VOLUME:  3              No. 2                                                                                   OCTOBER 1994




CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTS                                                          -  KIM FODEN

THE THIRD AGM                                                                             -  A REPORT

SPOTLIGHT ON A “FRIEND”                                                        -  DOUGIE SHEARER

VHF OMNIRANGE (VOR)                                                              -  LEN WILSON




Dear Members

     Having pulled the short straw at this year's AGM, I feel that, as your new Chairman, I should introduce myself.

     My friends and family all call me Kim, but my "Sunday" name is Christine.

I am married with 3 sons; the eldest two survived several years of having an active radio ham for a mum. (Maybe this should read a "radio active" Mum !!). My youngest son, however, and my work as a printer, have demanded more of my time, so at present there is no "Radio Shack" at "     Amateur Radio was genetic in my case.  My late father, Jack Twatt, and his brother Jim, were keen enthusiasts.  Jim still is.  In fact my mother, Georgie, was sure Dad's enthusiasm would put youngsters off.  It never seemed to...  There were many callers at our house, amongst whom was Jim MacDonald, Founder/Creator of the Orkney Wireless Museum.  He was one of my heroes, and is sadly missed.

     Although I felt that I had pulled the short straw, I believe that the Society of the Friends of Orkney Wireless Museum has an important roll to play in assisting the Museum's Trustees in their worthy task.  I will therefore do as much as I can to this end, but will appreciate prompting.

                                                       Kim Foden


Mr Gregor Lamb from Birsay sent us this interesting Receipt for a 1938 Cossor Radio.  Interesting points he mentioned were the mistake in the total sum due, and the Telephone Number - Finstown 1.  Compare this with a recent phone call I made to Sanday which had 10 digits !!  Albert Spence of the Orkney Vintage Club has a lovely example of a "Viking" Cycle.




     The Third AGM of The Society of Friends of Orkney Wireless Museum, was held on Saturday 20 August 1994 in the Hall of St Margaret's Church, by kind permission of the Minister and Congregation.

     There were 10 members present, a slight fall on last year, and 5 apologies.

     The Chairman's report had already been circulated.  The Treasurer's Report showed a balance in the Bank at 30 April 1994 of £317.91

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

     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 Firth raised the possibility of getting articles for the Bulletin from existing members. Mr MacDonald, as Editor, was always happy to get items for publication.  Mr Rendall intimated that the Burma Star Association would be organising an exhibition in Tankerness House Museum in Kirkwall over the period 1 December 1994 and 31 January 1995 and asked if the RAF R1155 receiver and T1154 transmitter could be made available. He was advised to contact the Museum Trustees, but no difficulty was envisaged. Mr Wright drew members attention to the forthcoming Fourth Orkney Science Festival (9 to 15 September) and that it was hoped to activate the amateur radio 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.

     This is only a rough report.  Full minutes will be made available before the AGM in 1995.


     I would like to express my thanks, as Secretary, for the help Bill has given me in his last two years as Retiring Chairman.  His computer skills are still being used in producing our Bulletins.








     Continuing our series of interviews with `Senior´ Friends, we paid a visit to Dougie Shearer from Kirkwall.  Dougie is already well known in Orkney from his lifetime work in Cinema/Photography and Teaching Music.  His film archives have been used by the local Red Cross in producing a series of Orkney Videos - "Visions of the Past", which are used in fund raising.  Dougie is due to appear on Grampian Television's "The Way it Was", which will be broadcast on November 22, discussing these tapes.  Dougie is 82 years of age and proudly states that the house in which he was born is still his home today.  I started by asking him:-

     "What are some of your early memories of Kirkwall ?"

     "In those days we had a large garden at the rear of the house which had an apple tree known to be poisonous.  I tried eating some of the apples and nearly died.  The green apples could be cooked, but tasted very sour.  Another time I was climbing this same tree and slipped being left hanging by the collar on a branch.  Luckily old Bill Borwick was in the garden and rescued me.

     "I went to Kirkwall Burgh School, which was very strict in these days.  One Teacher would keep her belt on the table ready to throw at anyone misbehaving.  You then had to bring it back for a strapping."

     "You are probably best known for your work in Cinema.  What’s the story behind that ?"

