I first encountered these cards in a shop in Llandeilo,Carmarthenshire, wherein I promptly brought the lot.
They are the creation of Jacky Al-Samarraie of www.theartrooms.co.uk who clearly understands the aesthetics of the rural telegraph pole. My vested interest notwithstanding, these bold cards seem to capture, exquisitely, the essence of our British countryside. Jacky tells me that of all the cards she has designed, those with telegraph poles are her favourites. Why wouldn’t they be? For more cards and even more with telegraph poles on them visit The Art Rooms website.
What’s so special about this pole? you might say. And a photo taken amid leafless trees on a dull grey day. But they don’t have to be spectacular to feature in my pole-of-the-month spot. They just need to catch my eye. For starters, this one, at Pwllglas near Ruthin, is an orphan – there are no longer any telephone wires attached to it.
The business end of it, as well as having 5 cross-arms, some double-sided – has an eclectic mix of ceramic insulators. There are “pot-heads”, “double grooves” and in varying shades and of various antiquity. And then there’s a couple of extra potheads on a mini-arm at the top. Clearly this pole has been busy at one time.
And then look at the bottom. If they were ever to remove this pole (heaven forfend) then it would leave a perplexing gap in the wall.
Da-da! I think that’s how you spell it. Mission accomplished; fait accomplis; job done. The head of my pet telegraph pole has now been restored.
The arms dismantled, sanded, polished and then oiled. The metalwork sanded and rubbed and re-painted and a set of new insulators located. And doesn’t it look splendid. (Ok, please try to ignore that our porch needs a lick of paint)
Pole barn – becomes telegraph pole barn
I pondered for ages where now to keep it. My long-suffering wife even indicated there was an outside chance she mightn’t go completely bonkers if she came home to find it fixed up in the office. But I remember how much the wood stank once it got warm and thought better. Then another da-da! moment – my large 3 bay barn out in the field is a (telegraph) pole barn. The obvious place for it.
More on my barn in a future episode dear reader, and some of the other uses to which I put retired telegraph poles around here.
By the way, Jake of jajainsulators.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ wrote and told me that the unusual layout of this particular arms wood is to avoid the fouling of trees and other objects within the hedge line.
I’ve almost finished my other “arms wood” project too. That’s just a single arm with four insulators – two brown and two white. Another serendipitous hedgerow find that one. Hedgerow beachcombing is not quite so well known, and even less practised than sandy beachcombing, and whilst you do still find the odd useful item and plenty of old wood, you can end up with a lot of empty lucozade bottles too.
Other restoration projects in hand : my “Welcome to Cerrigydrudion” road sign, and a 20+ ft length of rope. Coming to a telegraph pole website near you – soon. You’ll just have to be patient.
Firstly, our Honorary Technical Advisor Keith S**** H.T.A. T.P.A.S. (pictured left, yesterday), has written in answer to Paul’s request for information a good few posts ago.
Have just seen Paul’s heart rending message,he is obviously worried that his poles may fall over. Do not fret my dear chap, properly pressure creosoted poles will last up to 100 years, yes 100 years before they fall down.Trust this alleviates your anxiety.
Keith S.(Honourary Technical Advisor,T.P.A.S)
He’s also written again to correct this website on some potential inaccuracies – well, that’s what Honorary Technical Advisors are for after all. In my Hieroglyphics gallery I make mention of “Heavy” poles. Apparently, no so thing; they are light, medium or Stout as indicated by the “cutting in (gouging). Last gouged figures on a pole indicates its year of processing. “Mind you”, he says, “the stouts would be pretty heavy”.
Finally, and it was never my intention to collect telegraph pole insulators or indeed photos of them. But that is what seems to be happening. And Ray Thorp – ex GPO / Post Office Telephones / British Telecom employee of 42 years sent me some photos of his eclectic potting-shed based collection. Among his ageing exhibits are an ex-Southern Railway insulator made of pitch-fibre. And the central one pictured right dates back to the National Telephone Co. and while porcelain on the inside is made of enamelled tin on the outside – like a camping mug.
Stay tuned listeners… All photos gratefully received – ceramics, pole of the month contenders, bizarre stuff.
