Telegraphy on Harris

1872 – Cable from Stornoway to Scotland laid.

Archibald N Macdonald, 20, Telegraph Clerk, East Tarbert 36, b. Harris
(Angus Macdonald, 50, Inspector of Poor, Father, b. South Uist)

1883 – Evidence to the Napier Commission on the importance of the Telegraph to the Fishing Industry

1886 – Cable from Port Esgein, Harris to North Uist laid.

John Macdonald, 18, Telegraph Clerk, No. 5 East Tarbert, b. North Uist
(Angus Macdonald, 59, Postmaster, b. Benbecula)

Mary Macdonald, 18, Telegraphist and Assistant, Angus’s Niece, No. 25 North Harris, b. South Uist
Joanna Macleod, 19, Telegraphist and Assistant, Angus’s Niece, b. South Uist
(Angus Macdonald, 70, Post Master, b. Uist)

Mary B Campbell, 20, Telegraphist, No. 51 Scalpay, b. Harris
(Marion Campbell, 43, Sub Postmistress, Mother, b. Harris

It is perhaps unsurprising to see the move by the start of the 20th Century from all-male ‘Telegraph Clerks’ to all-female ‘Telegraphists’*, but perhaps more surprising to see that Tarbert housed the only telegraphic office on ‘mainland’ Harris.

One might have expected An-t-Ob to have warranted a telegraphic presence in the South of Harris, especially after the 1886 link to the Southern Isles had been made, but clearly this was not the case. It might well have developed in the heady days of the Leverburgh Experiment?

The Uist origins of several telegraphic personnel are perhaps better understood when it is recalled that, at this time, Harris and the Southern Islands were within Inverness-shire and were thus more closely politically linked than are Harris and neighbouring Lewis geographically!

(*The two ‘Telegraphists’ in Lewis in 1901 were a male in Stornoway and a female in Lochs.)

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