5SC

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5SC
City of license Glasgow
Broadcast area Greater Glasgow
Frequency 415 metres
First air date 6 March 1923; 94 years ago (1923-03-06)
Last air date 31 October 1928 (1928-10-31)
Format Varied
Language(s) English
Power 1.5 kW
Callsign meaning SC for Scotland
Owner British Broadcasting Company
(General Post Office)
Sister stations 2BD, 2EH, 2DE

5SC was the BBC's sixth radio station to be launched and the first in Scotland. The opening of the BBC’s first Scottish station marked the start of ‘official’ broadcasting in Scotland. Even though it was located in Glasgow, its 1.5 kilowatt transmitter was designed to ensure it could be heard far beyond the second city of the empire. Put in perspective, the BBC station was 150 times more powerful than that of the temporary Daimler station which proceeded it. With a similar station in Aberdeen just a few months behind, and ‘relay’ stations in Edinburgh and Dundee, broadcasting had truly arrived in 1920s Scotland.

Transmitter

See Port Dundas
In January 1923 the Broadcasting Company applied to the Corporation of Glasgow for permission to erect a transmitter at the council’s electricity supply station at Edington Street, Port Dundas. Once planning consent was approved, permission had to be sought from the General Post Office and this was promptly given on 30 January 1923. A wavelength of 415m was authorised and the call sign 5SC allotted (SC standing for Scotland).

As the BBC had no engineering staff of its own, it fell to engineers seconded from the Maroni Company to erect the transmitter, which was of a standard 'Q' type. The transmitter’s power was 1.5 kilowatts: that is, 150 times more powerful than the Daimler station’s. In common with other main stations in Britain, the radius of their service area was 20–25 miles.

However, by October 1923, The Courier quoted the official range of the station being roughly 75 miles.[1]

Studio

See Rex House
5SC's premises were located in the top floor attic at Rex House, 202 Bath Street, Glasgow, and consisted of a studio, control room and waiting room, although the latter was soon needed for expansion.

Staff

  • Station Director — Herbert A. Carruthers
  • Engineer — James Cameron (sole BBC engineer, transmitter and control room run by engineers belonging to the installing companies).

Assistants

Mungo Dewar joined as the station's first assistant on 12 May 1923.

He was joined, from 1 July 1923, by Alex Swinton Paterson, who had been the first station announcer[2].

Kathleen Garscadden first broadcast on Wednesday 2 May 1923 and went on to look after women's and children's programmes.

One of the typists, Betty M. Ferguson, went on to become Scottish Director Melville Dinwiddie's permanent secretary, and, during the Second World War, Assistant Publicity Officer for Scotland. She was also secretary of the BBC Scottish Region Club in the 1930s.

From around 1930/31, Mr H. M. Hill was engineer-in-charge at the Glasgow station. He transferred to Edinburgh from 18 May 1936.[3]

Opening night

The first night began with the skirl of 'Hey! Johnnie Cope’ on the bagpipes, after which John Reith, the general manager of the BBC, bent to the microphone and announced that ‘5SC, the Glasgow station of the British Broadcasting Company, is calling’. He then introduced the chairman of the BBC, Lord Gainford.

Schedule

  • 7:00—Lord Gainford, chairman of the BBC, introduced by Mr J. C. Reith, general manager.
  • 7:10—The Right Hon. the Lord Provost of Glasgow.
  • 7:15—Orchestra—Selection on Scottish melodies, 'The Thistle' (arranged by W. H. Myddleton). Included 'Up Wi' the Bonnets o' Bonnie Dundee' and 'Bonnie Prince Chairlie'.[4]; Serenade (Drigo); 'Suite from the Ballet Russe (Luigini): 'Allegro Marziale', 'Scene', 'Mazurka'.
  • 7:55—Miss Eva Turner, Prima Donna, Royal Carl Rosa Opera Co.—'Ritorna Vincitor' from Verdi's Aida and 'Jewel Song' from Gounod's Faust. Miss May Lymburn, Contralto—'Softly Awakes My Heart' from Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah; 'Habanera' from Bizet's Carmen. Mr Horace Vincent, Principal Tenor, Royal Carl Rosa Opera Co.– 'Spirto Gentil' from Donizetti's La Favorite and 'For You Alone' by Geehl.
  • 8:25—Sir Donald MacAlister, Principal of the University of Glasgow.
  • 8:30—Miss Eva Turner: 'Pipes of Pan' from The Arcadians by Lionel Monckton; 'By the Waters of Minnetonka' by Thurlow Lieurance. Miss May Lymburn— 'Ye Banks and Braes' (traditional); 'Braw, Braw Lad' (Macfarren)
  • 9.00—Sir William Noble
  • 9.05—Close down
  • 9.30—Mr John Dickson, 'Cellist: 'Adagio Cantabile' (Tartaini); 'Czardas' (Fischer)
  • 9.40—News Bulletin
  • 9:55—Orchestra: March, 'Colonel Bogey' (Kenneth Alford); 'Barcarolle' from Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach); 'Vivienne' from Morceau Dansant (Herman Finck); Intermezzo, 'Fragrance' (Ancliffe); God Save The King.

