2DE

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2DE
City of license Dundee
Frequency 331 metres
First air date 12 November 1924; 92 years ago (1924-11-12)
Last air date 31 October 1928 (1928-10-31)
Format Varied
Power 200 watts
Callsign meaning DE = Dundee
Owner British Broadcasting Company
Sister stations 5SC, 2BD, 2EH

2DE was the name of the BBC's early relay station in Dundee, which operated from 12 November 1924 until around 1928/9. Its first and only station director was Eric Heddle.

Application

The question of whether Dundee was likely to be granted a relay station was put by a reporter from the Evening Telegraph who interviewed John Reith, the BBC's managing director, when he was in Glasgow to attend 5SC's first education and religious advisory committees on Thursday 24 January 1924. In reply, Reith said Dundee was about tenth on the list but, he pointed out, in contrast with Edinburgh, no official representations had been made.[1]

Dundee and District Wireless Association immediately requested a meeting with the city’s Lord Provost and both the council and the city’s two MPs separately made their own representations to the Post Office and the BBC. After months of delay and uncertainty, the BBC finally confirmed that the Dundee station would open by the end of 1924.

Building

2DE occupied the former offices of the jute manufacturers Gilroy Brothers at 1 Lochee Road, on the corner of Bell Street.

It took engineers little more than a week to convert the building for broadcasting purposes, the results of which The Courier described as "tastefully-furnished" with an illuminated sign bearing the letters ‘BBC’ above the entrance.⁠[2]

Transmitter

2DE's transmitter was attached to the highest chimney (220 feet) of the highest jute factory, Caldrum Works in St Salvador Street. The large 'sausage' aerial was a massive cage affair over 230 feet long, which attracted considerable public attention when it was slung from the chimney to a pole.

In the days when 2DE had its own exclusive wave-length there were instances of freak reception as far away as the south coast of England, but the change to the common wave of 288.5 metres cut the range down to about four miles.

To relay national programmes, a receiver for picking up 5XX was located four miles away at Downfield and connected permanently by landline to the transmitter.[3]

Opening concert

The opening night concert was staged at the city’s Caird Hall on 12 November 1924. But with only 700 or so wireless licences having been purchased in the district a fortnight prior to launch[4],⁠ the Marconiphone Company sent two vans to Dundee equipped with loudspeakers: one positioned outside the Caird Hall, the other touring the city streets.⁠[5] Local retailers also did their bit: a loudspeaker was erected in front of ‘Walker’s Wireless Depot’ in the Wellgate, for example. They drew large crowds to an event that few would otherwise have heard.

In formally declaring 2DE open, Lord Provost High said that they in Dundee had a peculiar interest in these miracles of transmission, for it was in this city, over 70 years ago, that James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated the possibility of telegraphing without wires and his name would forever have an honoured place in the roll of Scottish scientists.⁠ The BBC received 665 letters of appreciation following the opening night broadcast[6], but when the station reverted the following day to its usual pattern of programmes relayed from London by telephone line, complaints started to come in about the poor sound quality.⁠[7]

Staff

The Children's Hour and women's features were run by 'Aunt Betty' (Mrs Frederick Gibson, the celebrated singer and music teacher), assisted by 'Auntie Jean' (Mrs Sutton-Vane, the well-known actress who had married Sutton-Vane, author of 'Outward Bound' etc).

There was an engineering staff, front-office staff including commissionaire, office boys, etc.

The BBC encouraged staff members at all stations to lecture to outside bodies, paying them a guinea for the work. Rex Kingsley recalled giving lectures all around Dundee to Burns clubs, rotary clubs, and literary clubs, on topics such as 'Radio Dram', 'The Fun Behind Broadcasting', and 'The Other Side of the Microphone'.[8]

Programmes

Talks

Difficulty was experienced in finding competent speakers for local evening talks, but some talks were nonetheless relayed to all Scottish stations (and Belfast too); for example, a talk on ‘Antiquarian Lore’ by the city librarian Dr A. H. Millar, or an address by Mr William Harvey on Scottish wit and humour.⁠[9]

‘Women’s topics’ were given on three afternoons a week from 5-5.15pm. Two scripts were sent-up from London every week to be read locally, supplemented by a number of talks given by local speakers.

Children's Hour

The Radio Circle soon had more than 1,000 names. The 'Aunts' and 'Uncles' were photographed and postcards sold in all the music shops, newsagents, and bookstalls at 6d each for the Wireless for Hospitals Fund.[10]

The daily Children’s Corner began at 5.15pm and was initially themed on different nights. Tuesday was ‘Teens’ Corner’, with stories from the ancient Roman poet Virgil, classical music and talks on astronomy. Wednesday was devoted to ‘Tiny Tots’ and included nursery rhymes and fairy stories. Meanwhile, Saturday was devoted to ‘Fairy Frolics’, which consisted of visits by children to the studio (under-10s and over-10s on alternate weeks).⁠[11] The local staff spoke highly of the scripts sent from London, but they were unable to handle plays involving too many characters. The Radio Circle held summer picnics for the 2,000 children who were members.

Local nights

The evening programme was mainly relayed from London, apart from Fridays which was the Dundee station’s ‘local night’. The first local night consisted of mainly classical music; the second was of a more popular type; the third a Scottish night; and the fourth was devoted to the works of Russian composers.

By January 1927 the local night was on a Wednesday.

Drama

One of the most ambitious productions ever put on by the Dundee station was its own operatic staging of Sir Walter Scott's novel Rob Roy on 4 December 1925. A pipe band was assembled on the first floor landing outside the studio, a brass band on the ground floor, with the studio door left wide open to let the music come through. The studio itself was crammed with principals, choir, and orchestra.

Rex Kingsley, who arranged the production, played the part of Rob Roy MacGregor but, due to sickness and other reasons, on the night of the broadcast the cast was depleted and he ended up having to play four parts, including one scene where he suddenly found it necessary to talk to himself as two distinct characters! They also had to improvise in finding effects for things like the sword duel, discovering that two hairpins close to the mike did the trick.[12]

Anniversary programmes

General Strike

With newspapers greatly reduced, the public relied on BBC bulletins giving out information on trains, buses, etc. Some of these bulletins lasted over an hour, detailing train departures and arrivals. Rex Kingsley wrote of the Strike:

There was great unrest. Our studios were threatened. It was rumoured strikers intended to gate-crash our premises and smash the microphones and gear. Regular and special policemen guarded the building inside and out. The station director and myself had to sleep on the premises each alternate night in case any sudden news came through. One of the engineers had to do likewise.[14]

Closure

When regional grouping of relay stations was introduced in 1928, the activities of the relays were severely restricted. The only member of staff who remained was Eric Heddle. The BBC dispensed with all the administrative staff except Rex Kingsley who was brought back to the Glasgow studio as sports executive and announcer.

The BBC was also keen to dispense with as much of its surplus accommodation as possible. However, so long as the transmitters were in operation, the control rooms were still necessary — and these were housed in the studio and office buildings. It did not make economic sense to transfer this equipment to the transmitters, particularly since they were due to be shut down in any case with the opening of the new high-powered Regional transmitters.[15]

The last voice heard on 2DE before its closure was that of Miss Cita Angus of Newport, who worked primarily as an announcer and was well-known to younger listeners as Auntie Cita of the Children’s Hour programme.[16]

In the years following the cessation of local programmes, the staff working in the Lochee Road building consisted of five engineers and a typist.[17]

Sometime during 1930 the official address of the Dundee offices changed to 22 St Salvador Street.[18]

Reception from Scottish Regional transmitter

The replacement Scottish Regional transmitter from Westerglen could be received on a crystal set in the Dundee area provided that reception conditions were good; however, a single valve set was recommended for an adequate margin of safety.[19]

References

  1. 'Dundee and Radio Relay Station’, Evening Telegraph, 24 January 1924, 3.
  2. 'What 2DE Will Give Its Public’, Courier, 12 November 1924, 8.
  3. 'With the BBC in the North: 2. Dundee', Popular Wireless, 25 July 1931.
  4. Dundee Wireless Station Opening’, Evening Telegraph, 30 October 1924, 10.
  5. Radio Test at Dundee: Wireless in Dundee Streets', Courier, 12 November 1924, 7.
  6. How Listeners-in Heard 2DE’, Courier, 14 November 1924, 4.
  7. 'Listening-in to a Play’, Evening Telegraph, 14 November 1924, 6.
  8. Kingsley, 29-30.
  9. A Dundee Listener’s Log’, Evening Telegraph, 10 April 1925, 7.
  10. R. E Kingsley, I Saw Stars (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals Ltd, 1947), 22-23.
  11. Mr J. C. Stobart's report on visit to Dundee, 1925, BBC WAC R13/370.
  12. Rex Kingsley, I Saw Stars (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals, 1947), 29.
  13. Listings, Courier, 17 November 1926.
  14. Kingsley, 32.
  15. Director General's report for Board of Governors meeting, 17 October 1928, BBC WAC R1/64/1.
  16. 'When 2DE was on the air', Evening Telegraph, 4 November 1949, 5.
  17. 'With the BBC in the North: 2. Dundee', Popular Wireless, 25 July 1931.
  18. See BBC Year Book 1931, 410.
  19. Director General's report for Board of Governors meeting, 27 July 1932, BBC WAC R1/68/2.