with shops in and telegraph poles with insulators are everywhere.  The wildlife was abundant, the beaches empty, and Sligo town even has a proper football club in Sligo Rovers.  The downsides are that the beer choice is still like 50 years ago (Guinness and not much else) and there isn’t a proper network of footpaths and public rights of way like we have here.

Anyway, herewith my photo-album from Sligo 2014.  Most should be self-explanatory. Finally, please accept my apologies for the dearth of postings of late – excuses #4 & #17 apply.{rapidgallery thumbwidth:150;thumbheight:150;}sligo2014{/rapidgallery}

Poles in Kazhakhstan

A splintered pole in Kazhakstan



Dennis Keen, an American living in Almaty, Kazakhstan, got to wondering about the utility poles he finds there. More specifically why they use two cement pillars to secure the pole instead of just planting it into the ground. Pictured left.

I replied with a suggestion that there may be a termite/wood boring insect problem in the area. I’ve seen this splinting in photos from other countries – Africa and Oz – and that was the explanation given to me. As always, I took the opportunity to beg photos of interesting poles in this faraway land.

Dennis replied with these gems:

A Telegraph pole in Kazhakstan A pallet half way up a utility pole in Kazhakstan Tangled utility cables atop a utility pole, Almaty, Kazhakstan The Kazhakstan Lineman

…What interests me is that these poles don’t seem to have after-the-fact splints, put in to shore up rotted or chewed-up wood, but rather seem to have been installed that way – and notice that the wooden parts of the poles are always lifted off the ground by the two cement pillars. When I saw that, I thought it must have something to do with how the electricity is conducted, but I’m an absolute amateur at this stuff and could be mistaken.
I took a few other photos for you today, so you can appreciate more of what Kazakh poles offer.
The first picture shows you the most common form of the utility pole here: concrete supports at the bottom, a small platform halfway up, and an array with about 20 pins and insulators at the top. If you can help me with more observations or descriptive language, I’d appreciate it.
In the second picture, you can see a pole that had these two crate-like things nailed to it on either side of it. I couldn’t figure what they were for, and thought you might have some ideas.
The third picture shows you what a mess the wiring seems to be. This post was near some kind of sub-station, but still, I challenge you to make sense of it.
And lastly, I’m attaching a photo of a lineman I ran into here, wearing his gear. The pole-climbing gaffs are called kogti, or “claws.”

Best wishes,
Dennis Keen

So dear readers…

  • Is my termite guess correct?
  • What’s the concrete splint thing all about then?
  • What the hell is that pallet doing nailed half way up pole #2? and…
  • Does the sign saying “ROCNHNUA CAYHA” in picture #3 really mean “GOLF SALE” in Kazhak?


You can’t run something like the Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society and not be thought of as something of a “nut-job”. Fair enough. One of my many psychoses involves a sort of “survivor guilt”. I’m troubled terribly that everyone else died in the trenches during WWI and I didn’t. I also didn’t get killed storming a beach on D-Day in 1944 and nor did I get massacred during close-quarter combat in either Korea or Vietnam. Mainly, perhaps, because I was born some years after most of these wars had burnt themselves out.
Nonetheless, it was whilst reading some “Stalingrad porn” that I became interested in the region called Kalmykia. On their way to ultimate destruction on the banks of the Volga, the German 6th army had to cross the vast grassland desert called the Kalmyk Steppe. Its endless undulating emptiness sapped the will of the columns of soldiers traversing it. Then when it rained it turned instantly into evo-stik (TM).
Anyway, some armchair geography courtesy of Google (TM) and its very fine search engine turned up this photo. This, for me, hits the very essence of what I love about telegraph poles. Kalmykia is now #44 on my places-to-see-before-I-die list.
Thanks to (aka much-travelled photographer Len Gao) for letting me use the pic. See more from Kalmykia here.

Kalmyk Steppe

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