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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Barrow radio buffs tune in to 100th celebration

CONGRATULATIONS from around the world have floated across the global airwaves to radio operators in Furness as they celebrate 100 years of operation.

The Furness Amateur Radio Society was granted a special call sign to mark the event – GB100RXY – helping the group make 3,500 exchanges around the world in just one month.

Now the 44 members from Barrow, Ulverston and the surrounding area are hoping to encourage more people to take up the communications pastime.

Member and spokesman David Warbuton, who has had contact with the International Space Station via amateur radio, explained the society had a fascinating history.

“Barrow was way ahead of its time,” he said.

“It was the fifth group in the country to be granted a licence back in June 1913 – even before London and other major cities.

“It’s believed engineers were fitting radio equipment to boats at Vickers at the time, so we had quite a few people here with a keen interest in it and, what’s more, the skill and expertise to get involved and give it a go.’’

The group, which meets regularly at Gleaston Water Mill – owned by amateur radio enthusiast Mike Brereton – has continued through the decades, interrupted only by the two world wars.

But while radio silence was enforced during those years, members of amateur radio societies were often drafted into covert government listening posts where their technical know-how could capture enemy messages as they were sent.

Mr Warbuton added: “It was all top secret, so we’ll probably never know if any of the Furness members were recruited for the job.

“Probably they were, and the information they intercepted was then fed to Bletchley Park.’’

To mark the centenary, Furness Amateur Radio Society set up temporary stations at Barrow’s Forum, the Dock Museum and from the RNLI Station at Rampside.

“Not many people outside of amateur radio know this but most astronauts hold radio licences and operate from the International Space Station in their down time, so it’s possible to contact them regularly,” Mr Warburton added.

“Hopefully that will inspire more people to get involved.

“After all, without radio we wouldn’t have mobile phones, television or GPS. It’s still so important to technology today.”

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