Gavin Maxwell chose to live in a remote house on a remote island in Scotland. Here he describes the extraordinary efforts made by the local postman to deliver a telegram, from a heroic sense of duty. Nowadays he would be called a ‘key worker’.

It reminds me of a long bike ride in Scotland with a friend years ago. We thought we were doing well up the hills with our 21-speed all terrain bikes, until a postie passed us at high speed on a big heavy upright postal bike with no more than three gears at his disposal. We were bent over puffing our way up, and he waved cheerily and greeted us with no shortness of breath.

I for one suddenly felt weedy, useless and not a little pretentious.

‘The only way in which a telegram can be delivered, other than by the Land Rover carrying the mail to Druimfiaclach in the evenings, is by five steep and weary miles’ bicycling from the Post Office to Druimfiaclach, followed by a mile and a half of hill-track on foot. In all, ten miles bicycling and three miles walking.  The village postmaster is a man of extreme rectitude and sense of duty; the first telegram I ever received at Camusfeàrna was when on a sweltering summer’s day, the hills shimmering in the heat haze and the fly-tormented cattle knee-deep in the motionless sea, he stood exhausted before my door bearing a message which read ‘Many happy returns of the day’.  …. after that I persuaded him, with great difficulty, to exercise his own judgment as to whether or not a telegram was urgent.’ 


Source: Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water (London: Penguin, 1974), p. 35

Photo credit: Hans at pixabay


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