Not just a box-ticking exercise

It was time, I thought, to put together what has become my almost annual blog post. Now that semi-retirement is upon me, I am hoping to become a more regular blogger (note to self – eat more dates)  but part of the problem is I get bees in my bunnet and as a result end up getting side-tracked into doing loads of other stuff.   Most people would see this as a way of procrastinating (if they are being kind: mostly they probably just think I am a complete anorak), and I suppose it is to an extent. But it goes further than that and I never cease to amaze myself with the items that I suddenly need to research as failure to do so will render me bereft of vital knowledge and therefore a flawed human being.

I have long since been of the opinion that I was greatly disadvantaged during my early existence as clearly I was born to google. Oh to have been young in an age where knowledge was literally at one’s finger tips!  As it was, the Fort Matilda to Greenock Central line and a Class 311 had to take my quest for knowledge to the local library where I was served up vastly out of date snippets from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Incidentally, Class 311s came in in around 1967. Nowadays most stock on the lines around Glasgow is Class 380s but the Greenock line is still using 314s going back to the late 1970s.   But I digress – pause to remove one anorak and don another.

And so, in the past few weeks  I have developed a new fascination:  the good old British red telephone box – the K6.

Now if we want someone to blame, then this is all most definitely the fault of my sister and her village choir (Felton’s The Bridge Singers in case anyone want to know. And if you did want to know, I should point out that for a village choir they punch well above their weight in terms of both ability and sheer range of material)  In mid-June I attended their Magical Glass concert during which the link between glass and the windows of phone boxes allowed them to perform one of their key (pun intentional) songs  – Alison’s K6 Telephone Box.  Composed by Cheryl Camm, the choir’s director, this song, along with the actual K6 itself, was the inspiration for the subsequent infatuation.  A link to the song itself  can be found by clicking HERE

Fast forward to July and our annual summer visit to the magical island of Islay. I had been very aware of the existence of K6s on Islay, having cycled past several over the years and on one occasion having taken shelter in one from some good old Scottish summer rain. You know the sort – it comes at you horizontally usually accompanied by a 360° “headwind”,  thereby ensuring that nary a crook or nanny is left unsoaked.  Anyway, it got me thinking that it was time someone donned their lycra and took to their two wheels and went and scouted out just exactly how many of these iconic elusive things we yearn for there are on Islay.   My theory was that, while the song correctly claims that these days the K6s are such a rarity , on Islay they remain quintessentially ubiquitous.  And indeed on this island of some 240 square miles,  there are eleven of them.*  Unfortunately many of them, instead of being beside bus stop, village green or post office, seem to be located beside bins.  On the plus side however, most of them still work.

It is my intention to turn this whole thing into a bicycle or jogging orienteering route (with prizes) and as part of that, participants have to mark that they’ve been to the box by making a call from it. That way, who knows, we might even be able to stave off  Tritish Bellycom’s ongoing plans to scrap the boxes on the basis that they are never used because use them we will.  In the meantime here is my little homage to Cheryl’s song and to one of the last bastions of Britishness that is the K6 Telephone Box.

And so, in alphabetical rather than geographical order (and with apologies for where I haven’t been able to crop out the bins):

* Footnote: At the time of writing I still am not sure I have captured all of the boxes, and BT is being very secretive about locations of payphones, which does give rise to visions about them being hidden launch sites for our nuclear arsenal or somesuch other flight of fancy.  Or it could just be that perhaps BT doesn’t actually know where they all are.  I intend to ask one of the local BT engineers when I am next over as I am sure they won’t be so uncommunicative about the location of their communication boxes.






Bruichladdich pier

Bruichladdich Loc

location plate

Caol Ila

Caol Ila distillery. Door-less but functioning.


High Road between Bridgend and Bowmore. This one didn’t work.

Glenmachrie Loc

High Road location panel


less than picturesquely sited between two bins at Keils village


Officially the arse end of beyond on the long and winding road to the Oa

Oa Loc

location panel for AEOB

Port Ellen

Port Ellen

Port Ellen Loc

location panel

Port Wemyss

the highly picturesque Port Wemyss box with the Orsay lighthouse behind it

Port Wemyss Loc

location panel



Portnahaven Loc

now you have to admit this is quite an address for a phone box


And keeping the prettiest to last – the Sanaigmore box, sandwiched nicely between my all-time two favourite beaches in the world – Machir and Saligo.

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