Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Communicating the Message

The subtle colouring and lettering of the Chevrolet advert Alan has given us for this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt reminded me of a postcard I had from a visit to Cornwall. We went to the Telegraph Museum at Porthcurno when we holidayed with the family some years ago.

My picture shows a 1946 advertisement from the archives of Cable and Wireless, and quotes Puck’s lines from Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’:“I’ll put a girdle about the earth in forty minutes.” It’s also the title of a book by Hugh Barty-King, written in 1979 to mark the group’s jubilee: “Girdle About the Earth: a History of Cable and Wireless’, but I couldn’t find anymore about it from the Amazon listing.

The museum itself is fascinating and they have a wonderful website where it would be easy to lose yourself for a couple of hours. It’s another of those living museums with demonstrations of real equipment every day, and interactive science activities. Set in a beautiful Cornish valley close to Porthcurno, one of the very best beaches in Britain, and not far from Land’s End, it also offers visits to WW2 secret tunnels, dug by Cornish tin miners, to house an underground building and the entire telegraph operations. The site was the hub for international cable communications from 1870-1970 and a training college for the communications industry until 1993. I commend the website to you if you want to know more about the history of telegraph. This after all was the precursor of the internet. On 28th January 2012 The Times newspaper carried a snippet of good news. £1.5 million in lottery funding together with the Wolfson Fund, has been awarded to the museum and it will now undergo a huge makeover. Very well-deserved.

The museum is housed in an imposing Grade II listed building.
Porthcurno Telegraph Hut
Undersea telegraph cables from all over the world, came up onto Porthcurno beach and were terminated here in this little hut. The signal was then routed outwards via the landline network.

This is exactly as it would have looked then
The above three images are courtesy of Tony Atkin [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Co-incidentally, we also holidayed in County Kerry, Ireland in 1997. Here we visited the beautiful Valentia Island, one of the loveliest and wildest places I know. 

Valentia Lighthouse 1997

The Heritage Centre there has displays documenting the part played by the area as the base of the very first attempts at laying the Atlantic cable in 1857 and 1858 and the successful expedition of 1866. It’s the location of the oldest Atlantic cable stations in the world. 

Andy Stephenson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 

Before the internet a telegram was the quickest and cheapest way to send a message. Until relatively recent times this is how people would have received important news or notifications, messages of celebrations, commiseration or cheer. A code was even developed to shorten the message, much like text-speak today. Let’s finish with an uplifting message of congratulation sent in a telegram 69 years ago, to my parents on their wedding day, 11th July 1942. 

If you want to see what messages other participants have drawn from the prompt below, take a ride over to Sepia Saturday.


  1. Can you believe, we lived in Cornwall for 15 years and never visited this place. We're taking a holiday there, next year, so would love to get along and see it for myself.

  2. That telegram has made my day! I love the way it was worded - almost seems tongue-in-cheek if you imagine it written as such today.
    Not sure what to make of the museum - looks like it's just been sort of 'plonked' there.

  3. Sounds like an interesting museum. Wish it wasn't so far away.
    Telegrams used to be so fun. Unless of course it was bad news.
    The wedding message is an original.
    Nancy javier

  4. A lovely post Nell : some great old images (and you are right about how the two posters demonstrate the same styles and shades) and some fascinating facts. You can delete this comment as often as you wish, but I still say it is an excellent post!

  5. Valentia looks like a great location. And I've much liked the telegram. I remember seeing one once when I was a kid. But my mom didn't get good news...

  6. I would love to visit that museum. I wish I didn't live so far away. I really enjoyed your post this week. Thanks.

  7. I found the telegram most interesting. I never saw one on special decorated paper or green ink. Actually I have only seen a couple of telegrams...

  8. I've never seen such a beautiful telegram. I'm used to the drab Western Union printed in bland blue ink on cheap paper. This one is lovely.

  9. I find telegrams so interesting so this was a great post :o) Scarlett x

  10. I Have This Vision In My Head Of early BBC announcers wearing Top Hat & Tails but With A Girdle Underneath!

  11. I will follow you to Porthcurno now I have read this.
    Does anyone send telegrams now or is it all text speak.

  12. A girdle around the earth, too funny, I haven't heard that word for a while....great choice of tracking on Alan's theme actually...the colors in your first photo really match the colors in his theme photo! Again a fine source of interesting information and great capture of supporting phots! Excellent! I love this Sepia Saturday blog, right!

  13. Lovely telegram message, and I'm sure I heard a really interesting program on Radio 4 about the cable laying. It was no mean feat. Jo

  14. I love the old telegraph equipment. It looks so sturdy and reliable. While I have seen some old telegrams, I don't think I've ever seen one as colorful and ornate as the one you posted.

  15. In 1901, the telegraph companies worried about that new technology, the wireless radio, which was being tested just across the bay from Porthcurno in Puldho by by Marconi. Now I want to visit both places.

  16. What a wonderful telegram, a real treasure for you and your family. I too have never seen one as colourful.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Great info and I had never in my life seen a telegram. My grandparents probably got them with three sons in the war.

  18. A fascinating museum and the postcard is exceptional. It has been ages wince I heard those lines from Puck about a girdle round the earth. I recall I thought that so funny when I heard it as a youngster stydying the Bard.

  19. I had no idea about the roles of either Valentia or Porthcurno in telegraphy. I do however remember telegrams very well.

  20. Little Nell, this is so cool! Loved sharing your trip and learning about the telegraph ins and outs. I will check out their website. I enjoy going to museums very much, even if I can only visit through cyberspace.

    Hope your week is wonderful,

    Kathy M.

  21. The Wedding Telegram Is A Marvellous Keepsake!The Desire To Communicate Pre-Dates The Internet By Many Miles!