BT engineer hangs up his tools after 41 years

Mike Beckett, 66, from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull is retiring from his role as Openreach engineer on the island after nearly 42 years of service

Mike Beckett, 66, from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull is retiring from his role as Openreach engineer on the island after nearly 42 years of service.

He’s seen many changes since he started as an apprentice engineer in Glasgow in 1974, from the roll-out of digital exchanges to arrival of superfast fibre broadband earlier this year.

After leaving school, Mike started his working life as an apprentice architect but quickly decided a career in engineering appealed more. He met his future wife, Heather, in a bar in Glasgow in 1978. Heather, born on Mull, was studying at college in Glasgow.

Spotting an advert in the Oban Times to replace a retiring engineer on the island, Mike applied and he moved up to Mull, with Heather, in 1986 and they’ve lived on the island ever since. The couple have three children, two of whom now live in Glasgow with a third living with them in Tobermory. They also have two grandchildren in Glasgow.

Mike’s played a vital role in his community for 30 years, keeping homes and businesses connected, often working in poor weather conditions and on his own.

He’s even helped reconnect celebrities who regularly visit the island. He recalls one visit: “On a dark winter night I arrived at a customer’s home with a faulty phone and was invited in for tea and food. It was only afterwards I realised it was the rock star Phil Collins, who had a holiday home at Pennyghael.”

“I’ve travelled to many islands around Scotland, including Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, Gometrra and Ulva. It’s been great working here, every day is different. The technology’s changed so much from when I first started out. It’s been exciting to see the subsea cables come ashore and this year connecting customers up to superfast broadband speeds – people love it.”

Mike’s looking forward to spending more time with his family and in his garden but he doesn’t think that he’ll entirely escape his old role. “When you work on an island things work a bit differently. I’ve had people call my house, visit my home and grab me in the pub to talk about their phone and broadband. But I’ve got to work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. When you’re up a telegraph pole and looking across the sea, who could ask for more?”

Fraser Rowberry, general manager of Openreach Scotland, said: “Mike has played an important role in the lives of people on Mull, and the surrounding area, for many years. His cheerful manner and commitment to helping customers has been appreciated by people who rely on communications in these remote locations. Our engineers live and work in the communities they serve. They play an important part in helping to keep Scotland connected, in all weathers, all year.”

“As well as rolling out superfast broadband around Scotland and helping to transform communities, I encourage people interested in working with us to visit our website, www.bt.com/careers

Following Mike’s retirement his job has been picked up by a local man, Douglas Malcolm, formerly employed by Argyll and Bute Council.