Until recently (late 2009), we thought that the club had started around 1934. A recent search through the archives of the Sydney Morning Herald, held by the National Library of Australia, reveals that the Manly Radio Club was already active in 1923!
(The following comments about the old Manly Radio Club were written in 2005 by Gerald Sabin VK2AGS, who joined the club around 1936 and was a member until he went SK in 2015.)
The Manly Radio Club (callsign VK2MR – see update, below) initially commenced at the home of Harry Knight, who worked at the Fresh Food and Ice Co. in La Perouse St, Fairlight in approx 1934-1935. They then moved to a large garage situated at the home of a Mr Huddlestone at 120 Condamine St., Balgowlah. In the latter part of 1935 a double-storied house became available in Fairy Bower Rd Manly and the club occupied this building until a wall collapsed during a heavy storm which naturally terminated their tenancy. (See Dec 2010 update, below.)
Some of the names mentioned to me as original members were Ron Kirton (who very kindly supplied the information of the formation of the club), George Thornton, Doug Hardy, Norm Buchanan, Bill Kelly, Alan Furze, Bill Smith, Charles Wilkins and Jim Haining. Following their move from Fairy Bower Rd, the club obtained permission from the Navy in 1936 for use of their clubrooms on the East Esplanade, near the Manly Baths (where the Manly Skiff Club is today). The Navy trained Cadets, part time in sailing techniques from this building.
The Radio Club had the use of a small room wherein was located their transmitter and receiver, with the antenna strung from the roof of the building. to one of the convenient trees nearby. This Building was used until 1939, when with the increase of training, the Navy required the building full time with the approach of WWII. VK2MR was finally wound up and disbanded with the assets of the radio club being disbursed amongst the current members at the time.
There were many radio clubs formed at that time, some being Waverley, Zero Beat, Lakemba, Hurstville, St George, Nth Western, Gladesville, Illawarra and Manly. Each had their own individual colours, Manly being white on Black and they all hosted field days from time to time.
Plenty of space for field days with North Head and Dobroyd Head being just virgin bush, ideal areas to hide the “fox”. Bob le Moine of Harbord always won these events and eventually I learned his secret. He wound up a 40mx coil as his antenna and once he obtained the sense, he could walk straight to it! I built up a receiver using a #19 triode, all enclosed in an Arnotts biscuits tin (for shielding) a small battery, inside for the filaments with the HT battery underneath, which in those days cost a packet.This was all assembled in a carrying case for portable use.The antenna consisted of two crossed pieces of timber with a few coils of wire wound around it. (very antiquated by today’s standard). There was great rivalry between clubs at these field days in attmpting to find the fox first.
The highlight of that era was the annual radio display held in the Assembly Hall. Sydney, where each club was designated a space for their stall. Prizes were allocated for things like the best decorated stall, best display of home brew equipment etc. I am quite sure a few members of the public would have become interested in Amateur Radio following those shows.
(Horst VK2HL supplied the following…)
I think the club reformed at Hinkler Park around 1976. Before moving to Beacon Hill from Hinkler Park we were in limbo for some time and had meetings at the Harbord Diggers Club which was often attended by local identity Bob “Tex” Morton. We also had club rooms at Warringah Mall (in the building on the site of what is now Sizzler Restaurant.)
Moving to Beacon Hill at the site of the old Radar Station the club stayed there until redevelopment (new “Apple” building) forced us to move to our present spot at Terrey Hills. It was at that time our title was changed from “Club” to “Society”.
Over the years, the Society has provided emergency communications backup for a number of natural disaster situations, and has also provided safety communications services for local community events, such as equestrian cross-country communications. Notably, members of the Society helped operate the ground control station for Dick Smith’s record-breaking hot-air balloon flight across Australia in 1993.
Fast forward to 2009, and the Society was asked to leave the Centre to allow the State Emergency Services to expand their operations. The Society is not a front-line emergency service, so this request is understandable. In past years, the Society has supported the other emergency services on site, but Sydney has not had a major disaster requiring the backup services the Society offers. The last really “good” emergency was the 1994 Sydney bush fires; during this activation, the Society helped provide emergency communications when critical infrastructure on the Central Coast crippled communications between Sydney and Newcastle.
In June 2009, the Society’s tenure at the Volunteer Services Centre came to an end. After a short spell at the Terrey Hills Community Centre, the club moved to its current home at the 1st Terrey Hills Guides Hall in September 2009.
