The Telephonist Team

Posted on: 17 July 2015

In a bright room tucked away in 200 Pearse Street, the telephones ring on average 450 times a day with incoming calls to Trinity’s central switch.

These telephones are manned by a team of five, headed up by Supervisor Anna Reilly, who is retiring this September after 47 years of service, and her colleagues Therese Flanagan, Theresa Lavin, Patricia O’Connor and Lynda Sullivan.

Theresa Lavin, Anna Reilly and Lynda Sullivan.

Over the past 50 years there have been many changes. Anna was Trinity’s second telephonist to be recruited when she joined in 1968. Bernadette Lynch was the first in 1962 and before that the porters looked after the telephone exchange. The telephonist’s working life started in the Rubrics in House 22, a tiny location which has now been transformed into a kitchen! The unit moved to House 24 before being relocated to its current venue in 1995.

Technological developments have made operating the phones more efficient: in 2000 the system became computerised and a direct dial facility was introduced in the mid-1990s. Now called Unified Communications, the team transferred to IS Services from Estates & Facilities on 1 July 2015.

Whilst there is a decrease in the volume of calls going through the central switch with the advent of mobile phones, there are still marked peaks of very busy activity, most noticeably during exam season, when the Leaving Certificate results are issued, offers are made, and student accommodation is being sought.

Among the most memorable calls over the years are a Mrs Hilliard who used to frequently call requesting to play the piano and she would perform mini-recitals at the end of the phone, and those individuals who give their life stories. In 1969 when the Brian Boru harp was stolen from the Old Library, there were weeks when the ‘ransom’ phone call was expected, resulting in some crank calls. Anna and her colleague had to keep the caller on the line to allow the call to be traced in the telephone exchange.

The telephonists also look after reports of line faults, which they pass on to technician Gerry Kirwan. This reporting covers Trinity locations off the main campus site such as d’Olier Street, St James’s Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

Gerry Kirwan, Telephone Technical Officer

Among the challenges faced by the telephonists are trying to decipher where the calls should be routed to, dealing with upset individuals such as parents who are trying to make contact with their  son or daughter studying at Trinity to no avail, and sadly the occasional tragedy with callers ringing to inform the College of a student or staff death.

The telephonist team is actively involved in charity work in addition to their daily routine work. In fact it was they who organised the first table quiz in Trinity for People in Need in 1988 resulting in 60 tables of competitors being packed into the Buttery for a fun-filled evening. Team Hope Ireland’s Christmas shoebox appeal has been organised in Trinity for the past 10 years by the telephonists. Each year they collect approximately 120 shoe boxes from colleagues across the campus for needy children overseas.