International Marconi Day History

GUGLIELMO MARCONI – (1874 to 1937)

The Elettra enters Mounts Bay from the harbour at Penzance

Marconi was born on 25th April 1874 at the family’s town house in Bologna, Italy. Much of his early childhood was spent travelling with his mother and elder brother. From an early age he was more interested in scientific toys than in school work. Having failed the qualifying exam for the Naval Academy he concentrated on his scientific interests. He pursued his dream of using Hertzian waves as a basis for communicating without wires.

By August 1895 he had achieved transmission over a distance of 1.75 miles (2.8 km..). The Italian government, whom Marconi approached with his invention, showed no real interest so he set sail for England in 1896 and in June that year filed the world’s first patent application for a system of telegraphy using Hertzian waves. Later that year he carried out tests on Salisbury plain.

 In 1900 he came to Cornwall to set up an experimental wireless station, eventually choosing a site at Poldhu Cove on the Lizard peninsula. Sir Ambrose Fleming was responsible for much of the design of the Poldhu station. The first experimental signals only travelled a short distance but on 12th. Dec. 1901 the first transatlantic radio signal from Poldhu, was picked up at St. Johns, Newfoundland, some 1800 miles (2880 km.), by an aerial held aloft by Marconi’s kites. It was the prearranged letter ‘S’ sent in Morse code.

After the demolition of the Wireless Station buildings at Poldhu in 1937, the Marconi Company erected a commemorative granite obelisk on the edge of the cliff adjacent to the site.

In December 1961, the ‘Cornish Radio & Television Club’ (forerunner of the Cornish Radio Amateur Club), set up a commemorative station GB3MSA at Poldhu using the Poldhu hotel to house the station and operators. This event commemorated the SIXTIETH anniversary of the first transatlantic signal in 1901. Under the new name – The Cornish Radio Amateur Club (changed in 1963) – a similar event was held at Poldhu in 1971,  the letter ‘S’ now representing the SEVENTIETH anniversary.

Not wishing to miss an opportunity, the Club set up another special station in Jan. 1978, again at Poldhu, this time to commemorate the first two-way contact between England and the U.S.A. The station was operated around the clock for one week. The highlight of this event was the opening of the station by Marchesa Marconi, with her daughter Elettra.  BBC TV and ITV were there, together with reporters from many British newspapers as well as the ‘New York Times’.

Norman Pascoe (G4USB) was Secretary of the Club in 1987 and had in his possession various Club records including those relating to the week long special event station at Poldhu in 1978 and was looking through them in his shack, with Monty Curtis (G4ZKH) just passing the time of day. Norman happened to make the comment that it would be nice to run another Marconi based event in the next year (1988) being the 10th anniversary of the successful 1978 venture. That chance remark managed to open up the whole box of tricks and they began to plan ahead there and then.

At first they restricted knowledge of their intentions to a few of their closest friends and Amateur associates. Right from the start they realised the potential of the venture and indeed were fully committed to making sure it would not fail but blossom into the major event we now are running on an annual basis. Many letters were sent to the USA, ITALY, CANADA, EIRE etc., and after some considerable effort, they concluded that sufficient replies with the required YES had been received to make their plan viable…… then they announced their intentions.

At Treleigh Church Hall, Redruth, (the then Club venue), a rather staggered meeting were informed that in 1988 an event called ‘International Marconi Day’ was to be run and the Club were asked to become officially involved and lend it’s name to the proceedings, as up to that time, it had been organised by a group of friends and not the CRAC itself. The members blessing was given and it was agreed that Ken Tarry (G0FIC)  would become the Club’s official IMD representative at the IMD Sub Committee deliberations.

That was just the beginning of several months of hard work. Being Marconi related, we wanted to hold the event once again at Poldhu. However, the Hotel had become an Old Peoples Home and operation from their premises was not possible. We did approach them and gained their blessing to be able to use their property as a car park, to gain access to the adjoining field, where we would site our tents and antennas, having been granted permission to do that by the farmer in occupation. He even promised to make sure his bullocks were out of the field at the appropriate time.

The event was scheduled for April and on the day before, we arrived to set up camp and antennas, a bright but rather blustery day recalls Norman. There is video evidence that at least one CRAC tent would have been capable of free flight if it had not been gripped so well by four colleagues (Sorry can’t tell you what was said about the camera folks !). By late evening we were all set for the off, antennas were checked and a few test QSO’s held. Then in true Cornish tradition it happened, the weather worsened and the wind strengthened to a full gale with gusts of around 100 mph, the tents began to rock and it all looked like we may actually end the event in failure before we even started.

Literally at the 11th hour, the Matron of the home called us and kindly offered us the use of their empty but fully refurbished cottage and with literally minutes to go, we began to move the equipment from the field to the comfort of a real stone dwelling. Relieved, we battled to get ready for the off and made it with about 5 minutes to go, had our pre-event sked with the other stations on 80m. and then 24 hours of operation. It went well, good reports and well received by all. We wondered if anyone would actually claim the award we were offering. The answer was an emphatic yes and the event has grown from that slimmed down version to one with ?? participants in 1998

The award certificates were originally produced by Hal in the USA and we must thank Whitey, K1VV, for all his positive help and enthusiasm from the word go. Without his encouragement at times, we may have abandoned ship.For the next two years the event was held at Poldhu, aerials being erected on the same site as Marconi’s original station of 1901. The move was made away from Poldhu because of the weather and the distance needed to travel to set up the station and also by now Poldhu had its own Amateur Radio Club.