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VOLUME:  2        No. 2                                                                                             OCTOBER 1993






CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTS                                                                    -      BILL WRIGHT

THE SECOND AGM                                                                              -      A REPORT

SPOTLIGHT ON A “FRIEND”                                                                  -      BERTIE STOCKAN



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Here we are into the autumn of 1993, not that we have had much of a summer so that we can tell the difference, and with it comes the fourth edition of the Friends Bulletin.

The AGM has come and gone, and I find myself again holding the ring. A brief report of the AGM appears elsewhere in the Bulletin.

The saga of the School still goes on.  Maybe, one day, we will have sole occupancy of the part we lease from Orkney Islands Council and thus be able to get on with some meaningful cataloguing...

The Portacabin looks like becoming a real asset and will provide a good base for custodians - that is a posh name for those watching the shop.  It is possible that the Trustees will be seeking help for next season, so watch this space.

                                                       Bill Wright





The Second AGM of The Society of Friends of Orkney Wireless Museum, was held on Saturday 21 August 1993 in the Hall of St Margaret's Church, by kind permission of the Minister and Congregation.

There were 13 members present, a slight fall on last year, and 4 apologies.

The Chairman's report had already been circulated.  The Treasurer's Report showed a balance in the Bank at 30 April 1993 of £257.65.

On the suggestion of the Treasurer it was agreed to combine the posts of Secretary and Treasurer for this year. The Officer Bearers elected for the ensuing year were:- Chairman - Mr A W Wright; Vice Chairman - Mrs CG Foden; Secretary/ Treasurer - Mr PM MacDonald.  The Committee members elected being :- Mr AJ Firth; Mr D Rendall; Mr GM Christie; Mr M MacDonald and Mr R Grieve.

The auditor, Mr R J Dixon was re-appointed.

It was agreed that the annual subscription remain at £3 and was now due.

Under "any other business", Mr PM MacDonald asked if members would consider writing a paragraph or short article for future issues of the Bulletin.  Mr MacDonald reported that his father's notes about Netherbutton Radar Station were being expanded upon with a view to possible publication.  Mr Wright drew members attention to the forthcoming Science Festival and that it was hoped to activate the station.  Licensed members would be welcome as operators and non licensed members as loggers and QSL card writers.

The meeting closed at 3.30pm followed by light refreshments and a visit to St Margaret's Hope School for those interested.

This is only a rough report.  Full minutes will be made available before the AGM in 1994.



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In the first of what we hope will be a series of reports on some of our more `senior' friends, we have set out to record some of their memories and adventures.

Our first candidate is Bertie Stockan who served for 43 years in Kirkwall Power Station.  His jobs varied from cleaning and operating machines and supervising cable installations and as trouble shooter for faults on mobile radio telephone gear.

I started by asking him what were the beginnings of electricity generation in Orkney ?

Bertie replied, "The first Power Station in Orkney was at the 1st World War Seaplane Base at Houton, owned by the Navy.  When the war finished the Council bought the building and two engines from the Admiralty and rebuilt them at the Burgh Yard in Kirkwall.

"These engines required to be heated up with a blow lamp to get them started and were not in use for very long.  After they were scrapped, two `Petter' engines were put in.  All the supply was DC at that time and after 12 o'clock at night the station went onto batteries.  These lasted until the Bakers started work in the morning when we had to start up the engines again.

"A problem arose with the Bakers; as we stepped up the voltage they switched on more motors and threatened to overload the generators.  We overcame this by keeping the voltage low until we got both generators going before lifting the voltage to the normal 220 volts.

"These `Petter' engines had exhaust boxes or silencers inside the Power Station and sometimes oil would find its way inside them and go on fire.  This had the result of filling the Station with smoke.  The Fire Brigade had to be called on one or two occasions."

"How did you get started in your profession ?"

"The reason I was employed at the Power Station was that during the Second World War, my late brother, Alec Stockan and two workmates from the Power Station were called up to join the forces.  I was employed to clean up the new `Crossley' engines which were then being installed."

"What problems did you have at that time ?"

"One problem we had was at Hatston during the Second World War.  At Hatston the Navy had compressors for pumping up their torpedoes.  They had two small generators of their own, which weren't much use and they relied on us for much of their supply.  They were supposed to 'phone to warn us that they were starting up, but the load became too great for the cable to keep the voltage up.  The Navy then installed at the Power Station a big DC Motor driving two DC Generators which were in series with the supply going out to Hatston.  They had some fancy switch gear arrangements which, if you didn't work correctly, or the load was too high, could knock out the all the engines in the Station with a short circuit.  In the end we refused them power unless they informed us before they started."


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"Do you have any more wartime memories ?"

"Yes, it was our job at the Power Station to set off the Air Raid Siren.  One night when I was on duty we received a blood red warning - meaning an enemy invasion was imminent - some one had seen lights in the sea off Birsay.  In minutes the Station was full of soldiers with fixed bayonets to guard the place.

"This annoyed me because we had open knife switches and one of this bunch could have touched them with a bayonet and knocked  out the whole Station !  An Officer moved them to a safe end of the Station and about half an hour later we were given the `All Clear´.

"Another potential hazard was the possibility that shrapnel from the Scapa Barrage could come through the roof !  In those days the brushes on the DC Generators were exposed inside the Station and shrapnel could present a considerable threat.  What we did was to put planks of wood three inches thick and six inches wide over the sensitive bits of the engine.  In the event only a small amount of shrapnel entered the roof at one corner."

"What areas of Orkney did you supply with electricity in wartime ?"

"We only supplied Kirkwall and the immediately surrounding area.  There were only five of us at the Station and we had no holidays for three years."

"What can you tell us about the Power Station that exists today ?"

"When the Hydro Board took over there was no room to extend the old Station, so they decided to look for a new site.  Hatston was considered, but it was decided to build on a skerry in the Peerie Sea.  This skerry was submerged at high tide, but had a good rocky foundation.  A road was built out to the skerry and reclamation began all around it.

"This Station was to be AC.  When completed a female dignitary was given the honour of `starting´ the engine, and opening the Station.  `She´ pulled a handle, which lit up a bulb at the back of the machine and the boys then started it up.      

"The first rural supply of electricity was a line to Stromness with branches off.  The first Island to receive electricity was Shapinsay.

What about the Station today ?"

"Nowadays the Station is on standby and is still used in winter when the cable which runs from Mainland Scotland cannot cope with the demand.  Any surplus electricity generated can be transferred back across the Firth to Thurso."

We would like to express our thanks to Bertie for taking time to pass some of his memories on to us.



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