Amateur Radio in Ireland – the Early Years
(Based on notes by Bill McIllwaine EI9F)
1898 – Early Radio Experiments
The origins of amateur radio in Ireland go back to experiments in radio transmission and reception carried out by Colonel M.J.B. Dennis at his home in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow in 1898. Colonel Dennis’s station is believed to have been the first ever amateur experimental radio station in the world.
1913 – Dublin Wireless Club
Colonel Dennis was one of this club’s founder members. The club held regular meetings and lectures – lecture topics included the Wheatstone Bridge and Ohms Law, telephone and telegraph circuits also featured.
At the time, radio was of course a very new technology. Broadcasting, as we know it now, did not exist but the value of radio for certain types of communication – for example with ships – was clearly recognised; the part played by radio in 1912 in saving the lives of some of the Titanic passengers is well documented.
In the early years of the 20th century, amateur radio experimenters were very much to the fore with developments in radiocommunications technology, and indeed professional and amateur users of the radio spectrum shared the same frequencies.
1922 – Radio Association of Ireland
This was formed in 1922 as a national society embracing all radio interests – home construction, the radio trade and radio broadcasting – and providing lectures and demonstrations. Membership of the radio association grew rapidly, and some provincial branches were set up. Its members would have been interested mainly in listening to radio transmissions and broadcasts, though with few if any commercial receiving sets on the market at the time, listeners of necessity became involved in home construction.
1925 – Wireless Society of Ireland
This was formed from an amalgamation of the Dublin Wireless Club and the Radio Association of Ireland. One of the WSI’s early achievements was the organisation of a Radio Exhibition in the Mansion House, Dublin in November 1925. This was a huge success, helped by the fact that 2RN, the first radio broadcasting station in the Irish Free State, which was due to start regular broadcasts in 1926, put out a special transmission during this Exhibition.
While much of WSI’s membership would have been primarily interested in broadcast radio, the society included many enthusiastic radio amateurs who were involved in making and operating transmitters. The society’s records include reports of a portable transmitter operating maritime mobile in Dublin Bay and also a portable operation from the lead mines at Ballycorus; both of these were in 1927.
1932 – Irish Radio Transmitters Society
The original “Irish Radio Transmitters Society” was formed in 1926 by members of the WSI who were more interested in the construction of amateur transmitters and receivers rather than broadcast equipment. The IRTS that exists today consists of an amalgamation in 1932 of this group with the Wireless Society of Ireland. By then, following the wider availability of commercial radio receivers, interest had waned in the construction of equipment solely for the reception of broadcasting stations.
The first president of IRTS was Colonel Dennis, who by then had the call sign EI2B. He held office for many years and was active in amateur affairs until the war brought a stop to these in 1939. Colonel Dennis died in 1945 in his early eighties.