Illustrations from top:
1. Map showing the various cables laid from the island
2. First-day cover celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the laying of the first Transatlantic Cable
3. Surviving members of the Western Union workers on the island, standing behind the commemorative monument created by local sculptor Alan Ryan Hall.
4. Photo of part of the cable history exhibit in the Valentia Island Heritage Centre.
5. The surviving cable station building and telegraphers’ accommodation on the island.
6. Another historic plaque erected by in 2000 by the Institute if Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
6. An excellent history of the island by Nellie O’Connor published by the Dublin-based Portobello Press in 1992, which includes an excellent history of Valentia’s cable history.
The history and heritage of the cable business on Valencia Island is still very much alive and important to the current inhabitants as I discovered. Early attempts to link Valentia and Heart’s Content in Newfoundland – the shortest route between Europe and America - using the American Niagara and the British Agammemon naval vessels were only partially successful. The first working cable was subsequently laid using Brunel’s giant ship the Great Eastern. Western Union established themselves on the island and were active there until 1966. The importance of Valentia Island in the history of communication is assured. Had a long conversation with 90-year-old Dick Smith and worked out that his dad might have known my dad but was unable to find any direct memories or pictures of him. However and happily have arranged to lodge a picture of my dad in the Heritage Centre – so his presence will now form a small part of the history of the cable story on the island. I think he would have liked that.
For more information see the History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications website.