'Lifeline' island phone box set to ring once more after Scotland campaign pushes for pips
The red box on Canna in the Small Isles has been out of order for at least 13 months, with the link to the wider world missed by both locals and visitors who have little to no mobile phone access.
It has served in times of crisis and emergency for residents, small business owners and holidaymakers, and took a central role in a Local Hero-style transatlantic phone call made by the head of an airline company company who needed to close a multi-million pound deal while on a sailing trip.
Now, after an island campaign aided by visitors, a message has been relayed to the island that BT engineers will visit the Canna on October 5.
Isebail MacKinnon, a life-long Canna resident who runs the Canna Campsite, said fellow islander Jane Baser started the campaign in August last year when the phone had been out of order for “months, if not years”.
Ms MacKinnon said: “This phone box is a lifeline and has been used by locals, visitors, fishermen and visiting yachts to make contact with families, organise shellfish collections and order parts for boats.
"The island has no mobile reception, so the phone box is vital. It’s taken a lot of determination by Jane to keep pushing for this. BT have promised to visit on the 5th of October to install a new phone.
“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in our campaign. We hope the work will be carried out and our phone box will be working soon.”
The state of the red box was reported in August 2021 after its broken door exposed the phone to the weather, with users unable to make calls.
By the end of the month, a new door was fitted and the box was painted – but no new phone arrived.
Ms MacKinnon said: "After several emails later and lots of empty promises, a new campaign was started to get visitors to the island to report the fault.”
She added: “The way visitors helped us by telling us the times they had to use the phone box is lovely. It was a nice way for them to be able to push the campaign for us.”
The red phone box on Canna got an international reach back in 2008 when Tim Jeans, then managing director of Monarch Airline, conducted a £120m deal in its cramped confines.
Mr Jeans was on a sailing holiday, but found himself juggling his break with a deal to finalise the purchase of two airbus A321 jetliners. After he anchored in the harbour ahead of a crunch call, he discovered he had no mobile signal.
Mr Jeans pumped up his dinghy, rowed to land and arranged a conference call from the red phone box, the deal concluded in the “most unusual circumstances” the following day, he recalled.
That call from the red phone box was memorialised by the airline boss, who christened one of his new planes Canna.
A BT spokesperson said: “We’re sorry it’s taken time to co-ordinate a visit to Canna to repair the phone box. We’re not always able to repair boxes on islands as quickly as we’d like to and we apologise for any inconvenience that this may have caused.”
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