This is a presentation given by Martin Ellen on 14th November 2002 (the BBC's
80th birthday), at premises used by the Science
Museum in London. A week earlier the transmitter was donated to the
Science Museum by the previous joint owners: the BBC and Crown Castle
(a company that was formed as a result of BBC Transmission being
privatised in 1997).
This video is published with kind permission
from the Science Museum, which was responsible for the production.
(This video replaces a version
of lower picture quality which had 76 views between 14th and 19th
The original film was 14 minutes long but it has been
edited down to just under 10 minutes by Martin Ellen in order to avoid
having to split it before uploading to YouTube. The commentary
has not been cut, but some relatively unimportant scenes have been
shortened (e.g. a bucket being hauled up the side of the building).
[A new version will be uploaded in due course as a few
short gaps in the sound appeared after rendering!]
In 1988 the possibility of privatisation emerged and, in this context, it was decided that a video should be made to help
people appreciate the scale and diversity of activities carried out by BBC
Transmission. The budget was tight and the video needed to be
produced by people with a good appreciation of broadcast engineering.
Fortunately two BBC Transmission engineers based at Lerwick had the
necessary professional experience, expertise and equipment, so they were commissioned to make the
video. John Waters and Andy Long visited representative sites around
the UK and the result, with narration by John Fergusson, can be seen below.
The video was made in 1990 and as a result of privatisation in 1997 the copyright was transferred.
It is now owned by: VT Communications and National Grid Wireless.
Their permission for publication on
www.bbceng.info in 2007 is gratefully acknowledged (Publication
Divis - The Movies!
Contributions provided by
Norman Marsden, ex-EiC Lisnagarvey
(where he was also responsible for other sites in NI, including Divis)
The BBC set up the first television transmitter in Northern Ireland at Glencairn,
a GPO receiving station just down the hill, on the Belfast side, from Divis
Mountain. This temporary mobile transmitter was one of a number set up
in the UK in 1953 to give coverage of the coronation broadcast, in advance
of permanent transmitters being built. In 1954 the BBC made and
broadcast a television programme about this transmitting station and the
initial building of its permanent replacement site at Divis.
On seeing this
David Savage commented: "I visited the trailer parked by the
Glencairn Road around the start of transmissions. As I recall, it was
equipped with two ex-US Army transmitters which had been modified to
handle TV vision and sound. The modifications were said to have been
developed by Francis McLean
working on one in his garage, thereafter referred to as Uncle Mac's
Shack. There is a nice shot of one of
Parker's Type B Waveform Monitors which had been designed before
any one had even heard the word Tektronix."
The UHF antenna and cylinder
replacement involved using a temporary UHF antenna. As this resulted
in reduced coverage for a few weeks, the NI region put out announcements and
a ‘trailer’ warning of the event and explaining the necessity of the work.
These raw unedited shots were made as part of the publicity (only a few
seconds were actually broadcast). The video was put together by Peter
Melly an ex-transmitter engineer who transferred to Belfast studios.
This silent film, shot on super 8mm film, is of variable quality but
shows an example of the one of the last transmitter open days to be held.
Colour television was being broadcast on BBC2 but only in experimental
service (full service commenced in 1967) and many people had never seen a
colour TV set which may explain the huge numbers of visitors.
External views (the white cylinders on the ground were part of the
transmitting antennas for Pontypridd, Aberdare and Kilvey Hill relays).
General external view with OB vans on site.
Clive Hosken (rigger), Dave Jagger (TMT Leader) in the ‘Skyclimber’.
By mid afternoon the queue of visitors had grown enormously as shown
in this shot from the roof of the building.
A television camera being inspected.
EiC Jack Broadbent talks to SME Pete Thomas and Ron Weaver. No
doubt the subject is how to cope with the number of visitors!
AEiC Dave Sandbrook with (unknown) and Jack Broadbent.
Clive Hosken and TA Cliff ??
Engineer Ron Weaver (later transferred to Cardiff studios) sets up a
A Dalek on loan from TV Centre was an added attraction. It
turned out to be very useful in enticing visitors out of the colour
theatre where there was serious congestion, as they wanted to stay and
watch the colour TV pictures!.
Dalek revealed! Engineer Alan Davies with son(s?) show how the dalek
is operated. Norman Marsden tried this himself and says that he takes his
hat off to anyone who can control this fiendish contraption!
TMT = Transmitter Maintenance Team
EiC = Engineer in Charge
AEiC = Assistant Engineer in Charge
SME = Senior Maintenance Engineer
TA = Technical Assistant
Dalek = A fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants from the British
science fiction television series Doctor Who!
