Margaret Cropper describes the Lime Street switchboards on which she worked

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 24th February 2012 by Liam Physick

Margaret Cropper explains that she wore earphones when working on the Lime Street switchboard, and would pull the plugs up and push them into the socket if the light came on and announce “Lime Street”: calls from Mr. Byron, the railway boss, would take priority over all others. After the plugs had been put in, she would press a switch to start ringing until the caller answered, and then the lights would go off: once the call had finished, the lights would come on again and Margaret would pull the plugs out again. There were (in Margaret’s estimation) about 100 extensions on it

Interviewee: Margaret Cropper

Interviewee Gender: Female

Date of Interview: 24th November 2011

Interview Transcript

Jenny: So, for anyone who’s not seen a switchboard, could you just describe what it was like, and how you . . . ?

Margaret: Well, you had earphones on . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . and the, the wire, you pulled the plug cos if you saw a light come on . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . I think there might have been – how many extensions would there be? – I, I’m thinking there could have been 100 but I might be a bit out there, I don’t know but it was two-position board together and these light would come up, you know, all over the place, and you’d pull your plugs up, push them into the, the thing, the first plug, and you’d say, “Lime Street”, if it was an outside call you’d have the, the outside calls down here and all the extensions up here, so you’d answer the outside calls but if it was Mr. Byron, of course, you’d answer him before anybody else, put your plug in, he’d tell you what he, or they’d tell you what they wanted, and you’d take the other plug, and plug it into what extension they were asking for, because the, the ones, the extension ones would want to be going to some other extension, more than wanting a number, they would probably say, “Edge Hill” or something like that, you know, you’d just put them through, and you’d just say if they were engaged or they weren’t, and, as I said, the public, most of their calls were for the Inquiry Office, or the Parcel Office, they were the most important extensions you’d put through to them, but when you put the, the plugs in, you, you’d ring, sort of, a switch here, ring it, and if you kept your finger on it, it would ring all the time (she and Jenny laugh), you know, until they answered, and then the other light would come up and then they’d go off, and you knew they were all right, but then when the lights came on again, they’d finished the call and you’d pull the plugs out again, that’s how you worked. You’ve probably seen it on a very old film, how it worked, but it was good then, I mean, now it’s quite different, isn’t it, I don’t know what switchboards are now . . .

Jenny: No.

Margaret: . . . no idea.

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: But it was, it was good. And . . . we had something at the side where we could dial, if anybody wanted the number, this, with the heads on, you know, the headphone on, you had your hands free cos you needed them free because, you know, you were using these plugs and you had to pull this thing back as well, you know, so . . . but you didn’t have to wear uniforms or anything like that (laughs), you just went in your, you know, ordinary office clothes, yeah. I think I could use a switchboard today, one of those, but I couldn’t use anything they do now, you know, it’s too complicated.

Jenny: So, is there any other stories that you want to share about . . . ?

Margaret: I don’t whether I’ve, I’ve said anything . . . oh, the telephone number . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . of Lime Street station then was 7098292, and I’ve always remembered that number (Jenny laughs), cos we used to have to say that for something, I don’t, I don’t know what it was, it just rings a bell, oh no they’d come on and probably say something like that.

Tagged under: edge hill station, railway workers, liverpool lime street station, switchboards, telephonists

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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