"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.
Wavescan N294, October 12, 2014
North of the Stone Wall: The Radio Scene in Scotland
In the middle of September, Scotland held a referendum to determine its future, and the two way choice was either to remain with England as an integral part of the United Kingdom, or to become independent as a separate country. Because of this referendum and its widespread implications, we interrupt the normal flow of topics here in Wavescan, and instead we present a new topic under the title "North of the Stone Wall: The Radio Scene in Scotland." However, as we are now aware, the referendum revealed by a wider margin than expected that Scotland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom.
The best known stone wall in the world is the Great Wall of China which astronauts tell us is visible from outer space. This great wall in Asia was constructed in an attempt to prevent invasions into China proper from tribal territories to the north.
However, a lesser known, though surely an equally important wall as far as the ancient peoples were concerned, is Hadrian's Wall which is located in the far north of England. This wall was constructed in an attempt to prevent incursions from clan peoples living to the north.
Hadrian's Wall is located entirely in England, just south of the border with Scotland and it stretches across England from coast to coast, a distance of 73 miles. On the west end, the wall is less than a mile from the border with Scotland, though on the east end, it is nearly 70 miles from the border.
Hadrian's Wall was named in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who visited England at the time of its construction which took six years to complete, in the year 122 AD. The wall was manned by nearly 10,000 personnel made up of both Roman occupation forces as well as local British peoples.
The encyclopedia informs us that the territory of Scotland covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain as well as nearly 800 nearby islands. It shares a common border with England that is just 60 miles across, otherwise Scotland is surrounded by the two pounding bodies of water; the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Their largest city is Glasgow with more than half a million, and their capital is Edinburgh with a little less than half a million. The total population of the whole country stands at around 5-1/4 million.
Scottish history is rich and long and it goes way back to the earliest known human settlements. Their written history began with the invasions of the Roman legions in England around the year 80 AD. In those days, Scotland was known as Caledonia. In subsequent eras, Scotland was ruled by a succession of regional and national monarchs, until unity with England began under the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in 1502.
Interestingly, Scotland recognizes three languages: English, Scots and Gaelic. The standard English is equivalent to British English; Scots as a language could be described as a dialectal version of old English; and Gaelic is an earlier Celtic language in the British Isles, linked to similar languages in Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany in France.
The English pound is the recognized currency in Scotland, though three different banks in Scotland also issue Scottish currency at the same value. The world's most popular outdoor sport, golf, was developed in Scotland. It was a variation of a similar game called paganica that was played by Roman soldiers on duty over there two thousand years ago. In the original paganica, the players used a curved stick to hit a leather ball stuffed with feathers or wool.
On May 6, 1905, the Argyllshire Herald newspaper carried a report that negotiations were underway for the lease of a field on which a wireless station would be built. A total of 6 acres at Uisead Point Machrihanish Bay was procured from Captain MacNeal, sufficient land for a wireless station with its associated buildings for transmission equipment, a power generator, personnel accommodation, and of course the tall transmitting tower as well. This wireless station was located on a narrow peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, some 60 miles southwest of Glasgow.
The Machrihanish Wireless Station was constructed for Canadian born Professor Reginald Fessenden of the National Electric Signalling Company and it was intended for mutual communication with a similar station at Brant Rock in coastal Massachusetts in the United States. The wireless mast reached 450 feet high, it incorporated an internal ladder for full length access, it stood on an insulated base, and guy wires held it in position.
In December 1905, the Campbelltown Courier newspaper carried a report that work on the station was completed, and in January of the next year, transatlantic communication began in Morse Code between Machrihanish (callsign LK) and Brant Rock (callsign BO). Spasmodic communication was achieved, sometimes at a surprisingly good level, throughout the following year. Interestingly, the Chief Operator at the station in Scotland, Mr. Armour, reported in a letter to a scientist that he heard voice transmissions from Brant Rock at 4:00 a.m. one morning in November (1906).
However, on December 5 of that same year 1906, a stormy gale hit the coast and felled the tall wireless mast. Though no one was hurt, the station was never re-established; instead, the equipment was sold off and the staff dispersed.
But, that is not the end of the wireless scene in Scotland; instead, it was just the beginning. During that same year, 1906, the Marconi company was awarded a contract for the installation of two wireless stations in Scotland, one at Tobermory and another at Loch Boisdale. The Tobermory station
was installed on the island of Mull just off the west coast of the Scottish mainland and it was on the air under the callsign GCA. The Lochboisdale station was installed on a small island at the very north of Scotland just off the west coast, and it was on the air under the callsign GCB.
In the era after the end of World War 1, the directory lists show a dozen or more wireless stations on the air on both the mainland and islandic territories of Scotland. These stations were in communication service with three different organizations; the Royal Navy, the Royal Air force, and the British Post Office. For example, the navy operated station BYD at Aberdeen, the air force operated station GFK at Donibristle, and the General Post Office operated station GSW at Stonehaven.
That's as far as we go in the Scotland story for today, and in our programing in two weeks time, we are planning to complete the story, "North of the Stone Wall."