Norman Marsden transferred the 8mm film to VHS tape some years ago and then,
in 2007, transferred the VHS recording to DVD-RAM mpeg files using a
Panasonic DVD recorder in ‘standard play’ quality (about 4Mb/s). He
then transferred the DVD-RAM file to PC hard disc using VideoReDo plus which
replaces/repairs any lost frames and time code tags. After receiving
the file on DVD, Martin Ellen edited it using Pinnacle Studio and uploaded
it to bbceng on YouTube.
The first television transmitter for the North of England was built at
Home Moss and it opened on 12 October 1951. Over the next ten years a
large proportion of the 13 million people in its service area started to
enjoy watching television for the first time, and nearly 8000 of them were
so fascinated by the new technology that they visited the transmitting
station during its open day on 24 June 1961.
The event was captured on film and it is now available for viewing on this web site. You will see that this is not a
professional BBC production, but it gives a good flavour of the day.
I do not know who produced the film. If you know then please tell
me so that I can give due credit on this web site.
Click here to see relevant information
from John Ames.
Judging by the technical quality, I expect that it was shot on Standard 8
cine film using a hand held camera. At some point it was transferred
to video and I received it on a VHS cassette*, complete with commentary.
The cassette starts with a higher quality monochrome film of people looking
at the television transmitter itself and this was probably produced by the
BBC TV News cameraman who is mentioned in the commentary.
I edited the film for this web site in order to:-
Incorporate monochrome scenes of people looking at the transmitter.
Synchronise the commentary with the scenes. (It is a good
commentary, but in those days it was very difficult to edit pictures and
sound without professional equipment. This probably explains why the
commentary was out of synchronisation.)
Remove brightness fluctuations following scene changes (possibly
caused by the camera exposure meter or film splicing).
Remove dark areas around the edge of the picture. (By cropping
Improve colour balance and brightness.
Despite this, the technical quality is poor. Also, some of the
scenes are a bit meaningless but I have retained them to go with the sound
track, which is virtually unedited.
The North of England is renowned for its brass bands, so perhaps this
explains the choice of
background music. The
commentary, by someone with a good 'northern' accent, is quite amusing and
it captures the mood of the day very well.
I hope you enjoy it. ME
* Thanks are due to Mike Salmon who sent me the VHS tape in about 1995
when he was responsible for Holme Moss and many other transmitter sites in
the North of England.
Information related to the Holme Moss Open Day film from John Ames:
I think that the voice over is
Joe Eastwood, but, like the film, my memory is fading fast! Others
that I can identify, with approximate timing of their appearance, are:
Soon after the start - Joe
Eastwood (A.E.i.C.) closely followed by Donald Hinchliffe (E.i.C.) leaving
the main entrance.
At about 1 min 18, Peter Pearson
and Tommy Skelton were handling one of the traffic light units. Peter
and Tommy were T.A.s at this time.
At about 1m 30, Will Harper
(Station Electrician, as he was called in those days), in the white boiler
suit, is 'adjusting' the traffic lights control trailer.
Next recognised was one of the
S.M.E.s but the nearest I can get to a name is E. Thomas. I cannot
recall a forename for him. He first appears measuring the toilet hut,
and later pointing at part of the Marconi FM Drives - the 'Station Monitor'
I think. My memory suggests that he was never without that pipe!
At about 1min 58, Frank Orme - a
fellow T.A. at the time - walks across the forecourt away from the building.
Frank and I joined the BBC at the same time, and were both first posted to
Holme Moss. We both knew each other's staff number, they were only 6
apart! Our careers joined paths several times, and we kept in informal
contact throughout our time in the firm.
I cannot confirm that it was me
at the Control Desk, but it is possible.
Finally, close to the end Will
Harper was shown climbing the first few feet of the mast in his tweed
Note: no climbing belt or other
protective clothing, and he certainly would not have worked in that jacket.
He always wore a white boiler suit when working; it was more than a T.A.'s
life was worth to borrow one of those!
There are a few other staff that
I cannot recognise now, but as I left Holme Moss in the autumn of 1961, it
is not too surprising. Although I returned about 11 years later, many
of the staff of the earlier days were no longer there. If Frank sees
this, he may be able to help as he spent much more of his career at the
Regrettably, I can't offer any
clue about the film maker, but either Peter Pearson or Joe Eastwood could
have been involved. As they both appear, it may indicate a joint
effort. For me, it will remain a mystery.
It was made in 1984 for an exhibition that was
held at the BBC's Woodlands building in West London. Originally
was 8 minutes long, but for this web site it has been reduced by Martin
Ellen to the part that includes a commentary and it is now 3 minutes
long. The remaining shots were mainly of workshop equipment and
while this was appropriate for the exhibition in 1984 they are not
really relevant for this web site.
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