Newsletter 2013

Marconi Heritage Weekend, Clifden 12th – 14th October 2012

Shane Joyce, Clifden and Connemara Heritage Society

Clifden Town was founded by John D’Arcy in 1812, ninety three years before Marconi arrived to set up his transatlantic station. We celebrated the bi-centenary of the town in 2012 and we were pleased to welcome three members of the Radio Officers Association, Willie Williamson, the ROA archivist, Colman Shaughnessy, its vice chairman and Tom Frawley to our town through the intercession of Colman, a fellow Galway man and a great friend of Clifden over the years.

Willie was a big hit with everyone he met and he brought good weather with him. He gave a talk on the Seaforth Training Station which was a part of a series of talks over the weekend.

We brought Willie to see the main station at Derrigimlagh and the later receiving station at Letterfrack during his visit. We look forward to his return before too long.

We would be happy to welcome any of the Marconi veterans that would like to make the pilgrimage to Marconi’s historic radio station in Connemara.

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Willie Williamson, Archivist, Radio Officers Association (from the ROA website)

The weekend was part of the Clifden bicentenary celebrations in Connemara. Three ROA members were present, Colman Shaughnessy, Tom Frawley and myself. The organisers were delighted by the support this event received from our Association and from information received from David Barlow and Keith Matthew.

Four presentations were given during the first two days, the first by Tom Frawley was an excellent talk on how a scaled down spark-gap transmitter was constructed for the BBC programme ‘Coast’. Michael Gibbons, a noted local archaeologist and historian, followed by giving a good account of the heritage value of the Marconi site.

The second day featured Shane Joyce, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. He spoke about his recent research into the station’s operations from 1907 to 1922. Many of the Clifden operators trained at Seaforth Radio School, so the evolution of RO training was the theme of my presentation. I am pleased to report that all four presentations had a good audience in attendance and were very well received. The speakers also answered the many questions posed by the audience.

The highlight of the weekend of course was the visit to the Derrigimlagh site. Although little remains of the actual station the outline of the huge 300ft long condenser house is still visible as is the remains of the receiving hut and the power house. The latter was fuelled by peat and Marconi employed 150 men cutting the peat which was transported to the power house by a narrow gauge railway. With an array of 200ft high masts holding antenna wires nearly half a mile long, in its heyday this station was an impressive sight. I’m also delighted to report that the weather stayed dry for our visit and after walking the length and breadth of the 300 acre site and visiting the memorial to Alcock and Brown, refreshments in the local hostelry were most welcome.

There is an interesting article about the other end of the transatlantic link on Cape Breton Island at:

Note: There are more pictures included above than could be included in the paper copy of this newsletter – Webmaster