The first Hastings Radio Club

Having for some years heard that it was formed In 1924 I decided to do a bit of checking up of details in the “Observer” of those days.

The leading spirit seems to have been a very successful writer of thriller, one William le Queux who was interested in Radio and Television, and who supported Baird up to a point In the twenties. Le Queux who was very well off, ran a high power radio transmitter In Bournemouth and used to put on the air concerts of music and singers.

On March 15th 1924 during a concert by a Bexhill Lady pianist he announced the formation of a Hastings “Wireless Society”. A subsequent notice in the “Observer” announced a meeting in the Institute in Priory Street of would-be members. This was sponsored by a Mr. Marriott. The Meeting, on April 5th was described as the “first A.G.M” in the advert. Those wishing to join were to be charged 2/6d or 1/-s if less than 18 years of age, and the Annual subscription was fixed at 5/-s and 3/6d for the younger members.

Apparently at this meeting officials were appointed and the “Observer” of April 12th gave a quite good account of the meeting. The President was Le Queux, the Secretary Marriott, the Mayor was on the Committee and also Vic Mills (now alas incapacitated in the Eversfield Hospital). All Committee names were given. They announced the famous Lecture by Baird for April 28th, agreed to join the R.S.G.B. and finally agreed to apply for a transmitting licence. There appears to be no account of Baird’s Lecture in the “Observer” certainly not in the next three or four issues.

There is a note that the Radio Club would try and relay the “King’s Speech” over loud speakers along the front, but it noted that the reception in Hastings was very poor and good quality could not be guaranteed. This could well have been George V opening the Wembley Exhibition of 1924. I could not find any account of how successful the operation was

I suppose that the Hon. Secretary, Mr Marriott, was one of the Photographers of that name who did work for Baird and had a shop in the Arcade at the time.

There is an article in the January 19th “Observer” – “Wireless Invention In Hastings”, well known to Baird specialists giving some account of Baird’s work, illustrated by a not very good photograph of Baird with one of his machines. It would be interesting to find somebody who knows Mr. Marriott, or more likely his descendants and see if any Minute Books survive of the meetings of those days. If any of our members do know the family, please get in touch with the writer, an introduction usually produces better results than knocking on doors.

Part 2

The account of Baird’s Lecture has been found and it is written by a Mr. Sodell for the “Observer’.

The Club, then called “The Hastings and St. Leonard’s and District Radio Society”, met in the Grand Restaurant and there was a good attendance. It does not say whether there was a demonstration.  Baird at that period seems to have only produce shadow effects, due presumably to bad resolution and high contrast. He was at that time also demonstrating by letting people hear the Television signal, so he might have done that, but I don’t think he did. After the Lecture the late Mr. Mjlls gave an “Explanation of Wireless apparatus”.

Bournemouth as the source of the (first mention of the Radio Club has been queried on two counts:- Firstly it is thought that be Queux was based on Guildford and Bexhill and secondly coverage would have been better from Bexhill on the frequencies used in those days. Anyway, the location of the transmitter is not important and perhaps “The Observer” got it wrong.

When we put on the show at the Victoria Hotel a number of letters between Vic Mills and Baird were copied and recently it was noted that Baird agreed to come to a lecture on October 7th 1927.

The occasion seems to have been a splendid Exhibition organised with the support of the Mayor entitled “The Wonders of Science” and the show was put on in the White Pooh Pavilion. The Radio Club organized the Wireless arid Signaling Section of the Exhibition and this was described in the “Observer” as being full of Radio enthusiasts It had among its exhibits a replica of Baird’s Television. The show included many Lectures and Baird cave his second Lecture in Hastings there on October 7th 1927. He received an enthusiastic welcome from a large audience and after paying a tribute to Hastings ‘Healing Air and Sunshine’ gave a general description of his methods. He also played an audio signal of the dummy’s head from a gramophone disc. He noted the use of infra-red light and his recently patented “Noctovision” and ended on a .topical note that the latter Invention would enable sailors to see great distances In foggy weather; this apparently generated great applause.

A picture on the rear page of the “Observer” shows some apparatus, but I could not distinguish any radio gear.

The Radio Club surfaces again in 1929 when the Baird plaque in the Queen’s Arcade entrance was unveiled, most unusually during Baird’s lifetime. The Secretary off the Club, one Mr. Nye was noted as present amongst a collection mainly of Science Schoolmasters and of course the Mayor and Mr. Baird.

Since the writing of the article The First Hastings Radio Club, Mr. Mills has since passed away in The Eversfield Hospital.

Eric Vast – September & October 1988.

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