(Later updates by Richard VK2SKY:)
February 2010: a search through the archives of the Sydney Morning Herald, held by the National Library of Australia, reveals that the club was active at least as far back as 10 July 1923. A brief notice on 6 July 1923 advertises the event, but doesn’t explicitly name the club. Searches for earlier references to the club are continuing.
July 2010: Page 93 of the Sydney “Evening News” Wireless Handbook, edited around 1923 or 1924, includes a list of licensed Amateur Wireless stations. The callsign 2YE (this was before the international prefix VK came into use) was shown as assigned to the Manly District Radio Club. On page 125 of the same handbook, a list of Radio Societies included the Manly Radio Club, with the principal being G. M. (George Mansfield) Brown, of 24 Reddall-street (sic), Manly. Thanks to Tim Mills VK2ZTM for that information. Update, July 2011, by VK2SKY: 2YE does not appear in a list of callsigns published in The Sunday Times (Perth) on 4 October 1925. Perhaps nobody remembered to renew the licence!
December 2010: According to the Adelaide Advertiser of 24 October 1936… “VK2MR, the Manly Radio Club, is now located at Darley road, instead of Condamine street, Manly. The transmitter has a 53 crystal oscillator, and type 410 power amplifier.”
2016 updates: here is a list of early news stories mentioning the club:
- “The Sun”, 1 March 1923:
RADIO CLUB AT MANLYStarting with a membership of 52, a radio club has been formed at Manlyfor the purpose of receiving instruction in wireless matters. The Boy Scout organisation has taken great interest in the formation of the club, and provision has been made that one of its officers shall be connected with the club in an official capacity.
The election of officers resulted:— President, Mr. Swinburne; vice-president. Mr. Brown; secretary, Mr. Sandell; treasurer, Mr. Clark; committee, Messrs. Crocket, Symes, and Dixon.
- The Magic Spark column in the Sydney “Evening News”, 3 March 1923:
Another New Club.An excellent attendance and enthusiasm marked the inaugural meeting of the Manly and District Radio Club on Monday night last. [i.e. 26 February, 1923]For some time a number of radio enthusiasts had been discussing the possibility of forming a club in Manly, and the fact that their estimate of the attendance at the first meeting was exceeded by over 50 per cent was more than a sufficient reward for the enterprise.Mr. F. C. Swinburne, a well-known and highly proficient radio experimenter, who was one of the pioneers of the move to form a club in Manly, was elected president. Messrs. Brown, O. Sandel, and Clarke were elected vice-president, secretary, and treasurer, respectively, and a committee of three was appointed, consisting of Messrs. M. Dixon, Crocker and Symes.It was decided that the club should consist of senior and junior members, those under the age of 17 comprising the latter section. An entrance fee of 2/6 per member and an annual subscription of 15/- for seniors and 5/- for juniors was decided upon. Forty-seven members were enrolled at the meeting, andsince then an additional five have joined, making a total of 53.It was decided to hold general meetings on Monday nights, and buzzerclasses on Wednesday nights.It is the intention of the club to construct two portable sets at an early[…] a novel feature of its activi- […] into two parties, […] portable sets. Transmitting and receiving practice will then be indulged in between the two widely-separated parties.The next meeting of the club will be held on Monday evening, at which aninteresting lantern lecture will be delivered. Visitors and members of otherclubs are invited to attend.
The Magic Spark column in the Sydney “Evening News”, 17 March 1923:
MANLY AND DISTRICT.The first general meeting of the above Radio Club attracted a good attendance. Prior to the commencement of the lantern lecture by the club president, Mr F. C. Swinburne, Mr. Marsden, president of the Metropolitan Radio Club, and Mr. Atkinson, of the Illawarra Club, were invited to address the meeting. Both volunteered sound advice on the formation and running of radio clubs, and congratulated Manly on having made such an excellent beginning. In the course of his lecture Mr. Swinburne displayed 70 lantern slides of wireless stations in various parts of the world, and different types of apparatus in use. These were accompanied by brief details. Several members have expressed the intention of having their sets on view at the next general meeting, affording those unfamiliar with the construction of radio apparatus an opportunity of learning something of the subject.
- More the the National Library of Australia’s Trove site.
As noted at the top of the page, Gerry VK2AGS recalls the club callsign, VK2MR, but the Broadcasting section of the Sydney Morning Herald for 29 February 1936 lists VK2MR as an experimental service operated by A.W.A on 31.28m/9590 kc. However, a later SMH article, dated 6 May 1937, shows VK2MR as allocated to the Manly Radio Club at that time.