When did Llanelli go Digital?
Needle Galvanometer 1902We tend to think of digital technology as being a recent form of communications system but arguably, it was in use in the middle of the nineteenth century when Great Britain dominated most of the globe with its empire. At that time it was also the world's foremost industrial nation. The use of steam power and technology provided motivation for its industry and transport. The management of such a large empire and transport system required a faster and more efficient form of communication system than the mail-coach or letter carrier. The discovery and use of electricity provided a solution to this need. Early scientists such as Ampère, Schilling, Weber, Cooke and Wheatstone were all instrumental in bringing in to use the practical signalling system known as the Electric Telegraph. This was the use of switching on and off an electric current to deflect a distant magnetic needle of a galvanometer to the left or right. To differentiate this switching, a code was developed whereby the length of time the current was flowing on and off, determined a pulse as being long or short or in effect a dot or a dash. Various codes were developed to denominate letters for each combination of pulses, the most notable and well known being the Morse Code, effectively a digital method of communication.

Llanelly County Guardian 1863. Vandalising the electric telegraph was dealt with severely due to the resultant disruption to business. 10s (shillings) was 50p and 22/6 £1.12As the railways spread throughout Great Britain, so did the Electric Telegraph. It provided a signalling system for the running and administration of this booming method of transport. Although it is unsure when Llanelli joined the digital world, The Cambrian newspaper of May 1853, reported that the electric telegraph had been laid down from London as far as Swansea and, a month later, it had been extended as far as Carmarthen. Severe penalties were issued to any one damaging the telegraph company's equipment.

According to the recollections of John Morris, an old Llanelli Seasider, who worked on the Telegraph System:LCH0166 Apple Tree Inn

I entered the service of this company in 1868, and the office was located in the front room of the old Apple Tree Inn, near the Railway Station, at a rental of 5 shillings (25p) a week. The staff consisted of one clerk and a messenger. The meagre facilities of communication consisted of a 'single needle' set – now obsolete for many years. The line was terminated at Cardiff. One can better imagine than record the chaos that existed at certain times of the day when it is considered that all the towns from Pembroke Dock up to Bridgend were in intermediate communication with Cardiff on the same line.
The delay to telegrams due to the "wait your turn" principal, was consequentially abnormal. The outcry subsequently by MPs against the heavy delay to business telegrams became a serious matter, and eventually the State stepped in and took over the Company's interest. When the Department controlled the system I was automatically transferred to the Postal Telegraph, and in 1875 I was offered and accepted an appointment at Cardiff, where I served for 48 years and retired in 1913.

He also recollected the low lying land in front of the Railway Station:

"There were deep dykes on either side of Station Road purposely made to carry the water after heavy rain and at high tides the town side of Station Road was often completely cut off by the inrush of sea water!

Being an avid sportsman he remembered the early star players of The Llanelly Football Club, namely; Messrs' W Y Nevill, Sails, Collier, Trubshaw, J. C. Howell, Dr Samuel, and Dr Roderick, mostly professional businessmen of the town of Llanelli.
John Morris former GPO Telegraphist, died in1938 at the age of 85 at his home, 105 Llandaff Road, Canton, Cardiff.


Notes and Citations

Llanelli and County Guardian 3 Dec 1863
LCG 5 May 1938

Slater's Directory South Wales 1858-1859
Apple Tree, John Bowen, Station Road p78

Post Office Directory 1866
Electric and International Telegraph Company
Office near the railway Station – Clerk in Charge James James