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

Sir George Elliot

Vanity Fair, November 29, 1879




BORN five-and-sixty years ago of poor parents, Sir George Elliot began life at fourteen as a pitman in a colliery hard by his native town of Gateshead, and among his companions was known as "Geordie"- a name which has stood by him to this day.

But his natural talents and ambition were not to be contained by a colliery. At seventeen he had taught himself up to a fair proficiency in mathematics, he also taught himself surveying, so that at one-and-twenty he had already attained to the position of overman, and not long after became chief viewer of the pit in which he was employed. He was already married, and so well did he thrive, that at six-and-twenty he became himself the part proprietor of a colliery, and subsequently developed into a coal-owner on a large scale. At thirty-five he became concerned in a wire-rope manufactory, which he first purchased, then pulled through its difficulties, and finally developed into the famous Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, which made the Atlantic Cable. Such was his shrewdness and so correct his judgment, that within a few years he became known as one of the richest men in that northern county where riches are most highly valued. Withal he had so far escaped the contagion of the self-made as to be a Conservative in politics; and at fifty-four he was proposed and elected as a County Member for the northern part of that county which had always hitherto been represented by Lambtons or Liddells, Vanes or Williamsons. Since then he has become known as a man of unflagging energy and unchanging staunchness to his Party, so that five years ago he was one of the chosen few whom Lord Beaconsfield rewarded with baronetcies for their services to the State.

Sir George is a very keen man of business; he is simple, unaffected, and cordial, yet without any pretension, so that his manners are good and his companionship is as pleasant as for those who desire to inform themselves it is profitable. He takes perhaps too great an interest in Egypt, but when he is in England few men are more congenially welcomed by those who know him.

See also the Cable Pioneers page

Note: Sir George Elliot died on 23 December 1893 and is buried at Houghton Hillside Cemetery, the burial ground of St Michael & All Angels Church, Sunderland Street, Houghton-le-Spring, Co Durham/Sunderland. Further information, including photographs of Elliot's vault, is available on the website of the Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery [original page is dead; link is to archive copy].
The current Friends site has a section on Elliot titled “The Great East Window,” a feature of St Michael & All Angels Church which he commissioned and paid for during his lifetime.

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