With over 17,000 people currently living in Blantyre, it’s safe to say between the house landlines, business lines and mobile phones, there’s literally thousands of telephones in the town which we all now take for granted.
I recently discovered what looks possible as being the first ever telephone in Blantyre. In February 1907, at a meeting of the Blantyre Parish Council, the clerk presented a letter where he had written to the National Telephone Company on the subject of “bringing the telephone to Blantyre.”
This entry would suggest that no other telephone existed in Blantyre prior to that date. This was a time before the new police station, before the Miners Welfare or Telephone Exchange buildings. New technology for a “modern era”, things were certainly done differently back then.
For example, the clerk had written offering the telephone company a rent of £6 12s per annum and £2 for each 500 calls made within the Hamilton, Airdrie and Coatbridge areas. The Company however, wouldn’t accept the offer and wrote back saying their own rates for telephone services would apply in accordance with their terms. It perhaps shows how naïve and new this all was to the Parish Council. The clerk went on to explain that Cambusnethan Parish had brought the telephone to their area which included a line to the Inspectors House for £5 10s and that Blantyre had offered to pay more.
This didn’t go down well and the Chairman suggested the telephone should be dropped altogether until a greater need occurred. Everybody in the meeting agreed and the matter was parked for some months. It would take for the construction of the new police office later that year and into 1908 before the matter was raised again. It is understood that the Parish Chambers on Cemetery Road, then still relatively new as pictured, was the first location of a phone in Blantyre.
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My grandfather had a house phone in Drumchapel by 1907. We retain the number BEA 0017 until the late 1950s. Around 1895 Drumchapel railway station let people telegraph from the station. They had a notice “You may telegraph from here!”