With the commercial development of Davison’s yard - it became the site of the famous Flamingo Ballroom - the Ballymoney Street Shack was vacated, and other premises used by the Club were -


A loft behind Paddy McKinney’s paper shop in Wellington Street (behind where Nicholl’s Electrical had their shop before going to Church Street).  Sam Clarke was instrumental in getting these premises just behind the Bryan Street Toilets.


From there we moved to the top floor at Tweedy Acheson, Church Street - premises of Kuros manufacturing, behind Woodside’s, the Chemists, with a pole at the end of the Belfast Savings Bank property, but after three years the lease was up and the building was required.


Then Willie Stewart of McKinney’s came up with property in Bridge Street, above Sanderson’s the Chemist.  Which with an aerial pole in the Gas Works yard to an aerial on the ridge of the building and four radials inside, the premises were considered suitable. Though it was a mammoth task getting the gear up the stairs - three flights, and of course such a system of propagation was always prone to TVI.  Eventually this property was acquired for other purposes,


After scouring the countryside within a 10 mile radius of the town, and having looked at a derelict school at the Cross, Moorfields, and a Sunday school at Rankinstown Road, Liminary, to which a local Solicitor objected. Eventually an ‘ideal’ site was found on the Old Cullybackey Road, at McDowell’s hill, and we moved out on the 3rd October 1972, to the Old Cullybackey Road,


As with other premises the ‘wee’ house on the Old Cullybackey Road, was not permanent, but those years from January 1973 were marked by progress and advancement of interest.  The final rent covered us to the 16th October 1979, but Mr. McDowell required the property for other development.   We had to again seek elsewhere, touring around the countryside in cars as before, and eventually making contact with Robert Hilton the owner of a ‘wee house’ at Nursery Road, Gracehill, which was part of his farm and now unused.  Robert and I went to the Model School, and while his sister owned the property, he gave permission to contact Evans McKinney.


While the site is valuable for development and subject to various developers’ interest, it is part of the farm, and left expressly in that way.  Negotiations were satisfactorily completed to enable us to have ‘beneficial occupation’ and for us to carry out repairs and with six months notice to terminate - I was quick to sign on agreed terms, and we moved in on the 23rd August, 1980, and have remained - the only Radio Club in Northern Ireland with their own premises, which, though basic and primitive are a distinct asset, a place we can call our own, but requiring commitment on the part of members to keep the doors open - Rates, Rent, Repairs, Electricity and ongoing expenses are a burden, but ‘a place of our own’ has advantages, and we are able to meet weekly and offer facilities to others - RSGB Morse tests; instructional classes, and a place to have an informal chat on a Thursday night.

Graham Williamson (BRS7781)


Rathlin Island with GB2MRI


The Ballymena Amateur Club had taken part in the Marconi Kemp 75th Anniversary Celebrations along with the Belfast Y.M.C.A. Radio Club in 1973.   The group at the invitation of the Ballycastle U.D.C set up a Station in Ballycastle on the 6th July using the call GB3MKB.   To mark the occasion the Post Office issued two special hand-stamps that were used by both Ballycastle and Rathlin Island Post Offices at that time. These hand-stamps are unique because they are probably the first postmarks in history to have the Post Office name shown in Morse Code.


I will not go into details about the history of Marconi, I suggest that you read about it in a book about the history of wireless or a paper written by fellow Club member Albert Henry GI4CRL.  Sufficient to say that in 1898 the Marconi Company Ltd was asked by Lloyds of London to set up an experimental radio station between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle.   This was to be the first radio communication between an offshore lighthouse and the mainland and also the first use of wireless in Ulster.   Lloyds asked for this station to be set up because ships passed close to the island and could be contacted by the use of flags but the information could not then be passed on to Lloyds station at Torr Head.   Marconi himself was not personally involved in the setting up of the stations at the Coal Yard in Ballycastle and at the East Lighthouse on Rathlin, but left all to Mr. George Kemp, his assistant.   They had success on the 6th July and after the accidental death of Mr Glanville (operator on Rathlin) the experiment was finished on the 2nd of September.


Our Club wanted to set up a Special Event Station and it was decided that Rathlin being our largest offshore island, having a ferry service and its association with Marconi would be the ideal place.    The Club first went in 1983 and camped in a small field beside the Telephone Exchange.   


I went out with them first in 1985 having just passed the RAE and waiting for my callsign.   We got down to the ferry on Wednesday morning and had an enjoyable crossing, a rare thing when going to Rathlin as the channel is said to be the worst in the British Isles.   We then set up camp and had our first meal cooked by Isaac GI4POV who was to be our very efficient cook for the holiday.    Holiday, it did turn out to be.   Every day we went out walking and did visit all parts of the Island and then in the afternoon and late into the night we worked many stations on the radios.


On the Friday night I was asked to move camp up above the small field that we were in, as mine was the smallest tent, or maybe I was the loudest snorer.  A tent was needed on the higher ground because David (GI0ITJ), Jeffrey (GI4HCN) and Bertie (GI4DCC) had promised to set up a Slow Scan TV link which used the higher frequencies.    When I got up as directed there was a farmhouse quite near and I thought we had better ask permission to set up.   The farmer was very nice and asked us to adjust his TV so that he could also see the pictures we were sending out. That started the Club association with Loughy McQuaig.   In the following years we camped in his field and rented a caravan from him to cook in.   We also now had the use of his tractor to cart all the equipment up from the boat.

The last transmissions were always made on the Saturday night and after Church on Sunday all was taken down and the evening ferry caught back to Ballycastle.   

Hugh Kernohan (GI0JEV)


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