Claremont Street

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Claremont Street was the location of the BBC's Aberdeen transmitter from 1923 to 1938, broadcasting the city's first local radio station, 2BD.

Description

The transmitter was housed in an old dye-house in the grounds of the Aberdeen Steam Laundry Company at 40 Claremont Street. So proud was the laundry of its association, it proclaimed itself ‘The Aberdeen Radio Laundry’ on the sides of its vans.⁠[1]

The aerial was of the cage or 'sausage' type. Unlike most transmitters which were installed between tall chimneys, Aberdeen's aerial was slung between two 110ft (?? Courier says 210 feet) Marconi tubular steel masts. To increase the effectiveness of the 'earth' several sheets of copper were buried.[2] By August 1923, the trench for the earth system had been completed and the masts had arrived. Aberdeen was fortunate in having no high metal buildings (such as was the case in Glasgow) which might affect the electrical waves.[3]

It was originally announced that the Aberdeen station would broadcast on a wavelength of 360 metres, but shortly before the station opened the BBC announced that, because of the extension of the waveband allotted to the company, the wavelength would, in fact, be 495 metres.[4] However, the station was known for not always keeping to 495 metres, though one apocryphal story suggested this only happened when the laundry hung out its wet sheets to dry below the aerial!

The Dundee Courier noted that the official range of the station was roughly 100 miles, compared with Glasgow's 5SC which only covered 75 miles, and gave a description of the technical process of broadcasting:

The microphone catches all sound produced in the studio and passes it on to the amplification unit (multi-stage: one to six stages). It is then passed by land line to the transmitting station proper at Claremont Street (about one mile distant). Here it is sent through the transmitting panels to the aerial and radiated in all directions. The transmitting unit consists of four panels — Modulation, main oscillation, driving and rectifying. The modulator does exactly as its name suggests, while the main oscillation produces the carrier wave. The drive keeps the oscillation constant [...] The work thrust upon the rectifier is that of smoothing out the waves, thus ensuring purer signals.[5]

In 1931 the Aberdeen station was moved onto the common wavelength of 288.5m at a power of 1-2 kilowatts, its old wave (301m) being required for the North Regional transmitter at Moorside Edge, which officially went on-air on 12 July 1931.[6]

There was another change the following year. As the National transmitter at Westerglen was to use the synchronised 288.5m wavelength, Aberdeen was given its own exclusive wavelength of 214m, borrowed from Poland. The two ran in parallel from 17 July 1932 to give people an opportunity to adapt their sets to the shorter wavelength, but presumably 288.5m was switched off in Aberdeen when the National transmitter at Westerglen began test transmissions on 22 August 1932.

The BBC's staff magazine, Ariel described how the transmitter was maintained:

Red-letter day at the Aberdeen transmitter is the Sunday nearest to the longest day in the year, when the staff rise before the sun to dismantle and clean the aerial. It is back in place and all in good order well in time for the next transmission. The Engineers also erected the Station's receiving mast, and undertook the cement work.[7]

Closure

In 1936 the BBC decided to replace the transmitter at Claremont Street, which had been in use for thirteen years since station 2DE opened in 1923. A new location on the outskirts of the city, and a boost in power from one to five kilowatts, would help extend reliable coverage to Peterhead in the north and Montrose in the south. A formal announcement was given in January 1937, along with the news that a new studio centre would be provided for Aberdeen, the former having been in use since the station opened. The new transmitter at Redmoss came into service on 9 September 1938.

References

  1. 'Aberdeen Celebration’, BBC Scotland, Radio 4, 7 October 1973.
  2. 'Aberdeen Broadcasts To-Night', Courier, 10 October 1923, 3.
  3. 'The Aberdeen Station', Glasgow Herald, 4 August 1923, 8.
  4. 'The New Broadcasting Station', Glasgow Herald, 10 October 1923, 16.
  5. 'Aberdeen Broadcasts To-Night', Courier, 10 October 1923, 3.
  6. Popular Wireless, 18 July 1931.
  7. Ariel, Apr 1937, 25.