5MG

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5MG
City of license Glasgow
Broadcast area Greater Glasgow
Slogan 5MG, Milligan's Wireless Station
Frequency 440 metres
First air date February 1923; 94 years ago (1923-02)
Format Varied
Power 10 watts
Callsign meaning Most probably 'M' for Frank Milligan, 'G' for George Garscadden
Owner General Electric Company

5MG was an experimental radio station established in Glasgow in 1922 by local wireless dealer Frank Milligan and his friend George Garscadden in conjunction with the General Electric Company. (The call-sign initials 'MG' may refer to 'Milligan-Garscadden'.) It performed a useful 'fill-in' service for four weeks in February and March of 1923, between the closure of Marconi's 2BP and the opening of the British Broadcasting Company's first Scottish station 5SC. Perhaps the greatest significance of 5MG, however, was that it bequeathed a number of important assets to 5SC, not least three key members of staff who would go on to be the early pioneers of broadcasting in Scotland.

Set up

Kathleen Garscadden described the set-up:

I and my choir, in which I sang, and my organist Mr Carruthers were invited to that little flat to come and experiment to see if we could send our voices through the air. It was really a comical set-up with cables from the kitchen to the dining room in the little flat, and a microphone like a soup-plate suspended from the ceiling. And we played and we sang night after night, but nothing happened [...] But I'll never forget the night I was heard [...] and my mother heard me in Sauchiehall Street, and of course that was a miracle.[1]

Air dates

It is unclear when 5MG started and ended broadcasting. The Glasgow Bulletin newspaper claimed that 5MG “broadcasted for five months before the Glasgow Broadcasting Station opened”[2], suggesting a launch date around October 1922. However, no mention of the station's existence appears to have been made in any publication until February 1923, when it was described as a 'fill-in' service to bridge the gap between the closure of 2BP and the opening of 5SC.[3] At the very least, it is reasonably safe to suggest that 5MG did not enter the public consciousness until that latter date.

5MG's period in the limelight inevitably ended when 5SC opened on 6 March 1923, but experiments appear to have continued for at least a month thereafter.[4]

Technical details

5MG's studio was in a fourth floor flat[5] at 141 Bath Street in what was one of the highest parts of Glasgow. Broadcast on a fixed wavelength of 440 metres at a power of 10 watts. The station was heard throughout Glasgow, but reception reports also came in from places afar as Dundee, Edinburgh and Carlisle.

Programming

5MG initially transmitted music from an Algraphone, which was a very efficient type of gramophone. After preliminary experiments were completed artistes were engaged and concerts transmitted every evening from 7pm. The Scotsman newspaper reported on 13 February 1923 that "the first of a series of musical entertainments, arranged by Mr James Henderson, was carried through last night, and listeners-in as far north as Inverness and as far south as Ayr were able to enjoy the programme, the sound carrying distinctly". [6] The entertainments were said to have been of 'a first class quality'.

Frank Milligan and his business

'Milligan's Wireless Shop' was based at 23-25 Renfrew Street.

Frank Marshall Milligan was born in Dublin in 1883/1884, the son of a stockbroker. In his early years he travelled abroad and in Canada he became editor of a farming publication. He served with the Forces during the Boer War and the First World War. He was a former director of Ayr and Mount Vernon Greyhound Stadium. His family moved to Prestwick and he joined the town council in 1930 as a representative of the First Ward and served as Provost from 1947 to 1954. He was also chairman of Prestwick Airport Consultative Committee. He was a Justice of the Peace and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

He died on 1 November 1956 leaving a son, Andrew, and two daughters, Primrose and Kathlyn.

References

  1. 'Carrocher in Conversation', BBC Radio Scotland, 3 April 1980.
  2. The Bulletin, 16 April 1923, p.14.
  3. 'Experimental installation at work', The Scotsman, 13 February 1923, p.3.
  4. 'Wireless experiments', Glasgow Evening News, 7 April 1923, p.10.
  5. George Burnett (ed.), Scotland on the Air (Edinburgh: Moray Press, 1938), 1.
  6. 'Experimental installation at work', The Scotsman, 13 February 1923, p.3.