Victoria - Colonial: 1854-1900.
The Telegraph Office at Geelong.

Geelong Advertiser, 14 May 1855:
Letter to the Editor.

"Sir,--Allow me to call your attention to the inconveniences which the Geelong public labors under by the present arrangements of the Telegraph Office. While doing so, however, I must guard against the constructing of my words into any charges against the officials in this department. On the contrary, I have ever found these gentlemen to be most attentive and obliging. The two evils I complain of, and which are especially felt by the whole mercantile community here, are:

  1. the great distance of the office from the centre of business; and
  2. the delay often incurred in the delivery of messages.

On the first point, it is a matter of notoriety that a more inconvenient place for the situation of the office could scarcely be found than the head of Bellerine Street. It is quite a sample of the wisdom displayed in Government schemes. However there the Telegraphic Office is and, as we cannot expect another miracle of the House of Loretto, we must see what is best to be done in the present state of matters.

I would propose that a Branch Office be erected in Market-square - surely as central a site as could be selected - which could be done at a trifling expense by carrying a connecting wire from Bellerine street through Malop Street. This office may he merely a temporary one, as it is to be expected the new Custom House will have accommodation for a Branch Office, open for public use.

The second grievance, I am sure, only requires to be pointed out in order to its remedy. The two great requisites in transmitting messages are secrecy and dispatch. The latter is sadly lacking here, for although the words come for fifty miles on the wings of the lightning, many, as well as myself, know to their cost, that often a lengthened period elapses ere they reach their destination. This arises, I believe, from the small number of messengers, quite inadequate, indeed, to the duties. While two messages are being delivered, all those arriving, perhaps, of utmost importance, must remain in office till the return of the runners ... as well as a staff of boys for runners. I would also ask whether it would not be an improvement to send a book with each messenger, stating the hour and minute he was despatched, with a blank for the signature of the receiving party and the exact time of receipt. Such is the practice in London. Until some such improvements are effected, I fear we must be, to a great extent, deprived of many of the advantages which the Electric Telegraph, under efficient regulations, places within our reach".

Geelong Commercial News, 14 October 1856.
Reported in the Ballarat Star.

Among the topics discussed by commercial men during the past fortnight, that of the contemplated removal of the electric telegraph office seems to have excited most general interest.

In Monday's paper, reference was made to the reported selection of the old Custom House for this purpose, but there are several grave objections against this course. The accommodation there is very scant. The one room above is not of large dimensions and the cellars below would be occupied by the batteries required to produce the electric current. There would therefore be no adequate means of securing that secrecy which is an essential element in this department of the public service; nor room for the additional instruments and extra staff that will be necessary when the lines now in progress to Ballarat and Castlemaine have been completed.

Besides, unless the station master resides at his offices, the advantages resulting from instantaneous communication between distant localities are limited to the hours of routine duty instead of extending over both day and night; and matters of life and death that might be transmitted from one end of the colony to another in a second of time might be thus delayed for many hours and cause incalculable loss.

On the score of distance from the business portion of the place, and the facilities of approach, the change would be attended with but little benefit to the public at large; the town is evidently moving westward and when another spot is fixed upon, and the expenses of alteration incurred, it would be far better that a permanent site should be chosen at once.

Something has been said about a branch office but, owing to the peculiar action of the electric current, such an arrangement as that would in many instances, entirely prevent some stations from corresponding with others. The work of the telegraph is felt to be important now, but the time is near at hand when it will become still more so. New South Wales and South Australia are bent on opening up a communication with this colony by means of this wonderful invention; Tasmania is taking active measures to effect the same end; and the establishment here must before long be on a far larger scale than at present.

We would therefore suggest the advisability of erecting, in the centre of the town, a building suitable to the present requirements of the office, with space for any additions which will subsequently be wanted. If the Corporation would give a portion of the Market Square for this purpose, it would be worthily appropriated; but if not, there is an eligible site in Moorabool Street near Corio Street which is as yet unsold and would suit this purpose well".

In January 1857, a question was asked in the House about the proposal for a new Telegraph Office in Geelong.

On 27 May 1857, the debate about the Telegraph Office in Geelong still continued in the Legislative Assembly:

"Mr. Service said the time lost in the transmission of telegraphic messages from Melbourne to Geelong and back was intolerable. In some instances it took from two to three hours to obtain a return message in Melbourne from Geelong. He that moment held in his hand two messages that bore out his statement and this delay, he would inform this Government, was the cause of loss, not only to the mercantile community, but also to the Telegraphic Department itself. He thought the delay was caused principally, if not altogether, by the Telegraph Office being placed at the distance of nearly half a-mile from the centre of business in Geelong where it was not an uncommon thing for persons residing in or near Market Square to go on horseback to the Telegraph Office. He thought this evil might be remedied at a trifling expense by establishing a temporary office near the Post Office or the Custom House in that town and also by tho employment of an increased number of messengers.

He thought also that in Melbourne, the service of this department was inefficiently carried out. There were too few messengers and too few clerks employed. There were, in the Melbourne office, three machines and but two clerks to work them, and those gentlemen despatched some two or three hundred messages a day, although during the dinner hour there was but one clerk to work the three machines. He thought an increased activity in the service would bring an increase of revenue to the department.

Mr. McCulloch said he must admit that the complaints now made against the working of the Telegraph Department were not without grounds. He would also admit that they were of long standing and also that the evil was due to the fact of the Telegraph Office being so far outside the town of Geelong. But at the same time, he did not think the Government would be justified in going to the expense of renting and establishing a temporary office at the present time. A sum of money was placed on the estimates for a new Telegraph Office in Geelong and, if the House would vote this sum, about four or five hundred pounds, then in three or four months a new office would be built. (Hear, hear.) This, he thought, would in a short time, be more than saved by avoiding the expense of renting a temporary office, and by the increase of business that an increase of activity would bring with it.

He also stated that instructions had been given to the Manager of the Melbourne office to employ an extra number of messengers and in future the messengers would have the hour at which they received the message marked upon it. They would also be required to bring back a receipt, with the hour of delivery marked upon it.

Mr. Brooke reminded the Hon. Commissioner of Trade and Customs that, pending the erection of a central office in Geelong, there was the Post Office and the Custom House at which a temporary office might be erected, free of expense. Mr. Service said a great deal of money was lost to the Government by people refraining, under the existing regulations, from transmitting messages. Mr. McCulloch said that under the measures now about to be taken, the evils complained of would, he had no doubt, be speedily remedied".

Finally, in newspapers in July 1857, the following announcement was made:


The Public are informed that a CENTRAL ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH OFFICE having been established in the New Post Office, corner of Great Ryrie and Gheringhap Streets, Geelong, the business heretofore conducted at the Telegraph Station, Bellerine Street, will for the future be transferred to the Central Office.

(signed) SAMUEL W. McGOWAN,

General Superintendent of the Electric Telegraph,
1857 July 17.