|City of license||Edinburgh|
|First air date||1 May 1924|
|Last air date||31 October 1928|
|Callsign meaning||EH = Edinburgh|
|Owner||British Broadcasting Company|
|Sister stations||5SC, 2BD, 2DE|
2EH was the British Broadcasting Company's relay station for Edinburgh, the twelfth station opened in the UK and the ?? relay. It officially opened on 1 May 1924. As a relay station it mainly re-broadcast transmissions from London and other stations, including Glasgow, but also made a number of its own local programmes.
- 1 Application
- 2 Studio premises
- 3 Opening ceremony
- 4 Technical details
- 5 Which station to relay
- 6 Local programmes
- 7 Opening concert
- 8 Staff
- 9 Audience figures
- 10 Sales manager meetings
- 11 Demise of the station
- 12 References
Decisions on sites for the relay station were made by the Post Office in conjunction with the Broadcasting Company, the latter basing its recommendations on three main factors: the distance from the nearest existing station; the population within a five-mile radius; and technical considerations such as geographical ‘shielding’ or ‘jamming’ by other stations. On this basis Edinburgh always had a strong claim to a relay.
Bailie J. D. Philips Smith was the driving force behind Edinburgh Town Council submitting an application for a relay station in December 1923. A few weeks later, on Saturday 12 January 1924, the Town Clerk, Mr Andrew Grierson, received a letter from the Managing Director of the Broadcasting Company, John Reith, to inform him that they would establish a relay station in the city at the earliest possible date.
2EH was originally housed in the back offices of Townsend and Thomson’s music shop at 79 George Street. However, the premies were cramped and, as the BBC’s activities expanded, the station moved along the road to more commodious premises at 87 George Street on 31 July 1925. It was a perfect excuse for another opening ceremony: which, on this occasion, was held on the premises. The BBC remained there until the opening of the new regional headquarters at Scottish Broadcasting House, Edinburgh at 5 Queen Street in May 1930.
The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Sleigh, presided at the opening ceremony in the Usher Hall, and formally declared the station open. Also speaking was Sir Alfred Ewing, principal of Edinburgh University. Bailie Philips Smith, who had been so instrumental in speeding-up the arrangements for erecting the station, also participated in the ceremony. The director-general, John Reith came up from London with various members of his staff, including Rex Palmer, the London Station Director.
During the ceremony, the local news bulletin was read from the front of the platform, including the story of a serious fire that had broken out in Edinburgh that evening. The local firemaster happened to be sitting in the audience and, on hearing the news, hurriedly left the hall for his headquarters.
As with all the Broadcasting Company's relay stations, 2EH operated on a low power of just 200 watts — around one-tenth the power of a main station such as Glasgow's 5SC. Along with Edinburgh's unique geography, it presented significant difficulties in finding an ideal transmitter location that would serve most of the city. After considering four or five sites, the Broadcasting Company chose to install the transmitter in a wooden building in the quadrangle at Edinburgh University, its aerial suspended from a chimney. Located at the back of the medical buildings between the MacEwan Hall and the Royal Infirmary in Teviot Place, the 156ft structure was thought to occupy the most centrally situated position possible. Work on installing the transmitter began on 17 March 1924.
100-watt transmitters generally gave crystal set reception with an indoor area up to a distance of two miles; in Edinburgh's case it would likely include the whole of the 'Old Town', Princes Street and most of the main thoroughfares immediately behind it, together with Marchmont, Grange, Bruntsfield and part of Newington. Those up to five miles away would get similar reception with the use of an outdoor aerial of around 100 feet; this would include areas like Portobello, Newhaven, Granton, Blackhall, Corstorphine and parts of Murrayfield, Gorgie and Leith. Beyond that, out towards the Lothians and Fife, a valve set would most likely be necessary.
Two weeks after the station opened, and following a complaints from listeners about poor reception, Mr H. L. Kirke, a development engineer at the Broadcasting Company, was sent to Edinburgh to sort out the problems. The difficulty at the University was that a suitable earth could not be obtained owing to the rock foundation, and a temporary counterpoise on one side of the equipment was not proving satisfactory. Once it was confirmed that the aerial was not at fault, Captain Eckersley admitted that the peculiar conditions of Edinburgh, which were different from those of any other station because of the presence of shielding metallic rocks, may have resulted in a general lack of signal strength.
