Greenock’s Old Telegraph Station

OLD TELEGRAPH STATION: The first South Australian electric telegraph link was established between Adelaide and Port Adelaide in 1856. A line was opened between Adelaide and Gawler in 1857 and that line was extended to Angaston in 1866 (see below re early telegraph communications). Mr Louis Iverson maintained the Greenock telegraph service in a small office in his home located in the main street of Greenock. Lightning struck the flagstaff outside the telegraph office during a severe thunderstorm in October 1870 and caused it to split in halves. The main telegraph line also caught fire and the current followed the conductor into the telegraph office, setting the window curtain alight. Fortunately, Mr Iverson was able to extinguish the blaze before it did much damage. The telegraphic service was transferred to the Greenock Post Office after it was opened in 1880, and combined with the postal service. Located in the main street of Greenock in the world famous Barossa Valley, Greenock’s Old Telegraph Station today operates as a beautifully restored self-catered bed and breakfast accommodation. With its peaceful location in the quaint village of Greenock, the Old Telegraph Station offers guests a relaxing environment with all the conveniences of modern living whilst retaining its old charm.

EARLY TELEGRAPH AND TELEPHONE COMMUNICATIONS IN GREENOCK

These days we take for granted the facility of rapid communication via a wide range of devices and services unheard of by pioneers in the Greenock district. EG Landline and mobile telephones, message bank, text messaging, email, Facebook, Twitter, chat sites, blogs etc. We seek faster and clearer communication without the need for manual operators to all parts of the developed world 24 hours of the day. Perhaps we should spare a thought for the early generations of settlers and the limited means of communication that was available to them.

Despite petitioning the government of the day the local community was unsuccessful in 1854 and again in 1855 in gaining a mail service to Greenock. A limited service was established the following year. Morse code telegraph was extended to Greenock and other Barossa towns in 1866. If any local resident wanted to send a telegram to another person or business in the state they would have to bring their message to the telegraph officer who would then convey the message in Morse code.

This form of communication was not cheap. The system used a “key” to open or close a switch. Each letter of the alphabet and each number and special symbol had a unique combination of “dots and dashes” and each character had to be entered with this key. It was transmitted through phone lines from the telegraph office in Greenock to the central telegraph exchange in Adelaide and then sent from there to the respective telegraph office in the state. The message (usually very brief) was written out as a telegram at the receiving telegraph station to give to the recipient. The telegraph service was transferred to the Greenock Post Office in 1880.

The first manual telephone service at Greenock commenced with one subscriber in 1910 – the public telephone booth located outside the Post Office. It took another ten years before the first five private phones were installed in the town and a further few years before more subscribers could be accommodated. Morse code telegrams remained as a means of communication locally until the early 1920s, but the service was discontinued when telephones began to be installed in more private homes.