     "In the early 1900s a fellow used to come up to Kirkwall to show films in the Temperance Hall (now Kirkwall Arts Theatre).  My Grandfather, David Peace, thought this a good idea and in 1912 opened the Electric Theatre in Junction Road.  It was in the 1920s that I was appointed `Musical Director´ for Friday nights.  It was only when my brother Tommy decided to join the Hudsons Bay Company that I was promoted to full time `Musical Director´ playing the old wind up gramophone at every show at a good wage of seven bob (35p) a week.

     "As the weeks passed by my Grandfather decided to take his annual visit to the film renters in Glasgow.  It was there that he heard about a new Electric Gramophone - the Brunswick Panatrope.  It was in a steel case approx 30" by 15" with two Turntables and BTH pickups, 2 Volume Controls and a Change-over Switch.  Inside the case was a 650V amplifier which was driven by an AC Generator and two Epoch 8" Energised Loudspeakers.

     "A technician from Glasgow duly arrived to install the equipment and it was a superb sound, ideal for accompaniments to the silent films. For a very serious love scene I would use `Hearts and Flowers´, the scene would change to a chase between Cowboys and Indians and I would change over to the Storm from `William Tell´ Overture.  I must admit that it was very interesting to work with the Brunswick Panatrope.

     "Also in the 1920s my Grandfather had a 35mm travelling film show.  This consisted of a specially adapted van which, when jacked up and started, could drive a motor which ran the projector and lighting Arc, saving turning the handle by hand.  An operating box was built in the Hall we were using and I think it was belt driven from the van.  One day we went to Dounby and set the whole thing up only to find that we had forgotten the Arc.  Someone had to dash back to Kirkwall for it (a long trip in the 1920s).  This must have been the first travelling film show within Orkney.  Another Orcadian, Robbie Milne, must have been one of the very early Disc Jockeys, because in the 1920s he used to travel to country venues with his HMV Gramophone, playing records.

     "The Albert Cinema could hold 300+ and there was a showing every night except Sunday.  When the talkies arrived South our audiences dwindled for a time until we installed the equipment in 1932.  The first talking outfit we installed was really meant for small cinemas and I can remember on one evening we were showing a film called `The King of Jazz´.  It featured a fellow dancing on a giant drum, this unfortunately had the effect of wrecking all the condensers in the amplifier, leaving the sound all distorted.  Later we put in a better sound outfit.

     "The wartime brought the biggest audiences to the Albert when we had two showings a night and three on a Saturday.  There was also a separate Naval Cinema in the Temperance Hall.

     "Also in wartime I was serving down at Devonport when the Petty Officer sent for me and informed me that they were needing a projectionist up at Lyness in Orkney and would I like to go ?...  I was happy to return home.  As well as films at Lyness they had live shows.  On one occasion I was amusing myself on the piano backstage when some dancing girls appeared and asked me to keep playing.  They wanted me to join their Troupe, but I felt that showing films had better prospects !!"

     "How do you feel about the fire which destroyed the Albert Cinema in 1947 ?"

     "It was a terrible thing, but we were lucky that the cinema was empty at the time.  The new Phoenix Cinema in Junction Road opened in 1955."

     "Any other filming adventures ?"

     "The Paramount News Editor once contacted me to see if I would be willing to help them film the Coronation in 1953.  I felt a bit apprehensive but went down to London and filmed the Coronation Procession coming through Marble Arch from the top of Schweppes offices.  I later viewed it in Orkney on a Paramount News clip".

     "What are your earliest memories of Radio and TV in Orkney ?"

     "I received the loan of a wireless set from Plumber, Bob Johnston.  It was a home made outfit which we fixed up in my mother's bedroom and would listen to every night.  That must have been around 1927.  Later on my Uncle bought a Philips Mains Set and every night after a picture show I would sit until 3 am listening to dance music.  I was daft on it.  When BBC went off the air at 12 o'clock, I would tune to Radio Luxembourg.  We were one of the first to get a Black and White Television installed in December 1958.  Mother used to like seeing Duncan Macrae on the Hogmanay Programme."

     "Finally Dougie, would you change anything in your life if you could start again ?"

     "I would like the same things because I was always interested in Cinema, Photography and Music."

     Our thanks to Dougie for this very interesting interview.



By Len Wilson

formerly Engineering Manager for Kirkwall and Wick Airports


     Older readers may recall the controversy in the 1950s of the British Decca v the American VOR for worldwide aeronautical navigation.  Economic clout and dubious international political influence won the day and so VOR became the standard system, and continues to be so.

