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Directorate of Telecommunications
The Saga of the Dead Donkey


I joined the HO in 1967 at Hannington when Andy Holdstock was the RWE with Donald Cross as the CWT.  We often say that they were the best days of the Directorate.

Certainly privatisation was just a twinkle in the exchequers eye And a job for life was regarded by most as written in concrete .... it obviously never set!

I have often thought of compiling a "Tales of Tavistock" a compendium of mystery and imagination but perhaps this web site is the best medium of presentation since its appeal elsewhere would be limited.

As with most depots and departments they all had their characters, misfits and oddballs Tavistock was no exception: So perhaps to start, a story from one of the many that has now entered into the folk law and legend that is now part of Tavistock’s history.

I have selected on the basis of occurrence, ie: as I remember at the time of writing and not personal preference.   This one I will call " The Saga of the Dead Donkey"

As you will recall we were not blessed with company cars and using Home Office vehicles was only allowed if it was overtly beneficial to the department.  However rules were made to be bent or severely twisted and sometimes heaven forbid even broken, especially civil service rules.

A mechanic who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons decided to take a van home for the weekend.  He owned a small-holding and kept donkeys as part of his menagerie. Sadly on this particular weekend one of the donkeys died and faced with the problem and expense of disposing of the same decided to use the Home office van to dispose of it.  Unfortunately, the vehicle in question was a Morris 1000 van (Cramped sweatboxes in summer).
Morris 1000 Van

The donkey could not be enclosed completely within its confines without its legs dangling out of the back doors. Undeterred he loaded the moke onto the vehicle with its aforementioned legs dangling from the rear and headed for the abattoir via Tavistock (His first mistake).

Tavistock was not the place to be seen when surreptitiously using a Home Office Vehicle at the best of times. He not only did this in the daylight hours but did it at the weekend when Tavistock was at its busiest.

The world and his wife witnessed the spectacle of the van toting a dead donkey through its precincts .... needless to say he was seen!

Everybody was talking about it and when confronted with the eyewitness accounts endeavoured to justify it on the basis of "The exigencies of the service needed to be satisfied".  If he could not dispose of his dead donkey he could not come to work on Monday:

Since dismissal in those days was a dirty word he survived...

That occurred over thirty years ago and we still talk about when "Tavy Techs" get together!

Dave Humphreys
14th February 2005

Webmaster Note
Having been somewhat reticent at the time about publishing this article when Dave sent it in three years ago, on reflection I now feel I was being unduly sensitive. I trust you enjoy this amusing recollection, as I am sure it will remind those of you who were fortunate to work in the Directorate during the early 70’s of the unique and fun times had in the organisation.

Acknowledgement: Dave Humphreys

page updated: 22/07/19

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