Brian McDaid – New lines and old memories – Donegal Daily


“They said to leave a message. Sure, leave a message ‘Am.. Hello Brian, it’s Bida here……we’re just letting you know that our visitors are back!”

It was a message I had on my cell phone for quite a while, sent by my Aunt Bida (Aunt B) sharing the conversation with her husband Miah. Bida didn’t like leaving messages to an automated voice she didn’t know, didn’t want anyone and everyone to know about her business.

by Brian McDaid

This coded message from Bida was sent via the old telephone line that ran from her house to a wooden pole in her back garden and went to another pole in her neighbor Peggy’s garden, then on a box or cabinet at what used to be called Roulston. corner, now along the Dunnes Stores car park wall.

For the past few weeks I’ve been talking to helpSupport lines (maybe on the other side of the world) via these same old phone lines trying to find out what was wrong with this old phone line that isn’t able to take the technology that crosses them over.

Most of the time these support teams were helpful i.e. if you were in the mood to talk to them after someone repeated to you that your call is very important to them because they make you listen to background music in a queue.

The exchange contained in pillar boxes at Roulston’s Corner. (Now Dunne’s Car Park) Photo Brian McDaid.

Turn it off and turn it back on

For the past year or so I’ve gone through the routine of calling the helpline waiting in the queue and the music then waiting while the line was checked and then going through the routine to turn the modem off and on again and wait and report to the person on the other end of the line that many of the lights would eventually go to the green light hopefully that would mean the broadband has been restored.

Some mornings I just went through the routine without calling the helpline, sometimes successfully, but sometimes worse than I started! A desperate call to the help center went through the wait, the music, then the steps of turning the modem on and off and resetting the modem with a straightened paperclip! , only to find that the phone line had disconnected from the wall outlet (I never mentioned that last item to the person on the other end of the phone line telling me about the procedure.)

new line

At 8:30 a.m. on September 8, a technician called and arrived to run a brand new fiber optic line in the old Back Road house. I watched him work the old pole in the back garden as he pulled the new line through Peggy’s back garden and started to work his way through the outside walls and into the old living room.

Originally the phone was in the back room and before that there was a phone line of their own, you could answer the phone from the store which had an extension cord going to the house. Over the years this phone in this house has been the hub of the family wherever they are, and this phone has been used for calls to Ards to arrange Third Order meetings, pilgrimages to Knock have ​​also brought together by Bida booking Lough Swilly buses for the early morning trip to Co Mayo.

My grandfather’s old clock was presented to him on his retirement from Irish Shell in 1949. With its Westminster chime Photo Brian McDaid.

At the same time the phone was not for having a long talk because of the cost, I still have a few letters that Bida and the father. Mark wrote between Ards Friary Cresslough and the foot of the town of Letterkenny at this time. Looking up at the old post in the back garden, I thought there was a good chance the sad news of my mother’s death on January 2, 1970 had been passed on to her brothers and sisters near and far. , probably by her younger brother, Fr. Marquer.

Then the thought crossed my mind that I had been answering and making calls through that old phone line for almost 20 years since the time we moved our business from the Port Rd and changed the number to Cristeph Studio.

For the past few years during lockdown I’ve hijacked the answering phone on my mobile so the phone never rings at all in the old farmhouse and while the technician was putting the finishing touches on the install I noticed the old line was still up , asking if he would remove it he explained that both lines would be in use for some time in the future and your broadband would stop working on your old modem and that anything using it will need to be replaced with the new Modem, by the way the tech said you need to have your address sorted out as it appeared in his books as a place called Ard Na Greine I explained that was the name of this house when my aunts, uncles and grandparents lived when it was their house. So as I waited for the old line to go down and the new line to come into service, the house in my mind came back to Ard Na Graine, Sounds of WestMinster Chimes of the old clock that my grandfather had had when he retired from the Irish Shell in 1949 which rings every quarter of an hour, The smell of Bida’s meatloaf or Miah soup made with huge portions of love. The rattle of Bida shoes specially made for his vaults, Mass cards written with dignity for those who had passed, Sprain cords of linen rope in small brown paper bags. Code knocks from the neighbors at the living room window. And the very reluctant coded message left on answering machines. Like the one we started this journey with this week.

Old lane with new technology, poles carrying telephone lines to all the old houses in the area at the foot of town. Photo Brian McDaid.

an old message

“Just to Let You Know the Visitors Are Back” was sent around this time of year or a bit later in the fall, a time when the evenings were winding down and the days were getting a bit colder. The visitors to the message were in fact mice who managed to find their way through the doors every year, attracted by the warmth and the smell of good food.


Checking the line was working, I had a few friends call me back, then thought I’d make a call to check that too. The thought crossed my mind to ring the old original number for this house (which I had on heart, something we don’t seem to be able to do anymore.) I was ready to say that I had dialed the wrong number by mistake if in case it was reused and answered by a stranger.

On pressing the very last digit of the number, there was a short silence followed by the message, We are sorry… We are unable to connect you to this number. Please double check and redial… The old number has not been used for almost twenty years. but when I redialed it a second time, my first call must have activated something in the system that completely overruled the automated message. Now I was getting the wrong dial tone. Of course, I had no idea that the number I had dialed was incorrect, it was from another era but from the same place, with the same memories of a bygone era.

Broadband connection with fiber at the foot of the city. Photo Brian McDaid.

Brian McDaid – New lines and old memories was last modified: September 21, 2022 by Personal editor


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