Speeches

Lord Gainford, the chairman of the Broadcasting Company, presided and gave the opening speech, followed by the official opening ceremony performed by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Thomas Paxton.

Sir Donald MacAlister, KCB, the principal of Glasgow University, delivered a speech in which he hailed the work of the Glasgow professor William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) who, seventy years prior, had predicted a practical method of generating electric oscillations, which passed unnoticed at the time, but whose prediction had today been fulfilled.

Later, Sir William Noble, one of the directors of the Broadcasting Company said that "as a Scotsman it was a particular pleasure to be present at the opening of that station in the commercial capital of the finest country in the world".

The other dignitaries who attended were:

  • Mr A. M. McKinstry and Mr John Gray, directors of the Broadcasting Company;
  • Mr G. H. Nash and Mr G.A. Thompson, Western Electric Company;
  • Mr John Reith, general manager of the Broadcasting Company;
  • Professor G. W. Home, Professor Magnus Maclean, Mr Neil Munro, LLD;
  • Mr A. S. Hedderwick, Mr H. Thomson Clark, and Mr Herbert A. Carruthers, director of the Glasgow station.

Messages were read-out from dignitaries who were unable to attend, including the Prime Minister, Mr Bonar Law; the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth; and the Principals of the Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Programming

On the day of 5SC's launch, Herbert Carruthers outlined his vision for the new station in the Evening Times:

We are out to cater for all tastes in Scotland in the way of entertainment. We intend to broadcast a judicious blend of light and classical music, together with the best and most popular vocal and instrumental items. I also hope to procure the services of outstanding lecturers, who will chat to listeners-in for ten minutes on themes of live public interest. In the early evening I hope to get the ear of the children, and to make friends with them through the microphone… There are great possibilities for wireless broadcasting. To elevate the public taste in music, to popularise the most instructive of lectures and speeches, and to give the public the best in entertainment will be our motto.⁠[5]

Children's

Children's Corner began on the second day of broadcasting, Wednesday 7 March 1923, from 5.30 until 6 pm. The characters of the programme were known as Uncles and Aunties. At first, they made up comical names — Kathleen Garscadden, for example, was known as 'Auntie Cyclone'. But London soon put a stop to this as they believed using meteorological terms could be confusing to children, and so Garscadden simply became 'Aunty Kathleen'.[6] The programme was renamed For The Children on Monday 22 February 1926, and Children's Hour some point later.

Talks

Regular short talks to men were inaugurated on Tuesday 1 May 1923, with women's talks beginning the following day.[7] This was a nationwide feature in which straightforward lectures were delivered in London by the authors, and read simultaneously by a different speaker at the provincial stations. The men's talks were read by the station directors — Herbert Carruthers in the case of 5SC — and the women's talks were typically read by the women assistants. In fact, it was only after the Glasgow speaker of the first women's talk took stage-fright that Kathleen Garscadden was drafted-in as a last-minute replacement, so beginning her long career with the BBC, first as women's assistant and children's organiser.

Local talks were later interspersed with the national ones. This began sometime in 1923. In March 1924, it was announced that 5SC had completed arrangements for 21 lectures, or lecture courses, on various subjects to be given by "authoritative speakers".[8] These were broadcast from 1 April 1924 and included:

Drama

5SC's drama output was led by Mr R.E. Jeffrey, a Glasgow actor and elocutionist, who became a pioneer in the art. Before his arrival, the microphone had been used to present as faithful a reproduction as possible of what was going on around it, but Jeffrey’s great innovation was to explore radio’s potential for stimulating the imagination by taking listeners to places beyond the confines of the studio. When 5SC staged a dramatised production of excepts from Walter Scott’s romantic epic Rob Roy on 31 August 1923, the ‘experiment’ represented the most ambitious radio drama so far attempted anywhere in Britain.⁠ In it, Jeffrey played the part of Rob Roy MacGregor, while his wife played Helen Macgregor.[9] The production was the first provincial programme to be relayed throughout Britain when it was staged again, a few weeks later, on Saturday 6 October.

Simultaneous Broadcasts (SBs)

Little more than a month after 5SC's launch, the BBC began a series of tests to assess the feasibility of relaying programmes over the trunk telephone network.

The BBC's first advertised simultaneous broadcast was on 14 June 1923, when the third act of ‘Meistersingers’ was relayed from the Royal Opera House in London exclusively to 5SC.

