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VOLUME : 2     No. 1                                                                            June 1995           


Chairman's Comments                                                               -      Bill Wright

The Museum, and Round About                                                 -      Sandy Firth

Moves In And Around Viewfield                                                  - Peter MacDonald
The Late John Brown,

To Collect or Not to Collect ? That is the Question                       - Peter MacDonald
GB2OWM, Second Orkney Science Festival
List of Members







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Here we are into the late spring or is it early summer of 1993 and with it comes the third edition of the Friends Bulletin.

So what has been happening since Edition No 2.   On the surface not a lot, particularly so far as the Friends are concerned, but much has been happening so far as the Museum and the Trustees are concerned as you will find in the following pages.

The Museum is open, but the need for volunteer custodians is becoming rather pressing. Accomodation is becoming available, but not in the house, which now has a tenant.

As no doubt you will have realised annual subscriptions are due as and from 1 May and I am sure the Treasurer will be pleased to hear from you 1!

Neither date nor venue for the AGM have yet been fixed, but you will get notification in due time with, I trust, a full turn out of members.



Bill Wright












Since our last Bulletin we have seen many changes round "Viewfield".

The most significant for visitors will be that the old "Container", which has sat beside the doorway to the Museum, has now gone, and has been replaced by a Glass-fibre "Portacabin".   The work   in shifting the container, and siting the Portacabin on proper foundations, with properly secured anchor points was carried out by A Flett, the Builders from Holm. This means that we can now sleep a bit sounder at night, knowing that there is no fear of the container shifting. (As indeed the old one did in the 120 mph gale of last year).

We are indebted to Martin Flett and his team for their good work as they also moved the Portacabin from its former home at the Airport, where it housed the V.O.R. Sustem.   The donation to the Museum of this super facility was due to the efforts of our good friend Len Wilson, who has been responsible for the donation of so much in the way of interesting, and useful, items.   We just look forward to the day when we can see them all properly displayed, but for the moment we all owe him a particularly big "Thank You" for the Cabin.

"Viewfield" has now been let (see Peter's report), and we hope to have the Cabin in use as a work facility before the summer is out.   It is clean, has power, is secure and "tight", and will be the base from which we hope to involve teams of Friends in cataloguing, repairing, or conserving, items. There is also the very important facility of having somewhere to sit and have a yarn, and watch the world come, and go, to see the collection. I am sure Jimmy's aim all those years ago, when it all began, was that we should all enjoy it, and that, when visiting, every self respecting Orcadian, or friend, should be able to stop for a yarn in comfort !


Last year I spoke of the old "Hope" Primary School Building.   Well,   we were fortunate enough to get a grant, which made it possible to meet the rent and go ahead, securing a short term lease of the three rooms mentioned. Unfortunately, however, although we had paid our rent, we have had to share the building with other interests.   Then OIC started to alter the layout of the building, to prepare an Early Learning Centre, without letting us know.   We are currently awaiting a meeting to, hopefully, resolve the problems.   The one room [No 1, as shown in the plan], is packed full of exhibits awaiting sorting, indexing and cataloguing.

We understand that we will have both electricity and water, together with sole access.   If the rumours are correct, and things sort themselves out, we will be able to start out on last year's dreams.   It all takes time.

Provisional Registration with the National Museums Council has meant advice from visiting experts.   To comply with all the requirements will cost money, and take time, but Room No 2 in the School has a full set of black Venetian blinds, and this will be a godsend, as low UV and intensity light levels are mandatory for all Museums.   Even the light levels at "Viewfield" are too high in all fields ! -Then we will have to look to humidity !!!


The one thing which everyone has to remember is that the Museum is run on an entirely voluntary basis with virtually all of the labour having to travel the Barriers to the "Hope".   Then there is the problem of everyone having to carry on with their normal life as well.   I often wonder just how Peter and his family manage to get thro' the work that they do ?


Applications for more grants will have to be placed, and we will have to begin to look for sponsors, or covenants, if we are even to be able to stand still.   Registration with the Museums Council is essential, but it does drive home the fact that the life of our collection is, to quote one visiting expert, "FOR EVER".


Sandy Firth


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"Viewfield", the house next to the Museum, has new tenants now that Grandmother, who looked after the Museum since it was founded, has been put into the care of the Balfour Hospital.   We are indeed fortunate that Vera Sclater, the new occupant, has kindly offered to open and close the Museum (we almost had no one).

