By Bridie Adams

THE instant messaging on mobile phones that we have become used to in recent years is a far cry from the telegram service that used to operate across Britain.

Some might remember the telegram boys who would ride around Herefordshire on their red motorbikes, delivering messages around the county.

Dave Williams, 73, from Hereford, was a telegram boy from 1966 to 1968 – starting when he was 16 and leaving at the age of 18.


“Being a telegram boy was the best job ever," he said.

"I joined the post office for the sole reason of riding bikes, and I loved every minute. I just lived for bikes."

Most of Mr Williams' days were spent sat in an upstairs canteen in the post office, until someone shouted “Boy!” – and then he’d be off on his bike.

He was constantly getting into trouble, winding his bosses up by standing on the saddle while riding at high speeds. And Mr Williams even smashed up a couple of bikes in the process.


“I was always getting told off – but they always had a smile on their faces," he said.

"The staff were great – they always looked out for me.”

Motorcycles for messengers were first introduced in Leeds, where boys were allowed to volunteer for training with the permission of their parents. The use of motorcycles then spread across the country, including in Herefordshire, and replaced pushbikes.

The boys were only able to ride their red Bantam bikes at an average of 15 miles per hour, but even that was enough of a thrill to draw in plenty of teenagers to the service.

“I was always jealous of the red Bantams, having the freedom to go all over Herefordshire," said Michael Lyons, who grew up in Herefordshire in the 1950s and '60s.

"It took me a few more years, until 1966, before I could experience the same freedom when I bought my first scooter."

But as much as the telegram boys loved their jobs, nothing could prepare them for delivering news of deaths and missing persons to grieving families.

Mr Williams said he would dread being told to deliver an envelope with a small capital “D” – for “death” – written in the corner.

“Delivering bad news was the only bad part," he said.

"I would always ask them to open it while I was there if they were alone, and never posted it through a letter box."

As the years went on, competition from the telephone began to remove the speed advantage of telegrams and drove them into decline, with the post office telegram service ceasing in 1982.

When they disbanded the service, the post office sold some of the old motorbikes to the boys for just £10 each.

Mr Williams went on to set up his own DVSA training school and still loves motorbikes today.