How our small nation helped transform the world into a globally connected society

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On 14th July 1866, the Great Eastern, the largest ship in the world at the time, left the remote shores of Valentia Island in Kerry, bound for Newfoundland in Canada. Its mission was to lay an underwater cable that would open technological communications between Europe and North America for the first time.

Set against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, which heralded the launch of some of the most renowned innovative technologies such as the steam engine, the Atlantic Cable and its role in laying the foundations for global communications holds huge significance. For BT, the world’s oldest communications company, it marked a major milestone in our own 172 year history. It connected into our national telegraph, covering both the UK and Ireland, and enabled us to do what we successfully do today – help our customers connect their operations globally using modern communications technology.

We were recently in Valentia to support the 160th anniversary celebrations of the first ever transatlantic message to be sent, which occurred just two years after the cable was laid. The communication was between Queen Victoria in England and President James Buchanan in the United States and took 16 hours to transmit. Revolutionary, when you remember that prior to this, the only way of communicating between Europe and the new world was by sending letters by ship, a process that could take a fortnight or more.

The history of the transatlantic cable is fascinating, not just for the innovators who came after Cyrus Field, the brainchild behind the cable, but for Ireland itself, who as a result, stood firmly at the forefront of the evolution of digital communications.

Today, this global network connectivity, in its modern guise, plays a crucial role in society. For Ireland, it is one of the major driving forces behind our economic growth and our growing reputation as the global technology location of choice. For BT, it’s helping us design, run and manage global networks for government and those leading organisations around the world that base themselves in Ireland. For our customers, it’s transforming and enhancing their interaction with customers, employees, stakeholders and suppliers across the globe. And for consumers like you and me, technology has become a necessity, a fundamental aspect in our daily lives, bringing the world closer than it’s ever been before. We have a lot to thank our ancestors for and its vital we celebrate Ireland as a nation at the forefront of innovation at a crucial time in history.

The Valentia Cable Foundation Board is currently progressing a bid to attain UNESCO World Heritage Status to formally recognise Ireland’ key role in the advancement of modern communications technology, and BT supports this bid. Click here to learn more.  

To learn more about BT’s global network capability visit:

Shay Walsh

Shay Walsh


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