Telco GM who rid us of party lines
Daniel Mannus’s living room is filled with photos — of his daughter, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
The pictures are poignant because he once thought he might never have a family.
“My wife Elaine and I had been trying for years and it wasn’t working,” he said.
They went to doctors but it was no use.
The couple accepted their infertility as “just one of those things that happen”.
In 1965, Mr Mannus shared his story with a lady who asked if he and his wife wanted to adopt.
“I said, ‘Sure’,” Mr Mannus laughed. “I felt I could love any child. We drove up to the hospital and we went in to meet this lady. Then these two ladies came out with a baby.”
The couple drove home with a daughter, completely unprepared.
“Friends came out and provided a cot, clothes and everything else,” he said.
“It was amazing what our friends did for us. It was great to be parents all of a sudden. We loved it. My then wife’s parents came all the way from South Africa to see the baby.”
He loved parenthood and talks with his daughter, Cathy West, daily.
“She’s a writer,” he said. “She just called me and said she’s putting out another book.”
The 90-year-old grew up in East Belfast, Northern Ireland, the second of three sons born to Jean and Archibald Mannus.
At the age of 15, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the post office, delivering telegrams on his pedal bike.
In those days, the post office handled all communications including telephones.
Mr Mannus, who had an interest in engineering, was fascinated.
He grew up without a telephone in his house. In fact, no one in his neighbourhood had one.
“We just never thought about making phone calls,” he said. “If you needed to talk to someone you either went there in person or you wrote a letter. It wasn’t like now where children have to have a phone.”
One day, someone came into his office asking if anyone wanted to go to Africa to work with the Rhodesia Telephone System.
Mr Mannus, who was by then a draftsman, put up his hand.
Once there, he resumed his studies, earning an engineering degree from the Institution of Electrical Engineers in Salisbury.
He met his wife Elaine, a nurse from South Africa, on a ship as he headed back to England for a vacation.
“She was going to England to work,” he said.
A year later, she moved to Rhodesia to join him. They married in the late 1950s.
“Then, I was getting a bit tired of Rhodesia,” Mr Mannus said. “It was getting difficult to live there at that time. There was a lot of trouble going on.”
His boss met some executives from the Bermuda Telephone Company at a conference in Switzerland who told him of their need for an engineer. He suggested Mr Mannus apply for the job.
“The next thing I knew I was here in Bermuda in 1963,” he said.
Flying in, he was excited to see hedgerows like the ones he’d grown up with in Belfast.
“Bermuda was very pleasant,” said Mr Mannus, who became general manager of BTC in 1986.
In 1963, people were just starting to get telephones in their homes.
“When I came, there were a lot of party lines,” he said. “But I got rid of those. I built a number of different exchanges that hadn’t been there before.”
Two of his colleagues were members of Hamilton Rotary Club and suggested he join, too.
What he liked about Rotary was the chance to be useful to the Bermuda community.
He particularly remembers helping fix up St Brendan’s Hospital.
“It used to be like a prison,” he said.
“There were bars on all the windows and it was miserable looking.
“We took it on as a project, doing something with it — we took the iron bars off the windows, we put new beds in with new bed clothes.
“What I remember, guys who were there disappeared in the background, didn’t want to speak to anyone. We used to go up there every weekend to do this.
“Before the thing was finished, the patients in the hospital became more and more friendly, and ended up helping us do the job.
“That really impressed me, that we were able to get these guys thinking differently.”
He became president of Hamilton Rotary, then assistant district governor.
In 1998, two weeks before he was due to be elected district governor at a ceremony in New York, his wife fell ill. “It was hard to say what was wrong with her,” he said.
“She just didn’t feel well. Then she had this sudden break down, and doctors said to take her to a hospital in Boston. She was very sick.”
With his attention required elsewhere, he bowed out of the governor post. His wife stayed in Boston for a month. She died on September 10, shortly after she returned home.
Heartbroken, he had no thoughts of remarrying until a few months later when he met Vivian at a friend’s dinner party. “We were thrown together and never looked back,” he said. They married on November 27, 1999.
He retired from BTC in 1991 but still enjoys attending Rotary meetings. Together with Kirk Kitson, he is one of the longest-serving members having been with the organisation for 52 years. He is also a member of the Probus Club, a social group for retired professionals, and a senior elder at Christ Church, Warwick.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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