Methods of communication in the Highlands have developed over the centuries from speech to the written word (and printing of it) to broadcasting and the internet today. One indigenous form of communication did develop - Pictish symbol stones - but unfortunately the key to their understanding has been lost.
The need to carry letters from place to place led to the development of postal services, but for many years these were erratic because of the poor roads and rough terrain of the Highlands, as well as the many hazardous sea crossings. The mail to Lewis, for example, was carried on foot for 17 miles along the north shore of Loch Maree through Poolewe and then by boat to Stornoway.
As means of transport improved so did the postal service. Coaches came into use between Inverness and Perth from 1809, railways came to the Highlands in the 1860's and an air mail service, the first in Britain, began in 1934.
Newspapers played a key role in informing the scattered Highland population, and at one time most towns had their own paper. The earliest Highland newspaper was the Inverness Journal, founded in 1807. Its rival, the Inverness Courier, was founded in 1817 and flourishes today as do others such as the North Star, the Ross-shire Journal and the John o' Groat Journal. These, and other papers such as the Stornoway Gazette and the Orcadian, are posted to Highland emigrees across the world & help them keep in touch with events 'back home'.
The telegraph appeared in the 1860s and the first telephone exchange was installed in Inverness in 1885. The first automatic telephone exchange in Britain was installed in Skibo Castle, Sutherland, by the millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. New transatlantic cables were brought ashore at Gairloch around 1960, so improving the UK link with America.
And the wireless
Radio and television brought the Highlands into the mainstream of western culture. Yet they have often worked to the detriment of Gaelic culture and cemented English as the dominant language. There have, however, recently been moves to increase the output of Gaelic broadcasting.
Usually, technological developments arrive a little later to the Highlands than to the rest of Britain, but occasionally the opposite is true. Innovations such as personal computers and the internet have been used to keep the Highland population, and its businesses, abreast of global communication, especially as an increasing number of people now work from home or for companies based elsewhere.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
The history of BBC broadcasting in Scotland
Edinburgh University Press, 1992
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