     VOR transmits accurate bearing information from the ground to aircraft in flight.  There are installations round the world along the airways, where they are known as "en-route" VORs, and at airports, usually with a co-located Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) to give the distance in nautical miles. These are known as "terminal" VORs.

     Approach procedures are laid down for each airport.  In cloud or poor visibility the aircraft flies directly towards the VOR until it loses indications temporarily.  This occurs when it enters the "cone of silence" directly overhead of the VOR.  It then continues "VOR outbound" on a laid down radial for a specified number of minutes before turning in an arc to join the "inbound" approach radial.  The pilot then commences his descent, monitoring his progress against the DME readout (miles to go).  As the VOR cannot be in line with the runway a course correction must be made at the intersection of the VOR approach radial with the extended centre line of the runway.  Obviously, to make a successful landing the ground must be in view before this point is reached.  The aircraft reaches its minimum or "decision" height well before this.

     VOR is a phase related system transmitting two signals simultaneously.  One is modulated at 30 Hz AM and the other a 30 Hz FM.  In the original installations the 30 Hz FM signal was radiated omni-directionally as the "reference" signal and the 30 Hz AM signal was rotated, also at 30 Hz.  In current VORs the roles are reversed.  The system is set up so that both signals are in phase at 000°M.  It can be seen therefore that from any given point of the compass the phase difference observed between these two signals equates to the angle of bearing.  In the aircraft the VOR receiver contains a phase comparator and the bearing is indicated on a lubberline/compass type of display.

     The principle is a very simple one, the achievement a little more complex !!

     The first VOR at Kirkwall was installed around 1960.  It was an American Wilcox comprising main and standby transmitters and a monitor and control cabinet.  Rotation of the variable signal was achieved mechanically by rotating a specially shaped capacitor at 30 Hz inside the fibreglass aerial enclosure.  Synchronisation was achieved by using a 60 Hz motor with modified pulley and toothed belt to allow it to operate from our 50 Hz mains supply.  The equipment was switched (on/off or changeover) by dialling the appropriate two figure code on a telephone dial and this facility was also remoted by landline to the control tower.

     The Wilcox was a thermionic valve equipment and by the mid seventies it was becoming unreliable with very frequent failure so a programme of refitting took place using new technology.  Kirkwall got a Plessey Plan 50 Doppler (DVOR) in about 1978.  To differentiate, the old system became known as Conventional VOR (CVOR).

     The DVOR was solid state, rotation being achieved electronically, with no moving parts.  It would be so reliable that we would not need a standby at Kirkwall !!  Unfortunately this was not to be.  Even so, it was vastly more reliable than the Wilcox, and when it eventually settled down failures occurred about once every six months.  We never got a standby though, so it would sometimes be out of service for two or three days whilst heads were scratched and spares obtained.






     DVOR uses an elaborate aerial system mounted on a steel mesh earth counterpoise to minimise terrain reflection errors.  A ring of 50 Alford Loop aerials in individual plastic domes is mounted on the counterpoise with a single identical aerial in the centre.

     The centre aerial radiates the 30 Hz AM omni-directional reference signal, whilst the variable signal is sequentially switched round the outer ring, upper and lower sidebands being radiated simultaneously from diagonally opposite aerials, the speed of rotation being 30 Hz.

     To the observer (the aircraft receiver) the lateral function of this rotation is insignificant, but the to and fro function causes the source of the signal to approach and recede alternately in a sinusoidal fashion.  The Doppler effect of this action creates an alternate apparent increase/decrease of frequency at a 30 Hz rate (the speed of rotation), the deviation being a function of the diameter of the ring of aerials. - Yes!  It's 30 Hz FM!

     As with the conventional system the aircraft receiver simply compares the phase to get the bearing.  Well, maybe not so simply, but you know what I mean.

     The current VOR at Kirkwall is a Racal DVOR, installed last year.  It does precisely the same as its predecessors, but with further advances in technology its reliability has improved, it's easier to set up, what used to fill two cabinets barely fills one, and of course it is controlled and monitored by a computer.



     In 1993 Len obtained, for the Museum, some of the Plessey Plan 50 Doppler DVOR equipment which was being made redundant.  Our present Staff Portacabin at the Museum, which used to house some of this equipment, also came from the same source.