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Goodbye to Glasgow ‘Hello Girl’ after 50 years service – Scottish Business News



A GLASGOW telecoms engineer is dialling off after 50 years of keeping Scots connected.

Openreach’s longest serving employee in Scotland, Alison Houston, retires tomorrow (Tuesday) after reaching the phenomenal milestone.

She’s also the network’s female engineer with the longest total service in the UK, and the only person in its 3,400-strong Scottish workforce to notch up 50 years.

Alison, 68, from Kinning Park, followed her night operator dad into the company then known as the General Post Office (GPO) as a shy 17-year-old in 1974.  

It was the year Lord Lucan disappeared, the Watergate scandal brought down President Richard Nixon, and the Bay City Rollers dominated the charts.

Alison started in the city’s Pitt Street exchange, connecting local calls to operators in exchanges around Scotland, then moved to International Enquiries and into clerical roles.

She switched to engineering more than 20 years ago – and says communications have changed beyond recognition on her watch.

Alison said: “When I started out, there were places in the UK you could not dial direct, like the Scottish islands. You had to dial 100 for the operator, and I would answer and then contact the operator up north to connect your call.

“Nowadays it’s all changed and you can call the world. My old granny and grandpa were amazed with a cordless phone, never mind a mobile! If they could see where we are now they’d think it can’t be real, it’s space age stuff.

“I remember when nobody had even heard of broadband – and a lot of people still don’t realise we connect everything from traffic lights to the lottery machine in your corner shop.

“In clerical work, nine out of ten were females, whereas in the engineering side maybe only one out of ten are females. But I’ve personally found male colleagues are more than willing to help you out or offer advice. I’d say to any girl thinking of a career in engineering, if it’s what you want to do, go for it.

“I’ve been thoroughly happy being an engineer and climbing ladders and what have you. Ultimately it’s all about getting the customer connected up to whatever service they want. I run the wiring and suddenly they’re connected to the world.”

Now that she’s retiring, Alison says she’ll miss the camaraderie with other engineers, and she’s already planning to check on any she spots working locally.

“I’m contemplating buying a wee house with a garden and maybe getting a wee dug, as they say in Glasgow, and take them for walks,” she said. “I’ll annoy the Openreach engineer that’s working at the local street cabinet and say, ‘I used to do that, so I’ll tell you how to fix it’. Yeah. Why not?”

Jenni Macfarlane, Openreach Scotland’s Service Delivery Director, said: “Alison is our longest-serving Scottish employee, a trailblazing female engineer and a stalwart of the General Post Office (GPO), BT and Openreach over the past 50 years. It’s a truly remarkable achievement.

“Her career journey from operator to engineer is inspirational and she’s made a huge contribution to the company and the people and communities she’s served. We wish her the long and happy retirement she has more than earned.”

In 1974, the year Alison joined the General Post Office:

  • Little House on the Prairie and Happy Days hit our TV screens.
  • Glam rockers Slade, Mud and the Bay City Rollers dominate the charts.
  • David & Nicola are Scotland’s most popular baby names
  • There are two General Elections and a three-day working week (but in her vital role as an operator, Alison never works it).
  • The average UK house price is £8936.
  • US President Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal.
  • Lord Lucan disappears.
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