Historic site of first transatlantic telegraph cable on Valentia Island up for sale

5 Jul 2013

Valentia Island. Image via Valentia Island Facebook page

Ireland is often dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of Europe’, but one could argue that Ireland paved the way for technology long before the Silicon Valleys of today, going back as far as 1866. It was in this year that a site on Valentia Island off the Co Kerry coastline made history when the first commercially viable transatlantic telegraph cable was laid there. Now the 1.01-acre ‘Telegraph Field’ is up for sale.

The Telegraph or Longitude Field is in Foilhomurrum Bay on Valentia Island. The owners of the site are asking for a guide price of €160,000, Siliconrepublic.com has learned.

The 1.01-acre (0.41 hectare) coastal site is located on Valentia Island with views of Foilhommerum Bay and the Skellig rocks.

It includes the ruin of the 150-year-old Anglo-American Cable House. The current owners say they believe The Telegraph Field site would be ideal for a cultural centre with global significance.

The property is being sold by international real estate adviser Savills, on behalf of a private Irish investor.

Aerial view of The Telegraph Field today. Image via The Telegraph Field website

Aerial view of The Telegraph Field today.

One of history’s game-changing moments?

The Telegraph Field has often been dubbed the “birthplace of global communications” or one of history’s game-changing moments, equivalent to the invention of the internet.

The cable was laid on the Valentia Island site on 27 July 1866.


After subsequent failures of cables that landed at Knightstown in 1858 and Foilhommerum Bay in 1865, the vast endeavour finally resulted in commercially viable transatlantic telegraph communications from Foilhommerum Bay to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland, in 1866.

Brunel’s Great Eastern steamship carried the first successful transatlantic cable to its terminus in Hearts Content, some 2,300 nautical miles away.

The old and new worlds synched in communication in July 1866 and New York’s Broadway was lit up by fireworks in celebration. The occasion is commemorated on the dome of the rotunda in Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, amongst five other momentous historical events.

Transatlantic telegraph cables operated from Valentia Island for 100 years, ending with Western Union International terminating its cable operations in 1966.

Bought the site initially to build a holiday home

Junior Browne, who owns the land and who researched the site’s history with his son over the past 10 years, said his family bought the site intending to build a holiday home in a stunning setting.

“As we uncovered the historic significance of the site we abandoned these plans. We have since funded a documentary and progressed plans for a visitor’s centre, a museum and a global IT learning centre.

“We have had support from the national tourist agency [Fáilte Ireland] and global corporations like Morgan Stanley,” he said.

The Valentia Island lighthouse is now open to the public after 300 years. Image via Valentia Island Facebook page

The Valentia Island lighthouse is now open to the public after 300 years. Image via Valentia Island Facebook page

Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC

Even the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, is supporting Browne.

“The Smithsonian has long recognised the importance of the transatlantic cable, but we have taken the project as far as we can,” said Browne.

Valentia Island has been garnering lots of global attention of late.

In May, for example, an international heritage project kicked off to explore the historical contribution Valentia Island made in linking Europe and North America via transatlantic cables.

The Transatlantic Communications and Light Gathering was also held on Valentia Island in May.

Peter O’Meara, investment director of Savills Ireland, said the Telegraph Field site would be ideal as a tourist destination, especially as the island is a one-hour drive from Kerry Airport, linked to the mainland by both bridge and ferry.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic