Abbotsford Nursing Home, Eglinton Road, Radio Plaque 30 June 2003
Abbotsford Nursing home opened on 20 February 1986 with 24 beds. It now has 35 beds. Before it became a nursing home, it was owned by Doctor Beaton, a local general practitioner. He bought the house from the Hogarth family who ran the Hogarth Shipping Company. The house was originally called the 'The Garth' and was built in 1898.
On 11 December 1921, history was made in Ardrossan when the first radio broadcast from the United States of America was received in a field near Abbotsford.
Radio was becoming established and the American Radio Relay League was keen to know if transmissions from the United States could be received in Europe. The League sent one of its members, Paul Godley, to find out. Godley set up a receiver using a long wire suspended from several poles in a seaweed-covered field on the North Shore, Ardrossan. He camped in a tent for over a week in a cold, wet December waiting for his colleagues to make contact. On 11 December 1921, Godleys efforts were rewarded when he received amateur shortwave transmissions from Greenwich, Connecticut on the east coast of America over three thousand miles away. He also picked up signals from several other stations in the United States and Canada. Godley is thought to have camped in what was then a field at the left of the photograph below.
The building at the right in the photo is Abbotsford. On its front wall is a plaque, shown above, that commemorates the historical event.
The text is: Near this site in December 1921, radio signals transmitted by radio amateurs were first heard across the Atlantic. American engineer Paul F Godley selected Ardrossan as a quiet spot for radio reception and spent several long winter nights in a tent with his receiving apparatus. He was rewarded with confirmed reception of more than 30 different amateur radio stations in Canada and the United States thus proving that vast distances could be spanned by radio without massive commercial installations. Erected in December 1989 by The Radio Society Of Great Britain to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the American Radio Relay League, sponsor of Godley's expedition.
The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reported on the first transmission in its edition of 16 December 1921 as below.
Successful Tests Across The Atlantic
Messages Received From American Amateurs
Interview With U S Official Observer
The name of Ardrossan will go down in the history of the progress of wireless telegraphy with the great transatlantic wireless tests during the past week. The above statement was made by Mr Paul F Godley, a prominent American wireless expert, to a representative of the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald who interviewed him in Ardrossan on Tuesday evening (13 December 1921). The tests referred to are a series of experiments which are being conducted by American radio amateurs for the purpose of proving the capacity of the low-power wireless installation to which they are restricted by law to bridge the Atlantic.
Upon Mr Godleys presence in Ardrossan, there hangs an entirely interesting story and the outcome of his visit here is more interesting still. In the United States and Canada, there are about a quarter of a million amateurs possessing and operating private wireless telegraphic sets and they have a national association of their own named the American Radio Relay League which by its activities, including the publication of an excellent monthly magazine, has done much to popularise citizen radio and at the same time help forward wireless science as a whole. The enthusiastic members of this body are in frequent communication with each other by wireless over a wide radius in the United States and Canada but some time ago, they considered the possibility of extending their field of operations to Europe and last February, the organisation arranged with the foremost amateurs in Britain to make an attempt to communicate with them. They transmitted several messages on several nights according to a prearranged schedule but their efforts to achieve communication were totally unsuccessful. Their failure, however, did not daunt the amateurs and recently their League appropriated a sum of money in order to send a prominent representative of American amateurs to Great Britain as official observer in connection with another series of tests running from December 7 to December 16, tonight. The representative chosen was Mr Paul F Godley of Montclair, New Jersey, who is a member of the Advisory Technical Committee of the League and also a member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and of the Radio Club of America. Mr Godley, who is well-known in America for his work in advancing the cause of wireless science among amateurs, after an exhaustive consideration as to the most suitable place in Britain for ensuring the success of the experiment, selected Ardrossan.
The British Marconi Company interested themselves in the tests and their Scottish representative, Mr Carsewell, introduced Mr Godley to Mr Robert Wood, joint Town Clerk, Ardrossan, through whose good offices a site for the erection of the receiving equipment was obtained in the field at the North Shore, Ardrossan belonging to Mr Hugh Hunter of Montfode. The equipment was installed and since Wednesday night of last week, Mr Godley assisted by Mr Pearson of the Marconi Company has been carrying out the tests. According to the prearranged plan each night during the period of the test, American and Canadian amateurs transmit message across from 12 midnight to 6 am. The experiment, fortunately, has been a complete success. On the first night, they were able to pick up only one station located at Roxbury, Massachusetts. On the second night, owing to electrical disturbances in the atmosphere, they were unable to get any communication but every night since that, Mr Godley and his assistant have been in constant touch with America and up till Tuesday, they had heard thirty-five American amateur stations and had copied the messages sent. The first message received was one to congratulations signed by six men prominent in amateur wireless work in America, one of whom, Mr Armstrong, is famous as a wireless inventor.
One of the most powerful stations Mr Godley has heard is stationed in Toronto, Canada and belongs to Mr E S Rodgers, 49 Nanton Avenue, Toronto. The most reliable station heard is that belonging to an amateur in Greenwich, Connecticut and the most distant station picked up is that of an amateur in Atlanta, Georgia about 3600 miles from Ardrossan. The success of this experiment with low-power wireless is a real step forward in science and it will rebound to the fame of Ardrossan that it was in this town the official test was made. It is a very valuable experiment and, apart from its importance to amateurs, it may yet be the means of enabling economies to be effective in commercial wireless work.
I am very pleased with what we have achieved. said Mr Godley to our representative. I consider the experiment has been a great success. One of the things I hoped for in carrying through the tests was the realisation of the possibility of American amateurs being able to have nightly talks with their cousins in the United Kingdom. Of course, the Post Office restrictions on amateurs here are more severe than in America but I hope that these restrictions may be modified so as to give an impetus to amateur wireless work in Britain. In America, the power of the private equipment is restricted to about one kilowatt, the equivalent of about one and a third horsepower whereas amateurs in Britain are restricted to one-hundredth part of that power. Commercial stations communicating across the Atlantic use, on an average, about 250 kilowatts. One of the stations I have heard located about seventy miles east of New York on Long Island, was using 26 watts, only double the power permitted in Britain which shows that there are some possibilities even with the present restrictions. This test has aroused great interest all over America and also on this side and the interest has been aroused not only among amateurs. One of the large American corporations, the Western Electric Company have, in view of the success of the test, sent me a long cable, requesting me to listen to one of their stations on the night of the fourteenth when messages will be transmitted between 1 am and 6 am continuously..
I selected Ardrossan owing to its geographical position. It is convenient to a large centre and in a straight line between Ardrossan and New York, there is no high land intervening. The line passes the north end of Arran, crosses the low part of Kintyre and Islay and then there is an absolutely clear passage. I am quite certain said Mr Godley that if any commercial telegraphic concerns decided to erect additional stations in Britain for communication with North America, this particular locality would be chosen, partially as the result of my success here..
The document below, written in 2008, is from www.TeslaInScotland.com and is reproduced by kind permission of its website author, A J Morton who owns the copyright.
Nikola Tesla: The Scottish Connection ARDROSSAN TRANSMISSIONS The Transatlantic Tests
In 1921, an associate of Guglielmo Marconi made his way to an obscure, seaweed-covered site in Ayrshire in the hope of receiving an amateur short-wave radio transmission from the U.S.A. If successful, the test would be the worlds first transatlantic voice message using limited short-wave frequencies. It was known that short-wave worked well over short distances but the idea that it could be used to send signals and messages across the Atlantic was, at the time, almost laughable.
Despite having little to do with Tesla (in fact the opposite was true), the Transatlantic tests were an astounding achievement in the history of shortwave radio transmission. That one half of the experiment was based on the west coast of Scotland is the reason why it features on these pages.
A member of the Marconi International Marine Communications Company (D E Pearson, thought to be the man in the photograph right) accompanied Paul Godley to a well chosen spot in Ardrossan. Their task was to set up a practical working receiver station in Scotland before the first transmission from the U.S.A was broadcast.
Almost 1500 feet of wire, coated with phosphor and bronze, was suspended several feet above the ground using tall, regularly spaced poles dug deep into the earth. This alone represents a milestone in British history since it was the first receiver of its kind (Beverage class) to be used in the United Kingdom.
The low wattage of short-wave systems meant that signals couldnt be transmitted over great distances. By simply increasing the power and the size of the antennae, the range of short-wave signals could be increased. But the Atlantic was still a difficult (and apparently impossible) obstacle for the successful passage of short-wave signals. This was due, in part, to the curvature of the earth and to the rather strange, and not fully understood, characteristics of short-wave radio.
In the early 20th century, short-wave enthusiasts realised that early tests appeared to work better at certain times of day. Darkness seemed to have an advantageous effect on many of the experiments. They soon realised they could also use the ionosphere to refract the transmissions (essentially bouncing the signals about the atmosphere).
Almost a century ago, night-owl engineers could be found pushing the limits of radio all through the early morning (between 00:30AM and 05:00AM). I imagine great quantities of tea being used to fuel the nocturnal habits of the wavelength surfers of yesteryear.
The Americans began regular repeated transmission on December 7th, 1921. They contained, primarily, a formal message of congratulations to Paul Godley and included the spoken signatures of a number of illustrious members of the early radio movement (including Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio).
Two days after the transmissions began their loop (each one was accurately time-stamped), Godleys radio station in Ardrossan, located in the middle of a seaweed-covered field, received the first words ever transmitted across the Atlantic using short-wave radio. The first part of that message read, To Paul Godley Ardrossan Scotland, and with it a landmark in radio history was set in stone forever.
Godley had installed his equipment in the pouring rain. In December. On the coast. It would have been freezing. A less comfortable situation can hardly be imagined.
The field his station was constructed on was apparently coated with a layer of seaweed. He, or someone else, had chosen a stunningly dangerous site for the first transatlantic tests. The seaweed layer suggests that the area was either tidal (this is unlikely since Godley is known to have operated the station for a number of days, by which time the entire site would have been under water several times before the broadcast could ever be made) or that it was subject to periodic oceanic storms (which is, as you all probably know, extremely likely in the Ardrossan area).
Godley, who was not a native Scot, was lucky to have survived the tests. He narrowly escaped becoming one of the first radio martyrs and truly deserved the hearty congratulations he received at 00:50AM on a cold December day in Ayrshire.
Transmissions were celebrated (and recreated!) by the Irvine Amateur Radio Club
until only very recently. However, the project and the clubs involved have all
closed down. It seems the coming of the Internet has pushed amateur radio onto
the back-burner. How unfortunate it is that the celebration of the Ardrossan
Transmissions has been forced to join it.
Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 to 7 January 1943) was an inventor and a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His biography can be read here.