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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Eastern Telegraph Company Buttons
by Denis A. Darmanin

by Denis A. Darmanin

[First published in Button Lines, the journal of the British Button Society, issue 104, Sept. 2000. Revised and updated version copyright © 2004 by Denis A. Darmanin]

The old Telegraph building at
Nos. 6 and 7 Marsamscetto Road,
Valletta, now a Masonic Lodge.
Photograph by Richard Ellis.

I followed with interest the correspondence in issues 96 and 97 of Button Lines concerning buttons of various telegraph companies. This is a subject close to home especially when Malta is involved.

Forty-five years after Malta was annexed by the British crown under the treaty of 1814, a telegraph station was established in Valletta, and the firm of Glass Elliot laid a cable for the British Government which connected Malta to Alexandria The Mediterranean Extension Telegraph Company, as this first company was known, was taken over in 1868, and, following various mergers, eventually became part of the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies.

In May of 1868 the Anglo-Mediterranean Telegraph Company Limited was formed, and the Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta Telegraph Company Limited in the following year. Subsequently. Malta became one of the company's largest and most important branches.

Over the years the various telegraph companies serving Malta were amalgamated into the Eastern Telegraph Company and its successors, the company finally adopting the name Cable & Wireless in 1934. The company's main office in Malta was situated at Marsamxetto Road in Valletta until 1949, when it was transferred to Electra House in St Julian's. Electra House was later re-named Mercury House and is itself currently closed down and awaiting its fate.

On 1 January 1975 Cable and Wireless (Malta) Ltd., Rediffusion Ltd., and the Maltese Government Posts & Telephones Department became the parastatal Telemalta Corporation. Most recently, Maltacom p.l.c., which was privatised, was established on 31 December 1997 and on 2 January 1998 took over those functions and full ownership of the company.

Eastern Telegraph Company button

Finally, I must return to our prime interest - buttons. The letters referred to above have given a clear picture of some of these buttons. Back to Malta, and recently an old friend gave me a button of the Eastern Telegraph Company (shown here and originally illustrated by Howard Ripley on page 15 of Button Lines No. 40). This button belonged to Alex Randon, who ended his employment with Cable and Wireless shortly before nationalisation. The button was given to him as a momento by a retired former employee.

Another interesting button is that which I illustrated on page 11 of Button Lines No. 39. Found while scuba diving many years ago, the back and shank are missing and much of the design is now illegible, but research shows that it belongs to the Mediterranean Extension Telegraph Company Limited. The Maltese Cross is in the centre within an annulus carrying the company's name.

Update: A fine copy of this button was discovered in 2008, and is shown on the right. The button is of thick silver plated brass with a spun back, and was made by Johnson Simpson & Simons, 10 Little Britain, London.

Uniform button from the Mediterranean
Extension Telegraph Company Limited

If readers have further information on the buttons worn by employees of any of the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies, I would readily accept photographs, photocopies or sketches, however rough, so that I could illustrate them for our journal.

Eastern Telegraph Company button

Cable & Wireless button

Eastern Telegraph Company 4d mess token
(courtesy of Gardner Bell)
For images of mess tokens used as the Eastern Telegraph Company's Porthcurno station, see the Porthcurno page.

Contact Denis A. Darmanin at [email protected]

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Last revised: 25 April, 2020

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