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Posted by utechalumni in UTech News.
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When the domestic telegraph service in Jamaica closed in 2004 after 125 years of operation, Dr. the Hon. Rae Davis, OJ, then University President and an Engineer by training, initiated a project to document the story of the telegraph in Jamaica. The resulting book, “The Story of the Telegraph in Jamaica”, co-authored by Davis, Martin Henry (then of the Department of Liberal Studies and trained in both science and communication) and Martin MacLeavy of the School of Engineering and a telecommunications engineer, has now been published by Arawak Publications.

Beginning with the Telegraph Law of 1879, the 132-page book, illustrated with drawings and period photographs, tells the story of the rise, influence, decline and demise of the telegraph in Jamaica, intertwined with the social, cultural and economic story of the Jamaican people and with the story of international communications.

Telegraphy was the first technical breakthrough in telecommunications and the preface to “The Story of the Telegraph in Jamaica” says “the telegraph service occupied an outstanding place in Jamaica’s history and culture as the means of rapid communication, both private and public, before the telephone, radio and television.” In the Foreword, Professor Patrick Bryan, then the Douglas hall professor of History at the UWI, Mona, noted that “the nineteenth century was remarkable for the growth of new technologies which were destined to have … a revolutionary impact on the quality of social and economic life.”

Tracing the impact of several of these technologies on Jamaica, particularly the telegraph, Prof Bryan concluded that “The Story of the Telegraph in Jamaica” … will be of interest to students of social history and the history of science and technology.”

Stories of telegraph workers, captured firsthand by recruited student researchers from the Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies, add powerful human interest to the book’s narrative.

Funding for the research was provided by the then Cable and Wireless Jamaica Limited company, which was the operator of the telegraph service at the time of its closure. The CHASE Fund supported publication.

“The Story of the Telegraph in Jamaica” will be in bookstores, including Bryan’s on campus shortly and an official launch will be held after summer. The book, written in simple accessible language for a popular readership, should be useful to students doing related science and technology courses at the upper secondary and tertiary level, especially where the history of science and technology and the impact of S&T are emphasized.

Former telegraph workers and their families will have a nostalgic documentation and reminder of their lived experience in the book. Telecommunications workers and academics should find “The Story of the Telegraph in Jamaica”, a good read. And the book, with its extensive illustrations and easy narrative, will make a fine souvenir gift item in the genre of Jamaican popular history.

Martin Henry

Co-author and Book Project Manager



1. Richard - September 23, 2015

So when was the first telegram sent to or from Jamaica to other countries?

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