Human blockade saves iconic phonebox on Black Isle

Residents wedged their cars around the phonebox to protect it.
Residents wedged their cars around the phonebox to protect it.
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VILLAGERS who formed a human barricade to stop their red telephone box being removed are celebrating after The Scotsman delivered the good news they can save the vintage kiosk for the princely sum of £1.

Residents of Kilmuir on the Black Isle staged a campaign to rescue their phone box after they learned owner BT planned to take it away.

A tow truck was due on Tuesday, but residents of the former fishing village blocked access with their cars and operated a rota to ensure the phone box was protected at all times.

Yesterday, when The Scotsman called BT about the campaign, a spokesman said it had relented and decided the community could “adopt” the kiosk for £1.

We then broke the news to a delighted John Hill, 68, who led the campaign to rescue the box.

“That is fantastic. Thank you for letting us know,” he said. “The red phone box is an iconic part of the village. We can now stand down from protecting it.”

Although the kiosk has not been used to make a call for three years, the 100-strong population of Kilmuir argued it was a valuable landmark. They said it was as important to them as the one at Pennan, Aberdeenshire, which featured in the 1983 film Local Hero, was to people there.

The Kilmuir campaign sprang to life on Tuesday when a crane driver arrived and asked Viola Lawlor, 64, where the kiosk was located.

She said: “He already had two red phone boxes on the back of the lorry and stopped to ask if I could tell him where the phone box was. I told him he could not take our phone box away without a fuss. He said he needed to speak to his supervisor and would come back the next day.”

Since then, the phone box has not been left unattended, after villagers threw a ring of steel around it. Their dedication impressed BT, which decided the community could adopt it.

“It’s brilliant,” said Mr Hill. “We will all help pay for the upkeep, but it was a close call.

“We accept there is no need for a landline. But this is part of the village. It is an iconic landmark which we wanted to retain and which we can now keep. It is important as visitors like seeing it.”

The BT spokesman said: “No phone calls have been made from the Kilmuir kiosk in the past three years and we told Highland Council as far back as 2008 that we were planning to remove it, and no objection was received.

“A year later we put a hold on the removal of all red boxes as we launched our well-publicised Adopt-a-Kiosk campaign.

“We recognise that red boxes are British design icons and people love them, and that’s exactly why we set up this scheme. But no adoption request was ever received for this particular box so we sanctioned its removal.

“We also posted a notice in the payphone asking people to get in touch with the council if they had any objections to its removal but none were received within the 90-day consultation period.”

The payphone network has shrunk over many years as mobile phone use has escalated.About 150 red boxes have already been adopted by local communities in Scotland.