Newsletter 2011


The Marconi wireless station at Clifden

We received the other day an email from Shane Joyce of the Clifden and Connemara Heritage Society with news of the efforts to raise the profile of the historic Marconi wireless transmitting station site at Clifden in Connemara, Ireland, the first transatlantic station in Europe. Earlier editions of the newsletter have carried items about the station (2008, page 3, the Marconi Lancia; 2009, page 7, Marconi’s telegraph station at Derrygimlagh).  Below is an edited digest of information received in the ensuing exchanges of emails between Shane Joyce, Chris Gardiner and the editor.

The Clifden and Connemara Heritage Society is just beginning some research on the Clifden Transmitter Station with recently received funding of about £25,000.  The site has been woefully neglected since it closed in 1922.  The fact that Alcock and Brown landed here of course adds a huge extra dimension.

The project will involve:
– obtaining as much information as possible about the site from the Bodleian Library Marconi Archive.
– carrying out a full topographic survey of the 300 acre site.
– carrying out a geophysical survey (à la “Time Team” ) on the main parts of the site.
– putting the material shortly on to our recently launched town website

We’ve engaged a professional researcher to comb through the archives.  She paid her first visit there very recently and got on well.  I’ve corresponded with the archivist by email over the last few months and have found them very helpful. (The researcher is an Oxford graduate, resident in the Oxford area, and so presumably has better access to the archive than MVA enquirers have managed to achieve since it moved to the Bodleian in 2002. Ed)

The local Clifden Chamber of Commerce has planned to develop this historic Marconi site as a walking trail. The information gathered will be a great help to make the site more accessible, easier to understand and visitor friendly.

We would be delighted to pass on any information that your members would be interested in.
Incidentally both HJ Round and CS Franklin were at the station on the census night of 2nd April 1911. I attach a pdf of the 1911 Census with some relevant entries to the station. You will notice Jack Phillips and it looks like the entire family Willey from Cornwall (possibly from Poldhu?)

By the way, the Marconi Railway locomotive was built by Dick Kerr & Co of Kilmarnock as you probably know.

Shane Joyce has sent the proposal document in PDF form which gives a good overview of the site with “Then and Now”  photographs, and has sent a number of additional photographs of both the Clifden transmitter and Letterfrack receiver sites.  The editor also has a copy of a journal article by the curator of the RTE Broadcasting Museum on the history of the site which Shane considers the most detailed history currently available.  The editor will scan and provide clean copy to anyone who would like to read it. (There is also a very good article in a local history of the area “Beyond the Twelve”  by local historian Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill).

The impression of a UK visitor to both the Alcock and Brown and Marconi transmitter sites posted on the Trip Advisor website gives an idea of why the Clifden Chamber of Commerce’s plans are so necessary and to be applauded.

This site, and the closely neighbouring Marconi transmitter station site, is in the care of Duchas, the Irish government heritage organisation. To say that the sites are under-interpreted is understatement. Both hold huge interest for the inquiring visitor, but after trudging about a mile across a rough path on a boiling hot day (yes, Ireland has some!) we found there is absolutely nothing to explain anything about either site.  So much of two of the most important 20th century developments (transatlantic flight and transatlantic communications) is right here on a few compact acres, and yet Duchas makes zero effort for the tourists who are so important to Ireland’s economy.  A huge disappointment. Don’t go without visiting the small museum in Clifden first.

The accompanying views are of the engineer’s building and adjacent aerial mast, then and now.

Shane Joyce has kindly offered to answer any questions that readers may have about the site and would be pleased to receive information on Clifden.  He may be contacted at Webmaster