A Profile of our returning Member Peter G8BCG – At the age of about 10 I lost interest in Meccano and started fiddling with an old valve radio set. Pretty soon I had twiddled some “screws” and (via the odd electric shock!) discovered the “trawler band” and also the excitement short wave listening*. One day I came across a very strong signal from somebody in a car who said he was on his way home from work driving along Reddish Lane (my road!!). I noted that this happened almost every day and eventually I tracked the operator to his house. Knock Knock – “Hello Mister – I’ve been listening to you on my radio”. I had discovered Amateur Radio, Top Band and Gordon Banks G3SNX. From there things developed rapidly and I soon became a junior member of Stockport Radio Society.
Initially my interest in VHF came via a different route – Fred G3MAX at NW Electrics on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester where I used to hang out every Saturday. A 19-set under the bed complete with battle-field VHF also helpedJ. It was not long before I gained access to the holy of holies – Fred’s warehouse and the NW VHF Group shack! Amateur Satellites, AMSAT Oscar 2 and 3 and VHF Field Day on Axe Edge sealed my fate and lead to my future career and life-long passion for Amateur Radio.
Early in the evening of 22nd Nov 1963 the excitement of Short Wave Listening turned to disbelief. Live via Voice of America I heard the shots and tears as President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dallas. One of those remember where you were moments. It was several hours before the news broke in the UK.
SRS was in those days meeting above The Blossoms at the corner of Bram-hall Lane. Like Barry G3PEK/VK2BJ and the many other juniors, I was quickly taken under the wing of the (to me at least) old timers – Ray Phillips, G3FYE, Bill Banks, G2ARX, Ian MacArthur G3NUQ and others – many others!
Soon I was enrolled on the RAE Course run by Ray G3FYE at Avondale School (and often at his home during holidays). Thanks in no small part to Ray, I succeeded at my first attempt. Back then the Radio Amateurs City and Guilds Examination was quite a serious written examination on a wide base of theory, practice and regulatory topics – scary at 15.
I was allocated the callsign G8BCG in August 1967 – 1 month after my 16th Birthday (as back then an application could only be made by post and only for those 16 and over. SRS, contests, field days, JOTA and the NRSA Committee (as it was then) for the Annual Convention at Belle Vue kept me busy.
My main interest has always been weak signal VHF and UHF propagation but my infamous P60 tower and 2m / 70cms array at my parent’s house had to go when I got married to Anne in 1973. By 1976 we had 2 kids and had moved from Droylesden to a hill top in Stalybridge.
At Christmas 1978 we all headed off on the adventure of a lifetime via Hong Kong en-route to my new job in Solomon Islands. I got the job based on my telecoms planning skills (GPO) combined with my adult education teaching experience (you guessed it – I ran the RAE Course at Oldham Tech). 7 years living and working in Solomon Islands in the early 80s made a lasting impression on us all. Professionally it was my first overseas assignment – a two year secondment that grew to 7 years. An assignment that started with establishing a Telecommunications Training Centre and culminated in the modernisation of the national telecommunications network.
The capital, Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal, was a great place for our kids to grow up – they made many friends – both Solomon Islanders and other expat kids. So did we! As a primary teacher, Anne was soon working at Woodford Primary School(!), Honiara.
For Ham Radio it was just fantastic. There were several other hams within the Posts & Telecommunications Department and within a week of arrival I had the callsign H44PT. Although involved in HF comms professionally, I had no interest in the HF bands for ham radio – though (at the peak of Cycle 21) I did spend a lot of time on 28MHz with regular skeds back to many back home – particularly with Stan G3VSA. On 432MHz and 144MHz Oscar 10 and other AMSAT satellites proved to be great fun. I was certainly in demand as “DX” but was also able to use AO-10 for regular skeds to the UK.
Within 6 weeks of setting up home in Honiara I was on “The magic Band” 6m. 6 watts from a Kenwood TV506 to a quad loop wire slung in a tree. This was VHF like I had never heard – I was hooked. A good solar cycle, excellent tropical location and a sea path to Japan combined to entrap me for life! 50,000 JA QSOs later and I was still looking for more when I left H44 in 1986. [There is a Cycle 21 / 23 Sounds Archive here http://www.h44pt.org.uk/sound_archive.htm if you want a bit of nostalgia].
We returned to the UK in 1986 and divorced shortly thereafter. Anne, Fiona and Mick remained in Cheadle Hulme whilst I took up a new London based overseas job with BT. Sadly Anne passed away in 2010 shortly after retiring from teaching.
The next 10 years or so in the telecommunications industry saw me travelling all over the world, including extended periods in Thailand, Australia, Solomon Islands (again), California, S Korea and southern Africa. Not so great for Ham Radio but I did manage to get on the air whenever possible – you guessed it – on 6m! I met Jackie in BT and we got married in 1993 having just moved to a new home in Silicon Valley.
With parents not getting any younger we took the decision / opportunity to escape from the pressurised joint venture telecommunications environment and return home in 1997. Cornwall was an easy choice, particularly as other family members were already in Cornwall and Jackie’s parents had by then moved from London to Devon. We now have almost 25 years of “living happily ever after” in Cornwall.
Although our original home and holiday cottage business was at the bottom of a steep sided wooded valley and not ideal for ham radio, I soon found a suitable local hill top and rapidly re-kindled my passion for 6m. I first “borrowed” and eventually purchased a small hill-top field at 160m above sea level and 2 minutes from home which has become the site of an ever growing VHF antenna farm.
My passion is still 6m – caught in Solomon Islands over 40 years ago “The Magic Band” is like a tropical disease – manageable but impossible to cure! At the end of 2020 my G8BCG 50MHz “score” lies at 260 DXCC comprising: 177 CW, 191 SSB and 196 DATA or by propagation mode; 226 Terrestrial and 96 EME. This from a total of 23429 6m QSOs in 38 Zones, 132 Fields and 1273 Squares since 1997.
What of the future? Well, more of the same but it’s getting harder now!
My 50MHz EME led me into an interest in 144MHz EME and soon 432MHz EME. The use of JT65 for EME led me into an appreciation of the value of the other WSJT modes and I have had a lot of fun recently on LF, HF and VHF with FT8 and FT4. I’ve even used FT8 and FT4 on the AMSAT QO-100 geostationary satellite on 13cm / 3cm – a real challenge for frequency stability.
So, after over 55 years of “playing radio” from building top band (or was it medium wave;-) 807PA AM transmitters to QRO VHF/UHF PAs and from crystal sets to SDR and GPSDO satellite TX/RX systems, I am currently active on 160m through to 3cm, CW, SSB, FM, DATA (whatever it takes) and still enjoying every minute of it.
The technology we use, experiment and communicate with today is beyond even the science fiction of 50 years ago. So, if you are new to amateur radio then your future will be very different to mine – but I’m sure it has the potential to be even more exciting and all-embracing. Way beyond what is imaginable even now.
Enjoy promote and protect our great hobby!
73, Peter Taylor G8BCG