Captain Eckersley also referred to the difficulty of erecting proper aerials in the city. Indeed, in July 1924, members of Edinburgh Town Council carried a motion which recommended that notice be served on people who had erected an aerial wire across a street. It was stated that 222 aerials of this description had been erected in the city.
The transmitter was moved in 1931 because accommodation at the Edinburgh University buildings was no longer available. Just after midnight on 26 April the transmitter was dismantled and re-erected some three-quarters of a mile away in the bakery at St Cuthbert's Co-operative Society headquarters in Fountainbridge, Port Hamilton, the job being completed by 3pm the same day in time for the afternoon programmes.
The Edinburgh transmitter was closed following the opening of the new Scottish Regional transmitter at Westerglen in 1932.
Which station to relay
The original intention of the Company was to relay the Glasgow station from Edinburgh, but it was reported that there was a strong feeling among local wireless owners that the Glasgow programme would be unacceptable to local listeners and that they should have London instead.
At a meeting of the British Broadcasting Company in Glasgow in January 1923, Glasgow trade representatives out-voted the few Edinburgh representatives who were able to attend, and made a recommendation that the Edinburgh station should be a relay from Glasgow instead of London. The reasons given were that: it would be cheaper to run; the Glasgow public would be jealous of the special facilities given to Edinburgh, and by tuning in to the Edinburgh station they might cause local oscillation; and that Edinburgh would soon tire of the London programme.
The Company was open-minded, but said it would accede to the 'Edinburgh point of view'. On 15 January 1924, Captain P. P. Eckersley, engineer-in-chief of the Company, and Mr James Cameron, the BBC's engineer for Scotland, convened an informal conference at Edinburgh's City Chambers where they met with with representatives of the city including Lord Provost Sleigh, Bailie Philips Smith and Mr Andrew Grierson, the Town Clerk, and other interested parties. Those who spoke at the conference were said to be emphatically in favour of London over Glasgow and this is what was agreed. However, the Company warned that land wires between London and Edinburgh were subject to interruptions. This was especially the case during poor weather conditions such as snowstorms, where the wire would often break. Nonetheless, it would still be possible to broadcast items from the Glasgow station by means of telephone line link.
There was also the difficulty of erecting proper aerials.
A complete evening programme was broadcast from the George Street studio once a week, initially on Wednesdays but then on Fridays. But the results were inevitably poor compared with London; one letter to a local newspaper stated that the programmes were characterised by a ‘sameness and stodginess which had marked out that evening as the dull night of the week’. 21 years later, on the station’s anniversary, Marshall would confess: ‘When I look back on our early programmes I wonder how we put on such appalling tripe!’
In the earlier years, afternoons consisted of an hour of dance and other music played by the 'pianoforte trio', a group of well-known local instrumentalists consisting of Stanley Henderson on piano, Chester Henderson on cello and Waldo Channon on violin. They played initially three times weekly but, after a few months, on a daily basis. They played jazz and similar music, but according to one complaint, while the music would have been entertaining if delivered by a full-band complement, it 'tends to become monotonous and humdrum when rendered by the limited instrumentation of a pianoforte trio'. The orchestra of Messrs. Patrick Thomson's Limited was broadcast regularly, but their playing had gradually deteriorated, and they were therefore discontinued at the end of January 1927. Music was taken from St Andrew Picture House one afternoon a week, the other afternoons being covered by wireless link from Daventry.
The daily Children's Hour played a large part in the work of 2EH was considered in many respects the most important of their transmissions. It was arranged by Nancy Shaw ('Aunty Molly'), who was a teacher of elocution in Edinburgh, and George Marshall (‘Uncle Leslie’), the station director, who was also a good all-round musician and could turn his hand to any feature of the programme.
