In the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...
, United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
and other countries around the world, a telegram messenger
, more often known as a telegram delivery boy
or simply a telegram boy
was a young male employed to deliver telegrams
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...
, usually on bicycle
A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....
. In the United Kingdom and Ireland telegram boys were employed by the Post Office. In the United States, they were known as Telegraph boy
Telegraph boys were uniformed young men between 10 and 18 years of age who, mounted on bicycles, carried telegrams through urban streets...
History in the UK
Telegram boys became popular after the Post Office took over control of Inland Telegraphs from the railways and private telegraph companies. Many of the boys employed by these services to deliver telegrams transferred to the Post Office. In some respects the life of a telegram boy was not unlike that of someone completing military service. They were expected to behave in a manner befitting one who wears the uniform of the Queen, and were required to completes a daily drill. From 1915 to 1921, morning exercise was added to these requirements.
During the 1930s in the United Kingdom the Post Office introduced motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...
s. This started in Leeds where boys aged 17 were allowed to volunteer for training, but only with the permission of their parents. However, following the success of this motorcycles were introduced elsewhere in the country. The fleet was comprised almost exclusively of BSA 125cc bikes which boys were expected to ride at an average of 15mph.
During its heyday in the 1930s, the service was delivering an average of 65 million telegrams per year. However, the service was not making a profit and was losing an estimated £1million annually.
By the 1960s the number of telegrams being delivered had dropped to 10 million, and in 1976 only 844 were delivered. Consequently the Post Office took the decision in 1977 to abolish the service. The service continued for a few years and was briefly operated by British Telecom after it split from the Post Office. British Telecom announced on 19 October 1981 that the telegram would be discontinued, and it was finally taken out of service on 30 September 1982 after 139 years in the United Kingdom.
Notable telegram boys
- Frank McCourt
Francis "Frank" McCourt was an Irish-American teacher and Pulitzer Prize–winning writer, best known as the author of Angela’s Ashes, an award-winning, tragicomic memoir of the misery and squalor of his childhood....
, author and teacher
- Dave Ward
Dave Ward is the deputy leader of the Communication Workers Union in the United Kingdom, a position he has held since 2003.-Career:...
, deputy leader of the Communication Workers Union