My Newbury Connection

I spend most of my working week at Intuita‘s head office in Newbury. It’s part of a complex which was the site of Vodafone’s first offices before they moved down the road to their campus at The Connection. Vodafone was launched on 1st January 1985, and to mark the occasion Ernie Wise was prepped to make the first ever mobile phone call. Nowadays there’s actually a blue plaque on the wall outside our office commemorating the moment.

If you’re old enough to remember it, or if you’re a fan of pub quizzes, you’ll probably have heard the Ernie Wise fact before, but often it’s caveated with first ‘official’, ‘civilian’ or ‘televised’ mobile phone call. That’s because two Vodafone employees shared a call earlier in the evening. So here’s an extra trivia question – who made the actual first mobile phone call in the UK? Well the answer is my second cousin, Michael Harrison. He was calling his father, my mother’s cousin, Sir Ernest Harrison, known to my mum as Ernie. It’s a tenuous claim to fame, I know. Before you ask, I think I’m about as closely related to Ernie you can be without inheriting any of his money.

Ernest Harrison was the first chairman of Vodafone, which was then a division of Racal, of which he was also chair. It’s an odd coincidence working in the exact same place as such a prominent (albeit distant) relative. Although there can’t be much left here that remains from when he was here – it’s been over 20 years since Vodafone moved to their current offices and Racal itself has been dissolved longer than that. However, I felt a strange delight staring out of my office window onto the car park below, spotting the paint fading and revealing the identity of its previous inhabitants.