'Lifeline' island phone box set to ring once more after Scotland campaign pushes for pips

A ‘lifeline’ island phone box is set to ring once again.

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.

Hide Ad
Read More
Is it the end for the Local Hero phone box at Pennan?
Hide Ad

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”.

Hide Ad

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.

Hide Ad
Islanders on Canna in the inner Hebrides have been running a campaign to get their beloved red phone box repaired. Using social media and a poster on the box itself they have been asking people to report the phone to BT. After two years, they are now close to getting an engineer to visit the island. PIC: Andrew O'Brien.

“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.”

Hide Ad

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.

Hide Ad
Residents have been campaigning for over a year to get the phone box fixed - with a message now relayed by BT that an engineer is due on the island on October 5. PIC: Andrew O'Brien.

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.”

Hide Ad

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.

Hide Ad

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.

Isebail MacKinnon, a lifelong resident of Canna, said visitors who have relied on the phonebox helped with the campaign to get the phone working again. PIC: Andrew O'Brien.
Hide Ad

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.

Hide Ad

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.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.