Coast Radio
Stations of
the World

UK maritime coast radio stations oban radio gne

Oban Radio
GNE

 

 

Oban Radio GNE
A short history

Oban Radio was established in 1949 following pressure from the fishing industry for better coverage of Scotland's North Western coastline. Until then, the nearest UK Coast Radio Stations were at Portpatrick and Wick. Although one other Coast Radio Station also covered the area, Malinhead Radio was not counted in the equation because, being in the Irish Republic, it was counted as foreign!

Map showing GNE locations - UK maritime coast radio stations oban radio gneInitially the General Post Office (GPO), who were responsible for all maritime communications matters, purchased the war-time airfield at Connel and established Oban Radio by placing their mobile emergency coast radio station at the edge of the airfield. The two original Radio Officers at the new station, Donald Morrison and Sam Kennedy, served out their time there until they retired.

Light aircraft still occasionally used the airfield and, because sheep roamed freely over the area, the pilots would alert the operators by telephone before making the flight, giving them an ETA. On arrival over Connel the aircraft would over-fly the field to alert the station officers of their arrival at which point the officers would chase the sheep off the runway to allow safe landing of the aircraft. (Right up until closure of the station in 1982, requests to clear the sheep were still received at Oban Radio - this request was then passed on to the owner of the sheep!)

Oban Radio on Connel Airfield
The first home of Oban Radio
with the emergency coast station on Connel airfield

Plans were laid to construct a permanent, futuristic operating building for Oban Radio. This was to include provision of 150 feet vertical transmitter masts with associated earth mats. When the local community got wind of the proposals, and realised that the tall masts were to be in the middle of the airfield - effectivly closing the field - there was an outcry. "The airfield was essential to the lifeblood of this highland community" they argued - and, at the end of the day, they won the argument. Oban Radio's new building was shelved (the same building design was constructed for Angelsay, Ilfrcombe and Stonehaven radio stations) and the station was back to square one in the emergency coast radio station.

Proposed operating building for Oban Radio in 1950's
The type of building which could have housed a permanent
Oban Radio if built on Connel airfield

Eventually the GPO purchased what had been RAF accomodation, still in North Connel but about a mile eastward of the airfield. About two years after the station first came on air, the RAF's nissan huts became the "temporary" permanent home for Oban Radio for the remainder of it's operational life. The tall transmitter masts were erected in fields outside the station building with receiver masts in another field in the moss adjacent to the Fort William road.

Initially Oban Radio only provided a radio-telephony service, principally monitoring the 2182kHz distress frequency, and could accept and deliver radio-telegrams for ships. Later a wireless telegraphy (WT/Morse Code) service was added in the 1.6MHz trawler band where, in conjunction with other Coast Radio stations, a service was provided to the United Kingdom's substantial middle and distant waters trawler fleet. Very much later, the facility to provide shipping with radio-telephone "link calls" was provided at Oban Radio.

The callsign of Oban Radio (with which it identified itself when using Morse Code) was GNE. This is understood to have been the callsign originally used by a war-time direction finding station based on the Isle of Tiree.

Equipment

Equipment at GNE was as standard at all the United Kingdom Coast Radio Stations. A major 1950's re-fit of the stations had provided them with GPO-built "W5" 3kW peak CW/AM multi-frequency transmitters with Marconi Electra receivers and all the transmitter control equipment being installed in purpose-built operating consols. Antennas were vertical mast radiators with base tuning units and earth mats. Emergency generators ensured that the station could remain on air even if the public electricity supply failed.

In the late 1970's a re-equip of Oban Radio removed the W5's (one W5 being transferred to Humber Radio GKZ to assist its growning oil-related traffic) and replace them with 1kW pep single sideband single frequency SPT Ajax transmitters, once each for 2182kHz, 1792kHz, 1848kHz and 2740kHz plus an identical transmitter providing CW on 1612kHz. These were backed up by a 1kW multi-frequency Marconi H1000 transmitter. Four of the Ajax transmitters fed into one 180 foot vertical broadband radiating latice mast via a "combiner" unit. One Ajax transmitter had a dedicated mast radiator as had the H1000, both beig provided with a tuning unit at the base of the antenna. Receivers became Eddystone EC958's.

Oban Radio main rt operating consol
Main RT Operating Position 1978
Peter Howe - operating
Bob Dixon (left) - Dick Bunting (right)

The main operating consol, shown above, has - on the left, controls for selecting transmitters and frequencies - in the middle, two Eddystone ECH958 receivers and Selective Calling encoder - on the right, receive aerial selection, telephone line selection, telephone dialer and 2182kHz watch loudspeaker. Added at a later date would be control equipment to operate remote VHF stations on Skye and Lewis.

Main WT Operating position
Oban Radio Main WT Operating Position

The second operating position at Oban Radio was used for WT communications, Oban transmitting on 1612kHz and listening on 2042kHz. The receive for this purpose was the Eddystone EC958. The second receiver in the consol was an Eddystone EC10 used to maintain the 2183kHz watch for british stations calling between the hours of 0900 and 1700. When not in use for WT purposes, this consol could also be used to run link calls.

Oban Radio on connel airstrip 1949

Oban Radio on Loch Etive

UK maritime coast radio stations oban radio gne

 

UK maritime coast radio stations oban radio gne

 

UK maritime coast radio stations oban radio gne

planned building type

 

Main Operating Position at Oban Radio GNE

2nd operating position


Maritime Radio Stations of the World -