Other members of station staff also took part, including Mr L. Shepherd Munn (Uncle Dick), a first-class pianist and a good singer; Mr J.C.S. Macgregor (Uncle Jim), who read stories and sang; Miss M.E.C. Irving (Aunty Maynie), who was Mr Marshall's secretary, often took part; and an early artist was Miss Marion Richardson (Aunty Minnie), a well-known Edinburgh singer.
A local Children's Radio Circle was formed shortly after the station opened and charged a modest sum of one shilling to join, with all monies received going to the Edinburgh Children's Hospital. In return, members received a badge and the privilege of writing to 'Uncle Leslie' or 'Auntie Molly' and requesting the performance of his or her favourite musical piece, recitation, etc. At Christmas and Easter the children of the Radio Circle made special efforts to collect toys and books for a local charity. On 26 December 1925 a concert for poor children was given in the Usher Hall, the proceeds going to the Courant Fund. A Radio Party was held once a month when around 25 children were invited. In December 1927 two poor children suffering from tuberculosis were sent to Murren by the Radio Circle.
In October 1925 a Children's Radio Magazine was started, published monthly at a price of 6d. It was started by Uncle Leslie (George Marshall), who acted as editor, and any profits were given to charity.
Miss Shaw started a Shakespeare Club and early in 1927 scenes were broadcast from 'As You Like It' and 'The Merchant of Venice'.
In April 1927 Miss Nancy Shaw was transferred to Belfast, replaced by Miss Evva Kerr from Belfast. 'Aunty Evva' was a pianist and singer, who had had a Kindergarten training, and she planned out the Children's Hour more systematically, but with less variety, than Miss Shaw. She continued in Edinburgh until November 1928 when staff were concentrated in Glasgow.
One of Miss Kerr's most popular innovations was introducing Mr T.H. Gillespie (Uncle Tom) of the Scottish Zoological Park to give regular broadcasts. During 1926 a scheme had much success when members of the Radio Circle 'adopted' in this way and parties of children met at the Zoo occasionally for the presentation of badges by Mr Gillespie.
A short half-hour religious service was broadcast on Sunday evenings. It featured distinguished preachers from the principal denominations in Edinburgh, including the Church of Scotland, the United Free Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church in Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Congregational Church and others.
2EH also occasionally broadcast a complete church service in the evening, and from 1925, this was done regularly on the second Sunday of each month from St Cuthbert's Parish Church, the pulpit being occupied by eminent preachers in turn from the most important denominations in the city. On intervening Sundays the half-hour service from the studio continued, but from time to time religious services were relayed from other stations.
There were also outside broadcasts of proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland.
Outside broadcasts (OBs)
Some notable OBs from the Edinburgh station included:
- May 1926: Mr Baldwin receiving the Freedom of the City.
- 6 November 1926: Prime Minister's (Mr Baldwin) Rectorial Address from the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh.
- 14 July 1927: Opening of Scottish War Memorial by Prince of Wales. Ten microphone points were wired-up and three OB engineers arrived from Head Office to take charge. Major Ian Hay Beith proved a very successful commentator.
The Edinburgh Education Committee was at first slow and reactionary and did not take much interest in schools broadcasting. School talks were, however, broadcast from the inception of the station, twice weekly at 3.30pm, using the resources of Edinburgh University. From January 1925 a more definite and comprehensive programme was submitted from 2EH, complementing educational programmes from the London station.
In 1926 a successful series of transmissions to schools was arranged, including lessons by the Education Authority's Director of Music, Mr Herbert Wiseman. Mr H. Mortimer Batten also gave schools talks, and contributed to the adult education talks.
In the spring/summer? of 1927 school talks were exchanged with Glasgow as an experiment, but they proved difficult to arrange as Glasgow and Edinburgh schools preferred different times for reception of the broadcasts. That summer additional broadcasts had to be arranged because the wireless link to Daventry was very bad.
From the autumn term of 1928 all Scottish stations took the same programme, arranged for the Region by Mr George Burnett, Scottish Education Officer.
Numerous eminent people gave broadcast talks for the first time from the Edinburgh studio, including the former Prime Minister, Earl Balfour, who gave an important address on ‘The League of Nations’, and the English writer and poet G. K. Chesterton, who would go on to become a hugely popular broadcaster on the BBC network.