The first scheduled national SB broadcast was on Wednesday 29 August 1923, when John Reith read the 7 o’clock news to the whole of the UK. From that point on, along with the news and scripted talks, two complete programmes were SB’d from London each week.[10]

Music programmes were relayed from 1 October 1923.[11]

On Saturday 6 October 1923, 5SC's production of Rob Roy was the first provincial production to be SB'd to the whole of the country.

Station Orchestra

There seems to have been a Station orchestra from the start. By April 1924 the size of the orchestra had been increased to 17, 13 of whom were members of the Scottish Orchestra, including the leader, Isaac Losowsky. By 1928 the orchestra numbered 27.[12]

Key dates

  • March 1923: First outside broadcast, opera from The Coliseum, Glasgow.
  • 2 May 1923: Women's Hour programme instituted.
  • 31 August 1923: Rob Roy, produced by Mr R.E. Jeffrey, Glasgow station's first play??
  • 6 October 1923: Rob Roy broadcast to all BBC stations, becoming Scotland's first network production.
  • April 1924: First ever UK radio experiments in schools broadcasting, transmitted to Garnet Hill School, Glasgow.
  • 9 May 1924: First regular transmissions to Scottish schools (beaten by London to this accolade)
  • 7 November 1924: Premises moved to 21 Blythswood Square.

Glasgow station directors

Date Name Previously Subsequently
Feb 1923 Herbert Carruthers Non-BBC Station Conductor
Feb 1924 David Millar Craig Non-BBC Music Department, Head Office[13]
Mar 1926 George Marshall Edinburgh Station Director Transferred to Newcastle; by 1936 he was Northern Ireland Regional Director.
Feb 1927 David Cleghorn Thomson (interim) n/a
Jul 1927 Henry Fitch Assistant Station Director Plymouth Station Director

Glasgow Station Representatives

Date Name Previously Subsequently
13 Jul 1930 J.C.S. Macgregor Scottish Regional Board
1931 Gordon Gildard
Mar 1926 Andrew Stewart
Dec 1935 Lachlan MacRae[14] Director of Education, Ceylon

Sutherland joined as assistant around 1926?  New dramatic producer Mr Webster joined around 1926 too.

April 1926 - Moncrieff took over schools tranmissions. (says she was asked middle of March)

The qualifications for the Glasgow Station Representative were described as "a thorough knowledge of musical and dramatic interests in Glasgow, experience of organising and running an office staff", along with "a personal interest in all types of broadcast programmes and the ability to maintain useful public contacts".[15]

5SC wavelengths

 
Mar 1923 415m
?? 399m
12.4.1931 376m

Audience figures

In January 1924, one newspaper suggested there were 50,000 listeners-in in the Glasgow district.[16]

By the end of 1926, it was said that the number of listeners-in had increased to 60,000 — and station director George Marshall claimed that 8,000 letters were received at Blythswood Square every week.[17]

Centralisation

As a result of the BBC Head Office's policy of centralisation, a number of staff contracts were terminated in 1929. They included: Henry Fitch (salary: £800), Herbert Carruthers (salary: £600) and three female assistants (salaries ranging from £275-375). Meanwhile, D.R.G. Sutherland, who looked after Glasgow’s dramatic productions, resigned.[18]

References

  1. 'Aberdeen Broadcasts To-Night', Courier, 10 October 1923, 3.
  2. 'BBC Director's Scots Tribute', Daily Record, 8 March 1944.
  3. Scotsman, 17 April 1936.
  4. 'Glasgow's First Night in Wireless', Courier, 7 March 1923, 4.
  5. ‘The Wireless World’, Evening Times, 6 March 1923, 3.
  6. 'Carrocher in Conversation', BBC Radio Scotland, 3 April 1980.
  7. 'A New Feature', Glasgow Herald, 2 May 1923, 12.
  8. 'Broadcast Educational Talks in Glasgow', Glasgow Herald, 11 March 1924, 7.
  9. '"Rob Roy" by Broadcast Wireless', Glasgow Herald, 31 August 1923, 4.
  10. Briggs, Volume I, 198.
  11. Radio Times, 28 September 1923.
  12. George Burnett (ed.), Scotland on the Air (Edinburgh: Moray Press, 1938), 2.
  13. George Burnett (ed.), Scotland on the Air (Edinburgh: Moray Press, 1938), 7.
  14. 'BBC representative in Glasgow: appointment of Lachlan MacRae', Glasgow Herald, 2 December 1935, 9.
  15. 'BBC Glasgow post vacant', Glasgow News, 8 August 1935.
  16. 'Edinburgh broadcasting station: London or Glasgow programmes', The Scotsman, 15 January 1924, 4.
  17. Letter, Evening Times, 3 December 1926.
  18. Director General's report for Board of Governors Meeting, 10 July 1929, BBC WAC R1/65/1.