Hi, my name is Chris Hieatt, originally from Reigate in Surrey, England, educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, Devon. I came to Brazil in 1954 with the Western Telegraph Company, a telcoms company in the Cable and Wireless group. In those days Cable & Wireless was all over the world, having been formed by the merger of a number of companies founded to connect Europe to the West Indies and South America, and the far East through the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company. My father worked for the Eastern Telegraph Co., as it was later called, and was posted to exciting-sounding places like Ascension Island, Cocos Islands, Singapore etc., and I decided to follow in his footsteps. After training in C&W Engineering School (no university courses in those days), budding engineers were sent for “Consolidation” either to Gibraltar or Carcavelos (Lisbon). Gibraltar was for going East, and Carcavelos for the West. I was sent to Carcavelos, then to Fayal in the Azores for a year, and from there to Recife, Brazil, in 1954, at the age of 20.
The cable office was in the worst part of town, down by the docks, and it was quite an adventure getting home at night. We worked shifts over 24 hours, as the circuits, domestic and international, never closed. However, as young bachelors, we enjoyed the bars and restaurants, and I remember the popular dish was “filet à cavalo” (steak with an egg on top) and we drank beer or cubalibre (rum and coke). The Western had 14 branches in Brazil, and we were liable to be transferred at any time. After about 18 months I was transferred to São Luiz (Maranhão), where unfortunately I broke my leg in a motorbike accident, and spent 3 months in hospital. They eventually sent me back to the UK to fix the leg properly, whereafter I spent time – as an instructor – in the Engineering School in Porthcurno – Cornwall, and in the cable station, which was located in a tunnel built into the Cornish coastal rock. The Atlantic cables landed on Porthcurno beach – one of the loveliest spots on the Cornish coast, quite near to Lands End. I was sent back to Brazil in March 1958, to Belém do Pará.
In Belem I started what were to become very serious hobbies – verging at times on the professional – and those were photography and collecting semi-precious stones. After two years in Belem, and leave in the UK, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro in November 1960.