Reliving the “final dash” to mark Morse Code anniversary

A VERY special slice of local history unfolded to the tune of dots and dashes in the Bombala Post Office last Thursday, December 13.

Here a fascinated group of locals gathered to watch a re-enactment of the final Morse code message ever sent in NSW.

This last telegram was originally transmitted from the Sydney GPO in Martin Place to the Post Office in Bombala on December 13 of 1962, with this year representing the 50th anniversary of the milestone.

Telegraph Operator, Phil McGrath travelled to Bombala last Thursday to take part in the day, sending and receiving souvenir telegrams throughout the morning to mark the occasion.

When the time arrived, however, Mr McGrath sat at the sounding box and typewriter and received what was originally meant to be that all important final message, reading –

“This telegram from Sydney to Bombala is the last message which will be sent by morse in NSW, concluding 104 years of operations. Henceforth telegrams to and from Bombala like all other offices in this state will be transmitted through the teleprinter perforator switching system (Tress).”

The crowd gave a round of applause when Mr McGrath had finished typing the message, but of course there was one more telegram left to send as part of the re-enactment.

This was the message sent back to Sydney by Bombala’s postmaster at the time, Mr Stan Blyton, who most definitely had the last word all those years ago. Mr McGrath sent his message word for word 50 years on - 

“My privilege personally transmit last message from last morse station NSW. Key being forwarded you relic was in use Nimmitabel 1919 where I joined service remained there in use till station closed 1960. Behalf old telegraphist and morse operators we bow to progress.”

Of course this is a delightful twist in the story of the conclusion of Morse code telegrams in NSW, and all appreciated last week’s re-enactment being 

true to history.  

In fact, the whole morning held onlookers enthralled as Mr McGrath busily tapped and typed away, and many took the opportunity to send the souvenir telegrams to distant friends and relatives.

The Bombala Historical Society was well represented on the day, with one member, Maureen Peisley, creating display boards on the history of local postal services, and her own album of wedding telegrams for all to see.

At the Sydney end of things, a group of around 20 gathered at the Telstra Museum of Bankstown where the re-enactment was playing out, with all equally as enthralled.

The anniversary re-enactment took the cooperation of the Eden Killer Whale Museum, the Morsecodians Fraternity, the Telstra Museum Bankstown and the Bombala Post Office, and was a fitting reflection on the end of an era in telecommunications.    

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