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.