One of our Volunteers for many years, Sandra Cursiter, has now moved away from Orkney and we shall miss her faithful assistance.

Another Volunteer, Chris Gee, has had to return to studies, but our other Volunteers, Lena MacDonald, Dollie Rosie and Jean Mitchell are hopeful again this year.



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Major JIG (John) Brown, C.Eng., MIEE, G3EUR, died on 11 January 1993 aged 75 years.


He was born on 7 December 1917, the son of a Glasgow Civil Engineer, and from early childhood was interested in Wireless, building a receiver for himself at the age of 11.   At the age of 13 his family moved to London where he finished his schooling, going on to Regent Street Polytechnic. He worked in the radio field up, and was factory manager for Premier Radio at the outbreak of war, when he volunteered for the RAF.   However he was called up to join the Army, and was arrested as a deserter by RAF police whilst stationed at Catterick !


However he was recruited in 1940 by a secret organisation known as the Inter-Services Research Bureau which was involved in the production of specialised radio equipment for the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in 1941 Thereafter, he transferred into SOE.

He was based at Station IX, a research establishment at Welwyn Garden City, where amongst other things he was involved in the design of transmitting and receiving sets, built into suitcases to provide a morse link to the UK from Occupied Europe for use in clandestine operations by Agents and others.   From the first Type A, (with a range of 150 - 400 miles) the design was improved and refined and in March 1942 the B2 (Type 3 Mk 2) with a range of 500 miles was born. Some 7000 of these spy sets were built at the SOE factory at Stoneleigh Park, and many were used for paramilitary as well as clandestine operations. There is an example in the Museum.


The transmitter is a two stage Crystal Oscillator - Power Amplifier using an EL32 driving a 6L6 with an output of about 15-20 watts over a frequency range of 3-15.5 MHz. The output frequency depended upon the Crystal in use. The PA has a Pi network output circuit so enabling almost any length of wire to be resonated.

The receiver is a superhet using Loctal Valves (7Q7-7R7-7Q7-7R7). The power supply unit can cope with most mains voltages and the unit can be powered from a car battery.   This was a very useful feature as one of the techniques used by the German Radio DF Units was to switch off the mains supply to a building on the assumption that if the illegal transmission ceased, the transmitter must be in that building. A rapid switch to battery power meant that the transmissions did not stop, thereby throwing the Gestapo off the scent.


The total weight in its suitcase was about 32 lbs (14.5 kg), lightweight by the standards of 1943.

By 1943 there was need for small radio receivers which could be more easily concealed.   This need resulted in the design of the MCR1 often built into a biscuit tin as camouflage.   This receiver was distributed throughout occupied Europe before D Day and was also used in the Far East.

By the end of the war a much lighter, but no less reliable, and sturdy unit weighing 9 lbs in its suitcase was produced. The receiver was the MCR1.

At the end of the war Brown had reached the rank of Major and was stationed in Vienna.   He was demobilised in 1946 and joined Courtaulds in Coventry. Thereafter as a designer he moved to Decca Navigator in London. He moved to New Electronic Products in 1951, working with the medical profession in the design of defibrillators, cardiac monitors and a heart and lung machine.   He founded his own company - Aveley Electric in 1954 and was managing director for 15 years. With this company he was engaged as a technical consultant by the oil industry and also in the design and construction of toroidal transformers.

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He was a keen radio amateur, being licensed in 1946 with the callsign G3EUR and was a founder member and President of the Duxford Radio Society. He maintained his interest in the clandestine world of SOE, being a frequent lecturer, and offerer of advice to amateurs and others on the various bits of equipment which came their way via the surplus market.

John Brown was a correspondent of Jim MacDonald to whom he gave much information about the B2.   He also sent Jim one of his QSL cards, which is certainly a collector's item.

He was one of the many unsung experts whose activities and knowledge enhanced the SOE during the Second World War


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Collecting has never been difficult for the Museum, quite simply there seems to be an abundance of supply and goodwill.   This poses the problem - difficult decisions about in what directions collecting should go.

In the beginning the collection had various sources; the Founder (my Father) had a small collection at home.   This was supplemented by a large number of sets from Robert Milne's Record and Music Shop.   Another source was St Clairs Emporium roof, where Father had stored sets years before, when he was TV repair man.

It has to be remembered that early wireless was in the "junk" bracket then, and in many cases he was saving it from the bin.   Now of course many of these items are collectable and can fetch good prices at auction.

