Moray village saves phone box that was within minutes of being hauled out of the ground and towed away

Caroline Breen in the Square at Tomintoul Village, Moray, Scotland. The telephone kiosk was to be removed by BT and is situated outside the village Post office.
Caroline Breen in the Square at Tomintoul Village, Moray, Scotland. The telephone kiosk was to be removed by BT and is situated outside the village Post office.

A Moray village has saved its treasured telephone box within minutes of it being pulled out of the ground and towed away on the back of a truck.

The popular red booth in Tomintoul is one of the last remaining iconic old-style facilities left in the country.

Residents thought they had saved the lifeline service, which has also become unlikely tourist attraction after being regularly photographed by visitors, when Moray Council objected to BT’s plans to remove a year ago on the grounds of poor mobile signal.

However, locals were stunned to see contractors working on behalf of the telecoms giant in the village following a paperwork mix-up from management.

It is understood that the staff were in the initial stages of removing the phone box, which is in the village square, before they were halted by Cathal Breen, who runs the local post office with his wife Caroline.

Engineers then stopped to await clarification as more people joined the efforts to preserve it.

The crew eventually stayed overnight while the fate of the red booth was decided.

Mrs Breen said: “It’s photographed every day by tourists. When we found out it was going to stay we took on the maintenance of it and had it cleaned down last year.

“In an area like this, it’s a necessity. There have been problems with the power to it recently, which I’ve reported, and during that time we’ve had people come into the store asking to use our phone. So we know it’s well used.

“It was quite a surprise to see people just turn up last week to take it away.”

The Kirkmichael and Tomintoul Community Association now intends to adopt the vintage red box to remove doubts about its future.

Plans are being drawn up to have a battery-powered phone inside the booth to allow visitors to make calls.

Community association secretary Liz Lettey said: “I believe there was a discrepancy in BT’s paperwork. The important thing is that it’s going to be kept and we’re going to adopt it.”

Meanwhile, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has pressed BT to return phone boxes to Glenlivet and Bridge of Avon, which the council also wanted retained.

He said: “For BT to go ahead and remove the phone boxes at Bridge of Avon and Glenlivet, despite there being very poor mobile phone coverage in these areas, has not gone down well with local residents.”

Yesterday, a spokesman for BT explained they had followed a formal process regarding the potential removal of the three phone boxes.

He said: “No formal objections were received from the council and as mobile signal testing at these locations showed that 999 calls could be made by mobiles, we removed these two payphones at Glenlivet and Bridge of Avon.

“The kiosk in Tomintoul will remain and phone service will soon be fully restored.”

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