Villagers save red phone box for Highland community

Workers were about to uproot the phone box and load it on to a truck when Cathal Breen, who runs the local post office, intervened. Picture: Ann Harrison/Geograph
Workers were about to uproot the phone box and load it on to a truck when Cathal Breen, who runs the local post office, intervened. Picture: Ann Harrison/Geograph
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People power saved one of Scotland’s last remaining red phone boxes from being uprooted.

Villagers thought they had won their fight to keep the kiosk in the village square at Tomintoul, Moray, which has become a minor tourist attraction.

But BT arranged for it to be removed after an apparent mix-up.

Workers were about to uproot the phone box and load it on to a truck when Cathal Breen, who runs the local post office, intervened.

Local campaigners had argued that mobile signals in the village were unreliable, so it was important to have a public landline.

Mr Breen and his wife Caroline persuaded engineers to stop and await clarification as more people joined the efforts to preserve it.

The crew eventually stayed overnight while the fate of the red booth was decided.

Mrs Breen said: “It’s photographed every day by tourists. When we found out it was going to stay we took on the maintenance of it and had it cleaned down last year.

“In an area like this, it’s a necessity. There have been problems with the power to it recently, which I’ve reported, and during that time we’ve had people come into the store asking to use our phone. So we know it’s well used.

“It was quite a surprise to see people just turn up last week to take it away.”

The Kirkmichael and Tomintoul Community Association now intends to adopt the vintage red box to remove doubts about its future.

Plans are being drawn up to have a battery-powered phone inside the booth to allow visitors to make calls.

Community association secretary Liz Lettey said: “I believe there was a discrepancy in BT’s paperwork. The important thing is that it’s going to be kept and we’re going to adopt it.” Meanwhile, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has pressed BT to return phone boxes to Glenlivet and Bridge of Avon, which the council also wanted retained.

A spokesman for BT explained they had followed a formal process regarding the potential removal of the three phone boxes.

He said: “No formal objections were received from the council and as mobile signal testing at these locations showed that 999 calls could be made by mobiles, we removed these two payphones at Glenlivet and Bridge of Avon.

“The kiosk in Tomintoul will remain and the phone service will soon be fully restored.”