A REDRUTH man who was one of Britain’s last telegram boys is recording the story of his life, with fond memories of special deliveries to the rich and famous – including Beatle George Harrison.
Long before emails, texting and mobile phones, and with many people still without a land-line telephone, the telegram was a much-used means of conveying urgent and important messages.
As a teenager in the 1970s, James Maloney delivered telegrams and now those memories are being revived in his autobiography, which is being ghost-written for him by Falmouth-based Mike Truscott, of Golden Replay Biographies, a former West Briton reporter.
The book, now nearing completion, includes this recollection of the near-nude meeting with Lyn Paul, who first came to fame with The New Seekers: ““Lyn lived in the village of Stratfield Saye in Hampshire. The sun was still rising and, after I had rung her doorbell, the lady herself put her head out from the bedroom window above. I was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that she was naked at that moment.
“I said: ‘Telegram, Miss Paul.’ She replied: ‘Okay, won’t be a minute.’
Anticipation levels soared. So you can imagine my deflation when the door opened and a man, wearing just his dressing gown, emerged. ‘I’ll give that to Miss Paul,’ he said.”
Big names receiving telegrams from James also included legendary comedian Dave Allen, who lived at Woodcote in Berkshire, Beatle George Harrison (Henley), and Danny La Rue (singer and drag impersonator, who owned a pub at Goring-on-Thames).
“When visiting George Harrison, I came a cropper one April when there had been a late snowfall. It was lying some four inches deep on the ground and I got off my moped to open the gates of Catcombe Park.
“There was no bell, just a great big brass knocker.
“I returned to George’s house with telegrams many more times and I even got to meet him two or three times. He never had a lot to say; he was just courteous and politely mentioned the weather and asked how far I had come. It was only ever doorstep stuff; he never invited me in.
“And I never did get his autograph. Each time I went there, I would tell myself: ‘This is it; this time I will get it.’ But I bottled out. You know when you can ask and when you can’t. My time with George Harrison never came.”
Danny La Rue, says James, “was a lovely man, although I also recall that he never seemed to be a well man.
Away from celebrities, James, now 55, also reflects: “To deliver telegrams with wedding congratulations was fantastic. Everyone was incredibly happy and I would get invited inside for a drink. That was not strictly speaking allowed, of course.
“Alas, every silver lining has a dark cloud and the part of my job that I hated most was the telegram bringing news of a death. I must have delivered hundreds of these.
“We were instructed that we should just hand them over and walk away, but I could never do that. I knew what these telegrams conveyed and I would say: ‘Would you like to sit down? I’m afraid I have some really bad news for you.’
“Nine times out of ten the recipient knew what it was, and even who it was, who had died. On other occasions, it would be a complete shock.”