Telephone Exchange

Ian Jolly is a collector with an enthusiasm for old telephone equipment. He came across this small exchange unit and tried following up its provenance. Here he tells its story.

I have in my collection of old GPO telephone exchanges, a small wall mounted telephone switchboard of a type introduced by the GPO in the mid 1920's to serve small villages/rural areas with up to 20 subscribers. These were almost invariably installed in village post offices and worked by the village postmaster and their family or staff.

I have been trying to discover where the one I have came from. Which village post office was it in?

So far I have established that the GPO had 472 of these exchanges in use over the years - so the task was quite formidable ! Mainly the 1920's and 1930's but the last one or two survived in use until 1962.

I have built up a database of these and after much research believe that the one I have may be the one which was installed (according to the GPO's annual 'List of Exchanges') in the 'PO, Glenmoriston'.

The clues which lead me to think this are -

Clue One: The three 'junctions' (the lines to its 'parent' exchange) are marked 'FGS'.

All GPO/BT exchanges have a letter code used to refer to the exchange - there were two sets - one used by engineers and the other by operators. I have the engineering list but there is no FGS shown. Sadly no-one (including BT Archives) has a copy of the operators' codes. Sometimes they were the same as the Engineering codes and at other places they were different. I have gone though the annual lists of exchanges. I've been looking for one of these exchanges where the parent exchange was a manual exchange which could have had the letters 'FGS' and I've come to the conclusion that FGS could be Fort Augustus. The List of Exchanges shows Fort Augustus as a larger manual exchange that the smaller Glenmoriston exchange could have been parented on.

Clue Two: I've been through copies of old telephone directories and up to 1950, the numbers on the small Glen Moriston switchboard were originally in the range 1 to 20.

The switchboard.

However this is a close-up of the switchboard and you can see that the numbers are in the range 201 up to 220 but 211 appears to have been changed to 221 ! Some of the labels on my exchange are missing. Green labels are the 'FGS' lines. Glen Moriston was the only one of these old exchanges to have this number change !

The 1953 telephone directory shows these Glenmoriston numbers -

201 Miss C.F. Fullerton, C.O., Glenmoriston.

202 Glenmoriston Estates Ltd., Mains, Invermoriston.

204 MacDonald Donald, Motr Hirer, Pier, Invermoriston.

205 Hart J, Gobhar Sgiathach, Invermoriston

206 Glenmoriston Hotel

207 MacLeod Mrs Mary, Rudha Ban

209 North Conservancy - Port Clair Forest

212 MacDonald S & Co, The Stores Invermoriston.

215 Mitchell Construction Company, Glenmoriston (also 'Dalchreichart 204' at Glenmoriston)

216 Fraser, Rev Peter, B.D., The Manse, (Registrar of Births, Marriages & Deaths)

217 Glenmoriston Hotel (visitors)

221 North Conservancy - Creagnaneun Forest

222 Police Station

It is interesting to note that no 'Post Office' is listed. But note the '221' ! I'm sure that the change of that number from 211 to 221 is the clue which confirms things? By 1953 there were 18 lines listed in use on the exchange. However there is no label on mine for 222 (or 212 as it should have been). After WW2 many rural police stations were re-numbered '222'.

Number 201 is marked on the switchboard as a 'Service' line i.e. one used by the GPO. The red labels indicate 'Call Office' lines i.e. 214 and 218 - neither of which are listed. these could have been roadside red kiosks or lines in a hotel/pub?

Switch between kiosk and Post Office

From 1924 to 1926 , 'Glenmoriston 1' is listed as being a Public Call Office at Glenmoriston Post Office. In those days it was usual for the telephone in the Post Office to be shared with the Kiosk outside by means of a switch in the Post Office.

If there wasn't an exchange in the area, the Post Office/Kiosk would be off the nearest exchange but it would be given the name of the village - hence in 1924 although it is listed as 'Glen Moriston 1' it was in fact in fact off Fort Agustus exchange - a common GPO practice to make it look as though the village had an exchange of its own!

Exchange location marked by T.

It is interesting to note that the 1928 1" OS map shows a public telephone (the 'T' to the right of 'school') . It was at this location in those days that the Post Office was situated with the switchboard.

The Miss F.C. Fullerton shown as running the Post Office was the daughter of Francis Fullerton. He is shown in the 1901 census as 'postmaster & carpenter' with a daughter 'Catherine' then aged 10. There is no postmaster shown in the 1891 census when Francis is shown as 'carpenter' and Catherine is aged 1 year old.

Whilst I have a complete set of records for all GPO exchanges from 1927 onwards, I have since discovered Glen Moriston exchange was installed in 1925 by David John McFarquhar, a GPO engineeer in the 1920's, who sadly died about ten years ago. When the exchange opened it only had two subscribers, other than the Post Office. Number 2 was Mr Grant of Invermoriston House (The 'Laird') and number 3 was "Lt Col W.H.Lane (Indian Army retired)". Five years later, Donald McDonald of The Pier, the local garage and 'motor hirer' joined them as No 4. Nothing more happened for several years until both numbers 2 and 3 disappeared leaving just the Post Office and 'Donald the Pier' connected for a number of years. Toward the end of the 1930's more lines started to appear. This meant upgrading the switchboard as originally it only had provision for 3 lines to the main exchange and 5 subscribers. It was expanded to its maximum provision for 20 lines but only ever had provision for a maximum of three lines to the 'parent' - two of which were in use to Fort Augustus.

Between the end of March 1955 and March 1956, the switchboard had been replaced by a small automatic exchange known as a 'Unit Automatic eXchange No 12' (UAX12) with 20 subscribers on it.

At the same time, Fort Augustus was also converted to a larger 'Unit Automatic eXchange No 13'. The UAX12 was later replaced by a similar UAX13 when STD came to the area. More recently it was converted to a UXD5 (Unit eXchange Digital no 5) with the coming of the 'Digital Age'!

Luckily, I have also got a couple of UAX12's - 'Kingshouse' exchange from on Rannoch Moor and Drimnin on Morvern, which I recovered in the early 1990's when they were being replaced with digital exchanges.

Ian Jolly with the old 'Glen Moriston exchange
- in use 1925 to 1955 - currently under
restoration after nearly fifty years of disuse!

I'm very grateful to Patrick McDonald of The Pier, Invermoriston for some of the above information (son of Donald 'the Pier' McDonald - there were 5 Donald McDonalds in the village at the time! - Pier House, Invermoriston, IV63 7YE, Tel 01352 351204 - the original 'Glen Moriston 4' !!! ) Miss Fullerton was a relative of the McDonalds and Patrick's father, Donald 'the Pier', had a contract for carrying the mail in the area between Post Offices. Thus as a youngster, Patrick would visit the Post Office and was unofficially allowed to put calls through. Patrick's description of the switchboard and the fact that it is the only one of these early switchboards I can find which had its numbering changed to three digits and particularly the '221' which was out of the normal numbering range.

Any information about the days of the manual exchange, however little, is useful - plus information from the days of the automatic exchange such as local dialling codes, etc. is welcome. It is surprising how little information has survived and if we are not careful, it will pass into history, lost forever :-( We don't know the dialling codes prior to about 1985. Any information from old STD dialling code books or old dialling code cards would be very welcome.

Does anyone know of any photographs of the old manual exchange in the Glenmoriston Post Office?

You may be the ONLY person with the information!

Please contact

Ian Jolly, 1 Llewelyn Drive, Bryn-y-Baal, Mold, North Wales CH7 6SW Tel 01320 338120 - I have a local phone number!

or by email - gm at