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Double Take: The 1920s Irish telephone box that has stood the test of time

It’s the longest-standing original telephone box.

ANYONE WHO GREW up in Ireland between the 1920s and 1980s is sure to remember the now iconic cream and white telephone boxes that were dotted on street corners around the country. 

While the hundreds of original telephone boxes that were rolled out in variations have disappeared over the past forty years, one remains in place to this day.

Where Westminster Road meets Torquay Road in Foxrock, Dublin 18, stands a humble and original telephone box on a street corner.

boxuse Source: Google Maps

The box was designed and installed at some stage between the years of 1922 and 1925, says John Burke of IrishTelephoneBox.ie. 

“The first Irish telephone box was installed in College Green in 1922,” he tells TheJournal.ie. “But the longest-standing one remains in Foxrock village.” 

boxuse2

These cream and green boxes continued to pop up around Ireland until 1932, when Dublin hosted the 31st International Eucharistic Congress.

Alongside the change of government and the creation of a new department of Post and Telegraphs, newly-designed green and white telephone boxes with ‘telefón’ at the top and ‘P&T’ at the base began to be rolled out. 

29188341774_2bde6cd9a0_k Source: William Murphy/Flickr

These boxes held an important role in Irish society until the 1980s when Eircom took over telephone box services around the country, and from 2009 onwards nearly all original telephone boxes were destroyed. 

“Telephone boxes were the only way to contact relations abroad,” says John. “I was fascinated by them as a kid. I remember using them myself and as a young lad seeing my mam using them to ring her sister in Australia.”

Today, John works to restore the remaining old telephone boxes, as well as creating replicas, by combining his business Burke Joinery Ltd and IrishTelephoneBox.ie. 

“What really got me was seeing the telephone boxes in London. People always pose for  photographs in front of them and enjoy them, and I wondered, ‘why haven’t we got ours?’”

“I started restoring them in 2012 during the recession,” he says. “I had to find something to do.”

“Before the recession, we had 40 Burke Joinery employees. During the recession, we had only five or six. Today, we’re back in the forties. We’ve come through the storm and the boxes helped us in their own little way.”

“We make them for offices and they’re used as they were intended. They provide a quiet zone to make a conference call or to ring someone without being disturbed. We’ve made them for Bank of Ireland HQ, the Facebook offices, the Guinness Storehouse, Grant Thornton… there’s even one in Darkey Kelly’s on Fishamble Street!” 

While modern life has brought with it the ability to contact someone at any place or any time, John says this means Irish telephone boxes hold a more important role than ever: “What the Irish telephone box represents is perhaps now more important than it has been for generations.

“In a world where we are in constant contact with one another the Irish telephone box can serve as a reminder that communication wasn’t always quite so simple, and was therefore something to be cherished.”

Find out more information at IrishTelephoneBox.ie.

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