Canna's red phone box rings up £120m jetliner deal for airline chief

LOOKING across the Sea of the Hebrides, the red telephone box on Canna is a lifeline to the rest of the world, used regularly by sailors and naturalists visiting the island.

Seldom, however, has a high-powered conference call concerning a multi-million-pound business deal been conducted in its cramped kiosk.

But when Tim Jeans found himself awaiting a call worth 120 million, only to find he had no mobile signal, the payphone proved his salvation.

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The managing director of Monarch Airlines was on a sailing holiday to the island last year with friends, having read Restoring Canna's Chapel, a book by local man Ross McKerlich.

With Mr Jeans close to finalising the purchase of two Airbus A321 jetliners, his yacht anchored in Canna's harbour when he realised he had no reception. The red kiosk was his only option. He pumped up his dinghy, rowed to land and arranged a conference call. After a sound night's sleep, he returned to the phone box and concluded the deal.

It was a purchase, he recalled, concluded in "most unusual" circumstances. Nonetheless, the island has won over his heart – one of the new planes, due to go into operation in the next fortnight, has been christened "Canna" in its honour.

The remarkable story, which Mr McKerlich thought was "an April Fool", came to light in a letter sent by Mr Jeans to the author, inviting him and his wife as guests aboard the jet's inaugural flight, which will take off from Manchester and fly low over the Hebridean enclave.

For Canna's 22-strong population, the tale vindicates their beloved 1955 red phone booth, thousands of which have been removed by BT in recent years.

"All the houses on Canna have landlines, but the phone box is still used regularly," said Wendy MacKinnon, 40, who runs the Harbour View tearoom. "No-one can get a mobile signal, so it's the only option for tourists."

According to BT, 910 calls were made from the box last year. The last time an engineer emptied its coin box he took away 14.20.

For Alexander Bennett, who helps to manage Canna on behalf of its owners, the National Trust for Scotland, the yarn "has something of the Local Hero".

"The old red boxes are iconic," he said. "It's a fitting thing to have on one of the most scenic islands in the world."

Few people, especially Mr Jeans, would disagree.