Alexander Graham Bell – the Covesea connection

A presentation by Janet Trythall

Wednesday, 15th February 2023, 2pm at Elgin Town Hall

Janet Trythall, retired anaesthetist and trustee of The Moray Society and Elgin Museum, presented an interesting and personal account of the life of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, emphasising his connection with Elgin and Covesea. Janet has lived in Covesea for over thirty years, and discovered from a biography of Bell in Elgin Library that he had spent his honeymoon in a neighbouring cottage in 1877. This prompted her to research further into the reasons and circumstances of the time he spent in Moray.

Bell was born in 1847 in a house in South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh. His father was interested in the mechanics of speech and elocution and the development of language and lip reading for the deaf. Bell’s own mother was deaf. After an undistinguished education at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, and a year living with his grandfather in London, in 1863, at the age of sixteen, he became a pupil teacher at Weston House School in Elgin, where he taught elocution and music. Weston House was situated on the site now occupied by Blackstone Furniture and previously Comet. It is possible that Bell was working on plans for the telephone while he was in Elgin, as wires were reportedly found when the building was demolished. In 1865, after a year at Edinburgh University, Bell returned to Elgin to teach at Weston House and also at a school for young ladies in South Guildry Street. His time spent in Elgin is not commemorated – a plaque that used to hang in Comet is now in Elgin Museum.

In 1870, the family emigrated to Canada, where Bell continued to work with his father teaching the deaf and promoting his father’s system of Visible Speech. He later moved to Boston where he met his future wife Mabel Hubbard, ten years his junior and the daughter of Gardiner Greene Hubbard, president of a school for the deaf. Bell received the patent for his telephone in 1876 and the Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877. Mabel was herself deaf after contracting scarlet fever in childhood. They were married in 1877 and shortly afterwards embarked on a year-long lecture tour of Europe, at the end of which they visited Elgin and spent a week’s honeymoon in the cottage at Covesea.

The Bells visited Scotland again in 1906, when Bell received an honorary degree – LLED – from Edinburgh University. In 1920 Alexander received the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh, and on that occasion, the couple made a final visit to Elgin, staying in the Station Hotel (now the Laichmoray).

Bell died in 1922 and Mabel died a few months later in 1923, after fifty years of marriage. Their two sons died in infancy, and they had two daughters, Elsie and Marian.Daisy

Janet concluded her talk by suggesting that there should be a memorial to Bell somewhere in Elgin.

Covesea Village where the Bell’s had their honeymoon

Sara Marsh

Posted in Indoor Meeting.