November 23, 2010

Telegram delivery boy

A old man remembers his childhood days.  

He was born in 1885 and lived in southern England.  His family took over a post office in 1897: his father became sub-postmaster and his two sisters attended to the telegraph instrument.  To help out, the boy would deliver telegrams.  He had to go on foot since the post office provided no official bicycle and they couldn't afford to buy one.  

Such was the nature of the job that he would deliver telegrams at all hours of the day or night.  He remembers a member of the local gentry in the area who was fond of fox hunting.  The next day's hunt was cancelled (too icy and the ground rock hard - not good for the horses) and a telegram was sent to the gentleman to save him the trouble of calling for his hounds to be prepared.  This poor boy had to walk two miles there and two miles back, in the middle of the night, in freezing fog, alone on the moors, to deliver this important telegram.   It was a bit spooky and he admitted being somewhat frightened.  My heart went out to him! 

This is just one example out of 450-odd interviews carried out by Paul Thompson and his team in an oral history project carried out in the late 1960s, early 1970s.  Transcripts and other data can be downloaded for free at ESDS Qualidata (UK Data Archive)The material collected was good enough to make into a book (The Edwardians.  The Remaking of British Society, ISBN 0415061148).  It makes for riveting reading.  There won't be many people still alive today who can remember the Edwardian era, which makes these accounts doubly valuable.

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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.