Father had a simple but effective policy - take everything offered, be grateful and in most cases give something in return.   Sets would arrive at his work, the Museum and the front door step.   "Spies" operated at the Auction Mart and local refuse dumps.   On his holidays South he would without fail visit scrap yards or the Barras in Glasgow, always bringing something home.   My mother's patience began to wear thin, and on one occasion when a gentleman telephoned offering a set he was told " I don't think he needs it, he's got plenty already". My Father only found this out a year later when he met this same gentleman at the Barras.


After my Father died, I continued his collecting process, even advertising in "The Orcadian" for equipment from time to time.   It was with the advent of the Registration Scheme for Museums that I had to radically change my view on collecting.


Registration gives us an official status as a Museum, but brings certain obligations for the care of the Collection.   One of these obligations is to have a written collection policy setting out our intentions for the future.   Our policy states that an item has to have an association with Orkney, and has to fit into areas in which the Trustees wish to expand the collection.

At first I found this idea of selective collecting hard to swallow, but now I am in full agreement.   I believe items now have to fight for space, and that we should go for quality not quantity.   When you are offered something, it is good practice to ask yourself "Are we really going to store, care-for and preserve this item for possibly thousands of years ?".   We do not have infinite space to fill. In many cases it would be better to have a representation ie 20 - 30 Black and White TVs of all ages in mint condition instead of 100 - 200 in average condition. In any case you can only display so much at a time.   A contained collection is one which is easier managed; remember we rely on Volunteers to run the Museum.


There are five steps involved in cataloguing each item, which takes about an hour.   Essentially you are recording:-

(a)       Who gave the item

(b)       What item they gave

(c)       Description of item

(d)       The relevance or association of an item.


Items now offered to the Museum can either be accepted immediately if they fit our collection policy, or at least considered by the Trustees if unsure. From experience I have found that some items offered to us are destined for the dump if we turn them down, and in these cases it is good practice to inform the donor that, whilst we do not want it for the collection, we may accept it for spares, swaps, fund raising, or as a last resort dumping it ourselves.


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This saves an otherwise doomed item, whilst not obliging us to keep it. More importantly the donor does not feel rejected, and that they have contributed something.   At the time of writing donations arrive at the rate of about one a week.   All new items coming into the collection are now catalogued, but many pre-trust sets remain to be sorted out.   This will be a long process.

Achieving Provisional Registration for our Museum is something we can all feel proud of, but much work on the ground has to be done to meet its standards, and it is my hope that some day Friends or Volunteers will play a major part in what not only is becoming an increasing workload, but also a rewarding pastime.

One final question which may arise - What if someone in the South of England offers us an exceedingly valuable and rare piece of early Marconi equipment for the collection; would it fit into our collection policy ?   The answer to that must be "I am sure there must be an Orkney connection somewhere !!".


Yours, tongue in cheek,


Peter MacDonald.





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At the request of the organisers of the 2nd Science Festival the Museum Amateur Radio Station - GB2OWM - was activated over the period 11 to 17 September 1992.   Operation was confined to afternoons, nominally 2pm to 5pm except for the Saturday and Sunday when there was operation in the mornings as well. Activity was mainly on either 7MHz (40 metres) or 14MHz (20 metres) using single sideband. David GM0MHS did have a foray on CW on the 15th.


The station was set up in the Museum, space being made by moving the Juke Box into the Container.   Perhaps next time operation will not need the use of furniture removers.

The equipment used belonged to the operators and included a Yaesu FT101ZD and a Trio 830S.   The power being about 100 watts.   The aerial was a G5RV in inverted V configuration with an apex height of about 25 feet.

Band conditions were not too good, but over 200 contacts were made in 30 countries.   The best DX to the West was VE2WY near Montreal and VP9KK in Bermuda and to the East, 4Z4DX in Tel Aviv.   Bermuda was a new country for the station, as also was Croatia, originally part of Yugoslavia.   Many members of the Royal Naval Amateur Radio Society were contacted. Since the Museum first began operating an amateur radio station in April 1989 there have been 969 contacts spread over 54 countries.

Thanks are due to the operators, loggers and QSL card writers, including Reg, GM0CUY; David, GM0MHS; Dave, GM1RQD; Bill, GM3IBU; David, GM4TYU; Hilda, GM4ZZH; Sandy, GM6W0F; Anne, GM6WPA, Gerald, GM7FMK; and George, GM7GMC.

It is possible that the station will again be activated for the 3rd Orkney Science Festival scheduled for 10-16 September.



Bill, GM3IBU



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