Ringing the changes; MERSEYSIDE TALES.
Byline: Stephen Guy
THE telephone was one of the great Victorian inventions that helped transform people's lives and continues to evolve, impacting on other aspects of our world.
The first phones were regarded as a novel way to keep in touch. It was unthinkable telephones could in future be used to access all kinds of services and information.
Closures of bank branches and high street stores have been blamed on mobiles and the internet. Who would have thought, even 20 years ago, that telephones could cause boarded-up and empty buildings? It was a side-effect few, if anyone, predicted.
As a newspaper reporter, I was issued with my first laptop in 1985. You had to connect it to a telephone handset to send text messages.
I was issued with one of the first palm-sized mobiles in 1994. When it rang in the pub, everyone Edwardian doorbell with built-in speaking tube went quiet and stared in disbelief. From the earliest phones, in the 1870s, it took about a century before most people had access to a landline.
At the dawn of telecommunications, the system was rudimentary - the first Liverpool exchange opened in 1879.
Liverpool's first domestic telephones linked two adjacent residences - Calderstones Mansion House and Verdala Towers, on Allerton Road.
This was long before the average person knew of the existence of telephones, never mind having seen one.
Calderstones and Verdala Towers were occupied by members of the ship-owning MacIver family.
Charles MacIver senior, a founder of Cunard, lived at Calderstones while his son, Charles junior, lived at Verdala Towers.
The story goes that one night a disgruntled crew member from one of the MacIver ships arrived at Verdala Towers.
The man aired his grievances to Charles junior: he offered little sympathy to the employee, who then stormed off. The crew member headed for Calderstones, to take the issue up with Charles' father.
Charles junior suspected this would happen. He picked up his new-fangled telephone to Calderstones, warning his father to expect a visitor and outlined the circumstances.
No sooner had Charles senior put the phone down than the employee arrived with a new version of his tale of woe.
At the end of the tirade, Charles senior told him: "This does not resemble the tale you told at Verdala Towers ten minutes ago."
The employee, who knew nothing of telephones, is said to have fled into the night convinced the two men were either in league with the devil or experts in telepathy.
For many years, speaking tubes were used alongside telephones - they were relatively low-tech, using a rubber or metal tube.
Liverpool ironmongers Rowe Brothers, of Pall Mall, manufactured a combined electric doorbell and speaking tube - ideal for night callers.
| Stephen Guy chairs the historic Lowlands West Derby Community Centre. Details at www.lowlands.org.uk or 0151 226 5352.
Calderstones Mansion House, where one of Liverpool's first telephones was installed
Stan Laurel and Edna Marion make a call in the 1928 Laurel and Hardy short, From Soup to Nuts