Telegram tales

Postie David Rawlins looks back on 50 years’ service with Royal Mail

David Rawlins, a postie at Maidstone Delivery Office, reached 50 years’ service with the business this month.

July also heralds David’s retirement from Royal Mail – following an eventful half century of transformations that proves that Royal Mail never starts or stops – it simply changes shape and evolves, writes Zoe Walker.

David, whose career with Royal Mail has included stints as a telegram boy and a postbus driver, started back in 1971 – less than six months after the UK decimalised its currency and more than a year before the UK joined the Common Market.

David says: ‘The school education officer said: “You are always looking out of the window – I have got a job for you!” So on July 12 I turned up at Maidstone Post Office – and they said “we’ll start you off.”’

And like that, at the age of 15, 50 years ago in July 1971, David ‘started off’ as a telegram boy.

‘Not many people were on the phone at the time,’ he says. ‘And not many people had house phones either.

‘The telegrams were a bit like faxes – they spilled out of the machine. I was one of six telegram boys, and we had to deliver them.

‘If it was bad news, you had to wait to make sure they (the customers) were OK.

‘It was mainly births, marriages and deaths. The first couple of years was quite easy delivering telegrams. But I was only a telegram boy until 18, because then you became a fully-fledged postman – cycling three miles out of Maidstone on deliveries.

‘When I started, they hadn’t long introduced postcodes and there were no machines like there are now.

‘We used to go out on delivery twice a day – starting at 5am and we would be out by 7am. Now we start at 7am.’

David, who drove a postbus, part of a scheme whereby Royal Mail provided public transport in rural areas, has a keen interest in historic re-enactment, with a particular interest in the Home Guard.

He says: ‘The Post Office had their own Home Guard unit to protect the telephone exchanges. I have an army uniform with Post Office brass buttons on it and I go and along to events dressed as a Home Guard postman.’

So what will David be doing after retiring after five decades as a postie?

‘I would like to try and visit the Postal Museum, and have a ride on the railway (Mail Rail),’ he says ‘as I haven’t been there yet.’

Click here to see a list of our long-serving colleagues this year.

26 Jul 2021