Connected Communities – 19th Century Style

160 years ago, in 1850, the dream of connecting communities separated by sea with telegraph cable became a reality.

The first of these connections in the Western isles was laid in 1872 between Loch Ewe, on the mainland of Scotland to Branahuie Bay, Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis. This 32.5 Nautical mile (Nm) line, like it’s followers, contained just a single conductor. This allowed the land-linked isles of Lewis and Harris to communicate with the the British mainland.

It took a dozen years before the next coupling was established in 1884 linking the island of South Uist the 16.5 Nautical miles to its southerly neighbour, Barra. This allowed communications from Barra all the way to North Uist via Benbecula (although the nature of the other relatively minor links required are sadly not recorded). Evidence to the Napier Commission in 1883 explained the importance of this link.

A couple of years later in 1886 the islands finally became fully connected with the establishment of the 11.5 Nm Port E(i)sgein, Harris to North Uist link.

Thus, a mere 36 years after the advent of this new technology, some of the remotest communities in the British Isles established electrical communications both within the isles themselves, to the British Isles and thence across the Globe.


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