Funding effort to secure UNESCO status for Valentia Island

Valentia Island Transatlantic Cable Project in County Kerry reveals online auction fundraising initiative to secure UNESCO status for crucial role in world telecoms history.

Efforts to restore the Valentia Cable Station to its former glory have been renewed via a 2023 Online Auction initiative.

The aim of the auction is to raise funds essential to the restoration and preservation of the original building where the first ever transatlantic telegraph message was transmitted and the Cable Station, the first of its kind in the world, which served as the communications hub across the Atlantic from the 1870s right through to the 1960s.

“This incredible place earned its place in history as the birthplace of global telecommunications”

As well as an exhibit and museum on the ground floor, the upper floors will be converted into a bespoke digital hub to serve the community.

Kerry calling

The story of the Station goes back to 1858, when Europe and North America were connected for the first time via a 3,000km undersea transatlantic telegraph cable. The cable reduced communication times from weeks to minutes – a revolutionary achievement now considered the 19th century equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

The first ever message was sent from Valentia Island to Trinity Bay in Newfoundland. It was a note of congratulations from Queen Victoria to President Buchanan of the United States. The 98 word message took 16 hours to transmit and the President’s response of 143 words was sent in just 10 hours.

This was the first step and a permanent connection was established in July 1866 between Valentia and Hearts Content in Newfoundland. Instant communication was now a reality – and Valentia was at the centre of the revolution: a small island off the coast of Ireland became the point at which modern globalisation began.

The chair of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation Leonard Hobbs explained: “Encouraged by the decision of the Irish government to include the Valentia Transatlantic Cable project as only one of three projects on the Ireland Tentative list for UNESCO inscription, we are now focusing on the restoration of the related historic sites, with our priority being the refurbishment of the Cable Station at Knightstown and its plans to be both an inspiring exhibit and museum for this epic story, and also a place to inspire a new generation of technologists and entrepreneurs in a bespoke digital hub.”

“This incredible place earned its place in history as the birthplace of global telecommunications. It has a fascinating story that we want to share with the world and uniquely is set to increasingly be part of the community’s future with its new digital hub. We’re calling on the people of Kerry, the province, the country and the world to help us celebrate and preserve this special site that played a global role and shaped the earliest days of communication technology. The auction has something for everyone, so we’re looking forward to full participation and an exciting opportunity for people at home and away to show their appreciation for the Valentia Transatlantic Cable project.”

Bidding on success

The auction website is open for bids here. The project team invites individuals and companies to bid on diverse, fun and fabulous auction items ranging from exclusive hotel accommodation experiences to private whiskey tasting to much sought-after match tickets and other unique items. 

Bids will be taken up to 28 July during the annual Valentia Lecture event at the Cable Station which this year will discuss the theme “ A vision for Ireland and its place in a digital world “ which will include an exciting panel of speakers including Leo Clancy, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, Norman Crowley chair of Cool Planet and Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner at BT Ireland together with cable security expert Dr Camino Kavanagh.

In pursuit of further ambitious goals, the voluntary project team set about collaborating with equivalent interest groups in Newfoundland to develop a transnational application for UNESCO heritage status for both the Irish and Canadian sites. These sites are set to celebrate the ground-breaking telecommunications achievements in their respective historical settings, providing fascinating historical, cultural and educational experiences to visitors from home and abroad. In July, 2022 the Transatlantic Cable project was added to the Ireland Tentative list which is a key milestone on the UNESCO World Heritage Site journey.

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