100 years ago, on 12 December 1921 a young man named Paul Godley set up a radio receiver in Ardrossan and received a message across the Atlantic Ocean. This event changed the course of communications history.
This exhibition celebrated this event with a look at Paul Godley, radio communications and how the use of short waves impacted on technology and the world.
Paul sailed for England on the Aquitania on 15 November 1921 to prepare for the Transatlantic tests. The plan was for him to set up his own design of receiving equipment in London, but the location proved not to be acceptable due to static and noise, so Paul and his 285 lbs of radio equipment were transported on to Ardrossan. Paul was determined to “get signals or bust!”. He said “I selected Ardrossan owing to its geographical position. It is convenient to a large centre and in a straight line between Ardrossan and New York, there is no high land intervening. The line passes the north end of Arran, crosses the low part of Kintyre and Islay and then there is an absolutely clear passage. I am quite certain” said Mr Godley “that if any commercial telegraphic concerns decided to erect additional stations in Britain for communication with North America, this particular locality would be chosen, partially as the result of my success here”.
Once in Ardrossan, the site was selected, in an open field without any buildings. The site is where Abbotsford Nursing Home now sits. A tent was erected, although the weather was wet, cold and windy. Paul had a lantern for light and an oil stove for heat. Godley’s receiver was designed by E H Armstrong, who went on to patent FM Radio, and was modified by Godley and his team. There was no transmitter on site, only the receiver.
On the night of 11th December, they are ready to receive messages at 1.00am on 600 metres. After 25 minutes they go to the short waves. An American spark station comes in strong, sending “Test” and “TransAtlantic Tests”.
At 2.52 am on 12 December 1921, Paul received the following message:
Nr de 1BCG 12, New York, Date December 11, 1921,
To Paul Godley, Ardrossan, Scotland.
Hearty Congratulations. Burghard, Inman, Grinan, Armstrong, Amy, Cronkhite.
The tests continued for several more days but little more was received. The station at Ardrossan was closed down for the last time on the morning of 16 December.
The success of the TransAtlantic shortwave tests and the changes they made to radio design are legendary. The opinion that shortwaves were commercially useless was proved completely wrong.