Many well-known educationalists broadcast short lectures from the station, sometimes single addresses, sometimes a series of six or more. Examples of topics ranged from the proposed footbridge across the Forth to the prospects for the Amateur Golf Championship. Most of these talks were delivered in the evening and intended for adults, but from October 1924 transmissions were also made to schools on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. In autumn 1926 a popular series of talks was 'Romantic Episodes in Edinburgh's History'.
Humorous talks were given from time to time by Dr James Devon, a well-known local wit, who also acted as compere in Scottish Gather-round and similar programmes.
There were also afternoon talks at 4pm.
The first deliberate attempt at adult educational talks from Edinburgh was made during the first quarter of 1927 when Mr Arthur Birnie of the University gave a series on 'Scotland's Industrial Story' and a follow-up scheme was prepared. The results were, however, rather disappointing as the lecturer did not have the right manner and method for broadcast talks.
Marshall was particularly disappointed that he was unable to broadcast a running commentary of the first rugby match to be played on the new ground at Murrayfield — Scotland vs England on 21 March 1925. In common with other sporting bodies at the time, the Scottish Rugby Union was apprehensive about the effect broadcasting might have on their gate returns. It was especially frustrating as Scotland beat England in that game to win their first Five Nations Championship Grand Slam.
Somewhat ashamed that it hadn't yet visited Tynecastle, the Edinburgh station broadcast a running commentary of the annual New Year struggle between Hearts and Hibs at Tynecastle on 1 January 1928. Mr J. M. MacLennan described the match for listeners.
Two new initiatives began in 1926: 'Scottish Market Prices for Farmers' in October, and a 'Bulletin of Young People's Organisations' giving news of forthcoming events.
The opening night concert was held in the Usher Hall on 1 May 1924. Proceeds from the sale of tickets were given to the fund for the relief of distress in the Highlands and Islands.
Prior to the opening ceremony an organ recital was given by Dr W. B. Ross, and a musical programme was discoursed by the band and pipers of The King's Own Scottish Borderers.
Following the broadcasting from London of the chimes from Big Ben at 8pm, the station was formally opened by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William L. Sleigh, who spoke of having 'achieved the consummation of our desire', before thanking the British Broadcasting Company and Bailie J. D. Philips Smith, 'to whose energy and enthusiasm we owe the fact that we are no longer wholly dependent on other centres for their programmes'. Sir Alfred Ewing, principal of Edinburgh University, then spoke of how wireless was the 'most amazing of all recent inventions of applied science' and how it was strange to think that he might probably at that moment be addressing, amongst others, his grandchildren in various parts of England.
Pipe selections were then given by The King's Own Scottish Borderers. This was followed by the news and weather forecast from London, the local news bulletin (read from the front of the platform at the Usher Hall), and then 'Faust' broadcast from London.
George Marshall was appointed the first station director. He was educated at the city's Merchiston Castle School and was said to have a considerable knowledge of both wireless engineering and music. Marshall was transferred to the Glasgow station 5SC as station director in March 1926 and replaced in Edinburgh by Mr J.C.S. Macgregor.
Miss Nancy Shaw ('Auntie Molly') organised the women's programmes and, along with Mr Marshall, the local Children's Hour, first on a programme allowance basis and later on the staff.
Mr L. Shepherd Munn joined as an assistant in April 1925, generally responsible for the musical side of the programme and played accompaniments and solos. Relay stations were not normally permitted two male Assistants, but both Mr Macgregor and Mr Munn served in this capacity until the former's promotion to Station Director in March 1926. Mr Munn apparently had 'rather an unfortunate manner with artists, however, and caused some ill-feeling' and was accordingly moved to the Newcastle station when an opening presented itself. His last programme was on 1 March 1927.
￼Mr John Alex Beveridge was the engineer-in-charge (E.i.C.) from the station's launch in 1924 until 1936. Before coming to the BBC he had been keenly interested in wireless telegraphy and telephony for a number of years and was a member of the council of the Edinburgh and District Radio Society. He was accompanied by one assistant engineer. On 18 May 1936 he moved to become engineer-in-charge at Stagshaw, the new North East of England transmitter. His position in Edinburgh was filled by Mr H. M. Hill, who was previously E.i.C. at Glasgow for the past five or six years.
