Welcome to the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable Festival. In July 2016, we celebrated 150 years since the first successful transatlantic cable was laid between Valentia Island in Ireland and Heart’s Content in Newfoundland, Canada. Connecting for the first time the old world with the new and creating a new world order. Please find here some of the Festival Highlights!

In 2017, we will continue to recognise this historically significant achievement by hosting the Valentia Telegraph Cable Lecture and Commemorative Dinner ‘Globalisation – Our Interconnected World’ on Friday, 14th July. Futher details and information relating to ticketing will be available shortly.

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Live Link with Heart's Content

Cable Station, Valentia Island

On Wednesday, 27 July 2016 in association with the Institution of Engineering and Technology,  a live link with Heart’s Content, New Foundland took place from the Cable Station in Knightstown. The first successful transmission from the eastern terminus of the transatlantic telegraph station on Valentia Island to the western terminus at Heart’s Content, Newfoundland took place on the 27th July 1866. Prior to the transatlantic telegraph cable, messages took on average 2 weeks to cross the Atlantic by ship. The transatlantic telegraph cable thus heralded a new era in international communications between Europe and North America. This special event on Valentia Island celebrates the 150th anniversary of the first successful transatlantic Morse Code communication and the designation of Valentia as a potential World Heritage site in acknowledgement of the special place of the Valentia transatlantic telegraph station in communications and ocean navigation history.

A communication call and Morse Code translation to Heart’s Content took place at exactly 2.30pm celebrating the actual time of the first message.

Cable Connection with Padraig Tarrant

Cable Station, Valentia Island

3,071 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean, on Valentia Island and in Heart’s Content, Newfoundland identical marine bollards were unveiled simultaneously on July 27th 2016.

Padraig Tarrant carefully composed this design, incorporating the maritime tradition of each town, the physical aspect of the cable and the history of migration between both continents. The artist has designed both of the bollards in native stone as an extension of the surrounding landscape. The cable that loops around the bollard and extends into the ground is a representation of the transatlantic cable itself.

This marine bollard stands to commemorate the first successful transatlantic cable, laid in 1866. Using native slate, this piece will serve as a monument to the first physical connection between the continents in 200 million years. “Connection” represents the bond between Ireland and Newfoundland, made possible by the laying of the cable and also between continents; Europe and North America. Identical bollards stand on each side of the Atlantic, outside the Cable Stations that communicated with each other for almost 100 years.

The sculpture was unveiled by Jimmy Deenihan followed by musical entertainment.

Historical Lecture

Cable Station, Valentia Island

BB-Telcon-CableWednesday, 27 July, 6.30pm 

Historical Lecture: “The Trans-Atlantic cable of 1866: it’s influence on communications and society” with Bill Burns.

This lecture takes the successful laying of the 1866 cable as a starting point and follow up on its effects on communications across the Atlantic and worldwide during the remaining years of the 19th century. It then describes how the mature cable industry dealt with competition from wireless telegraphy in the 1920s, and the slow progression of the technology into the beginnings of the modern era in the 1950s. From there it covers the advent of communications satellites, and the ultimate victory of cables with the development of fibre optics and the Internet.

Bill Burns is an English electronics engineer who worked for the BBC in London after graduation before moving to New York in 1971. There he spent a number of years in the high-end audio industry, during which time he wrote many audio, video, and computer equipment reviews, along with magazine articles on subjects as diverse as electronic music instruments and the history of computing. His research for these articles led to a general interest in early technology, and in the 1980s he began collecting instruments and artifacts from the fields of electricity and communications.

In 1994 a chance find of a section of the 1857 Atlantic cable inspired a special interest in undersea cable history, and soon after he set up the first version of the Atlantic Cable website, which now has over a thousand pages on all aspect of undersea communications from 1850 until the present. Bill’s interest in cable history has taken him to all of the surviving telegraph cable stations around the world, and to archives and museums in North America and Europe. He has presented papers at a number of conferences. In 2008 he instigated and helped organize the 150th Anniversary Celebration for the 1858 Atlantic cable at the New-York Historical Society, and he has been instrumental in promoting the importance of the 1866 Atlantic cable over the last few years.

Fireworks over Foilhommerum

Cable Monument, Wednesday, 13 July

On Wednesday, 13 July 1866, the Great Eastern set sail from Foilhommerum Bay to make the journey to Heart’s Content in Newfoundland. This fifth attempt at laying the cable was the one that could finally be deemed a success and set in motion one of the greatest communications revolutions in history, transforming international political, social and economic relations forever. 150 years later to the day on 13 July 2016 we celebrated this remarkable occasion in history with a remembrance walk to Bray Tower  followed by the formal opening of the festival at the Cable Monument and Fireworks over Foilhommerum Bay.

Photo courtesy of Derek Usher

Celebration Dinner

The Royal Hotel, Thursday, 14th July from 7pm

The Festival Celebration Dinner was certainly a highlight of the programme. The Dinner took place on Thursday, 14 July at the Royal Hotel, Knightstown.


Historical Lectures

Book Launch: “They talk along the deep: a global history of the Valentia Island telegraph cables” by Professor Donard de Cogan 

At this official book launch the author described the research that was undertaken in producing an in depth account of the story of the cable. The author also described other works including “Whence Weather: from weather lore to weather science”, the “Autobiography of James Graves”, the first superintendent of the Cable Station and “Thirty Six Years in Telegraphic Service”, of which De Cogan was Editor.



Official Launch of UNESCO World Heritage Paper 2 with Professor Al Gillespie

Professor Al Gillespie was appointed to undertake the research to consider the potential for Valentia Island to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its important role in communications technology and the Transatlantic Cable Story. He has already completed the first paper which was launched in New York in 2014. The paper concluded that the project was indeed factual and authentic. The costs for developing the first paper was kindly financed by the Institute of Technology, Tralee and Kerry County Council. The second paper was formally launched at this meeting and demonstrates the Outstanding Universal Value of the Transatlantic Cable.




History of the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable Lecture with Professor Donard de Cogan 

Professor Donard de Cogan provided an overview of the history of the cable based on his life long research and particular his work “They talk along the deep”. The book describes the story of the telegraph cables that spanned the Atlantic Ocean between Valentia Island in Ireland and Heart’s Content in Newfoundland. These were pivotal in the development of the business and technology of international communications. This book takes a global view of the history and considers how external factors aided the development and eventual decline of cable telegraphy.



History of Valentia Island with Michael Lyne 

In this lecture Michael Lyne describes the history of Valentia Island from the 1700s to the closing of the quarry in 1911 incorporating the coming of the Knights of Kerry and their influence on the local social and economic life of the island; the Slate Quarry; the development of the planned village of Knightstown; the impact of the cable on the people of Valentia; the railway to the Reenard Point; and the coming of emigration ships.