Telecom Eireann engineers have come up with a novel way of getting around the budget cuts within the Irish GPO – simply don’t bother with the lower half of their telegraph poles. No hole to dig, only half the wood used and technically no need to pay the wayleave ground rent either.
This photo taken along the R181 somewhere near Castleblayney in central Ireland. Part of me says I should have saved this photo for April.
Many people, my wife included, upon being gifted a parcel like that at left, might be inclined to think “what the hell did I do to deserve this?” But to a severe sufferer of Anoraksia Nervosa, like myself, such a receipt is a delight. It’s arrival preceded also by the entertainment watching our flimsy postman struggle first to lift it out of his van, and then to reach over our gate to wedge it into my letter bin.
I must confess that these have actually been through a scrub in the kitchen sink before being put back in the box for this photo. One of them – the darkened one in the photo – is an old L.M.S. (London, Midland & Scottish) insulator. It’s seen some severe high-voltage arcing in it’s working life by the look of it.
Very many thanks to Mark Taylor from Sutton Coldfield who answered my appeal for ceramics. A cheque to cover the postage is on its way, along with some carefully chosen pure thoughts and our good wishes.
As you can see, I've been very busy in my shed of late. Braving the cold, the drizzle and the incredible drafts that howl through the gaps in my jerry-self-built workshop.
This week I have been mostly brushing, filing, sand-papering and painting. Not to mention some arms-wood planing. But first, the photo above gives you, dear reader, a tantalising preview of two other restoration projects that I have in-hand…
It is often pointed out to us that half of the photos we show on this website are, in fact, electricity distribution poles. But as we say on the front page :
“We don’t care what the wires contain either. They all carry electricity in some way be it the sparky stuff which boils your kettle, or the thinner stuff with your voice in it when you’re on the phone”
If you were to stop Joseph and Mary Public in the street, point them at either an electricity DP or an aged GPO pole and ask “What is that?” 99.9% of the time, I am sure, you will hear the answer “A telegraph pole”. And it is on that premise that this site operates.
That and the fact that all wire-carrying wooden poles, as far as I am concerned, have an essence of whimsical poetry all of their own. There they stand, silent sentinels, forever observing us who scurry about beneath them, oblivious. I’ll get my coat.
You normally only ever see poles like this alongside heritage railway lines. But this is one of a few such poles that run from the village of Clawddnewydd along the B5105 down towards Ruthin in Denbighshire, North Wales. And even more amazing, this one is still in use. The second lower left insulator has a telephone wire attached. I went and photographed most of these recently and I don’t expect they’ll be left up much longer – replaced by an anonymous pole with a non-descript plastic junction box like all the others.
Firstly, more serendipity. The problem of the missing 3 ceramic terminators has been solved. I have been walking the same route along the lanes at home for a near geological timescale. Yet last Friday evening at dusk, and completely unseen in all the previous 16,409 times that I have passed it, I spotted an ancient “arms wood” with 3 GPO insulators in immaculate condition. At some time in the distant past this had been removed from the pole nearby and the farmer had used it to block a hole under his sheep fence. Whistling nonchalantly, I clambered up the bank and quickly relieved it of the ceramics. Some people would be astonished that something as mundane as this could make my day.
The very next evening I went back and recovered the wood too – making good the hole in the fence with an old plank of my own. Another piece of telegraph pole history to restore.
Ever diligent, Society Honorary Technical Advisor Keith S**** H.T.A. T.P.A.S. quickly wrote to me with some advice when he read my last post on the subject of my pole restoration :
Cannot recomend rapid drying of arms wood which could lead to deep cracking of timber known as ‘shaking’ in the trade .Store outside under cover until comparative weights of samples indicate desired moisture content.
Wet weight minus dry weight times 100 gives percentage moisture content:
[ mc = (w1 – w2) x 100 ]
Or you could just leave them till they look ok.
Alas, this counsel came a little too late – after just an hour in my warm office the black wood tar seen at left, oozed from the wood I had just rescued and stuck to anything that touched it. The smell has only just cleared days later. Anyway, that formula all sounds a bit much like school algebra, so the “leave them till they look ok” bit will more suit my modus operandii.