A few years ago, I was out and about in our local town of Weston…
The coast at Weston-super-Mare has historic associations with wireless telegraphy. In 1897, Marconi co-operating with Sir William Preece, and other post office engineers, sent the first wireless signals across water from Lavernock on the Welsh side of the Bristol Channel to Flat Holm and Brean Down on this side. The first ultra-short-wave telephone, as an extension of the land-line system, linked Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare in 1932. Marconi’s work laid the foundation for the development of radio communication and of broadcasting throughout the world.
I came across another reference to Marconi’s experiments and telegraphy trials the first time we went to Northern Ireland, nearly twenty years ago.It’s easy enough to find information about Marconi’s great achievements, and his less savoury connection to the Italian Fascist party; he was born, of an Italian father and Irish mother whose family started the Jameson Whiskey company, in 1874 and was interested in electricity and telegraphy. He went on to marry two women (annulling the first marriage to the daughter of an Irish baron, before he entered the second) and had several children, Degna, Lucia, Gioia and Guilio, and then Maria by his second wife. he received a Nobel prize and the Franklin medal, and when he returned to Italy, Marconi moved in the highest circles and was made a marquess by Victor Emmanuel III. he became a fascist and associate of Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator.
Back to the Irish connection, Marconi went to County Antrim to conduct some experimental telegraphy but he only worked there for a few months between June and September 1898, on Rathlin Island and in Ballycastle. It was part of a system of trials by Lloyds of London, with the aim of setting up wireless telegraphic stations along the coast as this was the prime route for transatlantic shipping from Liverpool. There were already signalling stations placed in various sites such as the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and Mallin Head. There is a similar plaque to the one above in Ballycastle by the ferry terminal, commemorating Marconi’s experiments. Marconi was actually in Ballycastle conducting his experiments when the famous Old Lammas Fair was on… I wonder what he made of that!