The cast, in order of appearance
John MacAskill, cigarette and glasses
Charlie Mearns, on the Morse key
Sandy Mowat the Officer in Charge, moustache and suit
Neil Leitch, MAYDAY RELAY;
Jimmy Kay, the overseer, receiving messages
Eddie MacRae in the yellow jumper
a glimpse of Dick Gregg,
Charlie Gregory, French and Nav Warning
(thanks to Charlie for identifying each person)
Wick Radio / GKR was arguably the most interesting of all the United Kingdom's Coast Radio Stations. It wasn't a telegram factory like Portishead. It wasn't a backwater in communications terms - it was in fact very busy and wonderfully varied. With W/T (morse) on 500kHz, 1615kHz (trawlers) and on HF, and R/T on 2182kHz, situated at one end of the UK and covering prime home water fishing grounds, the station was busy most of the time (Sunday afternoons tended to be the exception). Then with the spread of oil exploration into the northern north sea the station expanded from busy to bursting at the seams.
It could be interesting just to get to Wick of course, being almost as far north as you can get on the Scottish mainland - almost as remote from the Scotland/England border as London is. You had a choice of a meandering road journey or a bus/train/plane journey which required at least one change. Once there, Wick was a fairly self contained town of around 10,000 people, the county town of Caithness, with the similar sized town of Thurso up on the north coast of the county. Inverness was a 3 hours car journey to the south and if you wanted Marks & Sparks you needed to go to Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh! Fish and Chip shops tended to close shortly after 10pm, the idea of a Chinese resaurant was still several years away and Indian food was something for explorers and city folk! Fish was either wonderfully fresh or simply not available - the day of the herring fleet, when you could walk across Wick harbour without getting your feet wet, had long since gone but a good fleet of inshore fishing vessels continued.
Wick Radio had a long history of serving the mariner, keeping them in touch with owners and loved ones on shore and being that reassuring voice of the 24 hour distress watch. The station continued to be one of the most strategic in the UK maritime communications network until the close of the service on 30th April 2000.