In January 1924, four months before the launch of 2EH, it was estimated that there were around 800 listeners-in in Edinburgh.
Sales manager meetings
Local sales managers of BBC member firms held periodic meetings at the Edinburgh station as they did at all BBC offices. They were eventually persuaded to be entirely responsible for their own meetings (previous to this the Station Director and other BBC officials had been present and took the chair), the first such meeting under these new arrangements taking place on 26 January 1926.
Demise of the station
From January 1928 the station's activities were reduced in preparation for the BBC's Regional Scheme. On 1 November, when the Regional Scheme first came into being in Scotland, all Scottish programming was centralised in Glasgow. On that date the position of the Edinburgh and Dundee station directors became redundant and the Edinburgh Children's Hour was merged into that of Glasgow's.
Edinburgh's director J.C.S. Macgregor left to join the Regional Board in Glasgow and was replaced by Alex Swinton Paterson in the new, downgraded role of 'Edinburgh Representative'. There was little outcry locally, partly because Edinburgh as the capital of Scotland would always supply a good proportion of Scottish material for regional programmes and because two members of the stations Children's Hour — Mr Macgregor and Miss Kerr — joined the Glasgow programme after they both transferred across to the city. They were responsible for the Hour on three nights a week, Miss Kathleen Garscadden organising the other three.
It was decided that a Press Representative for the new Scottish Region should be stationed in Edinburgh and the job was taken on by Mr Kennedy Stewart.
On 1 October 1929 the Edinburgh was officially downgraded??. With Mr Swinton Paterson being transferred to Head Office in London, Edinburgh was left with only Mr Kennedy Stewart as both Station Representative and Press Representative. However, it was also decided in 1929 that the headquarters of the new Scottish Region would be transferred to Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh transmitter finally closed down on 12 June 1932 when the new Scottish Regional transmitter came into operation at Westerglen near Falkirk.
- 'Broadcasting station for Edinburgh: important development', Scotsman, 14 January 1924, 6.
- 'New Wireless Studio in Edinburgh’, Glasgow Herald, 1 August 1925, 3.
- 'BBC Edinburgh Silver Jubilee: Reminiscences of the Early Days’, Scotsman, 30 April 1949, 8.
- 'Edinburgh wireless: London programmes to be broadcasted', Scotsman, 16 January 1924, 8.
- 'Edinburgh wireless: technical problems', Scotsman, 15 May 1924, 6.
- 'Edinburgh wireless problem', Glasgow Herald, 2 September 1924, 7.
- 'Aerials across streets', Glasgow Herald, 4 July 1924, 7.
- 'Edinburgh transmitter: to be moved this weekend', Scotsman, 25 April 1931, 18.
- 'Edinburgh broadcasting station: London or Glasgow programmes', Scotsman, 15 January 1924, 4.
- Letter to the editor, Scotsman, 25 January 1924, 6.
- 'Edinburgh wireless: London programmes to be broadcasted', Scotsman, 16 January 1924, 8.
- 'Letters to Editor, Edinburgh Evening Despatch, 19 January 1925.
- ‘Those Early Days’, Edinburgh Evening News, 2 May 1945.
- 'The Edinburgh Station: a retrospect', Scotsman, 2.
- ‘BBC Edinburgh Silver Jubilee: Reminiscences of the Early Days’, Scotsman, 30 April 1949, 8.
- 'Scottish Broadcasting News', Fife Free Press, 31 December 1927, 2.
- Glasgow Herald, 17 April 1924, 5.
- 2EH' calling: opening of Edinburgh wireless station', Glasgow Herald, 2 May 1924, 10.
- Glasgow Herald, 17 April 1924, 5.
- Edinburgh Relay Station history, BBC WAC R13/369/1.
- Untitled article, Glasgow Herald, 26 March 1924, 8.
- Scotsman, 17 April 1936.
- 'Edinburgh broadcasting station: London or Glasgow programmes', Scotsman, 15 January 1924, 4.