Malin Head

Malin Head Marconi Radio Station


Malin Head is Ireland's most northerly point has had a long history of communication with ships. In 1805, Lloyds built a signal tower at a point now called Banba's Crown. The building still stands, though now in a ruined condition. Today there is a viewing area and visitors car park next to this historic site. Semaphore and a telescope were the methods used to communicate with ships and to the island of Inishtrahull, some six miles away where another Lloyds signal station was erected on the western end of the island.

Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station January 1902


In 1901, the wireless equipment was moved to Portstewart, near Coleraine and a station opened but was subsequently closed in 1902. The equipment which had been previously used in the Ballycastle/Rathlin islands tests was installed at Malin Head and Inishtrahull Island respectively the same year.

The flying of flags to celebrate an occasion or an event is one of the oldest customs in the navy.

The wireless room was housed on the first floor of the square tower. Access to the operations room was now from the ground floor.

In later years a new wireless operations building was constructed using blocks similar to other buildings in the area and a flat concrete roof and octagon in shape. The inside of the room was purpose built to hold the wireless equipment. This operations building was housed separate from the semaphore building due to the noise and smoke from the spark transmitter when it was in use. This may have been one of the reasons why it was moved as the octagon was well ventilated and also had good visibility. Each wall segment of the octagon had a 4 pane window with opening section. One of the 8 sides housed the main door for access in and out of the building.

The inside was furnished with wooden paneling and purpose built benches to accommodate the shape of the building.

The wireless radio station at Malin Head has been involved in some historic, even notorious exchanges. In 1910 the Signal Tower was reputed to have sent the message that resulted in the arrest of the murderous Dr. Crippin as he sailed towards Canada along with his mistress Ethel Le Neve. This story was confirmed to Peter McAvenue by the granddaughter of George Turner, Belfast, telegraphist on duty at the tower while the messages were being transmitted between the Laurentic the Montrose and Scotland Yard. George Turner was billeted at the time in the Coastguard Station.

The Station also exchanged wireless telegraphs with the Titanic on Monday April 1st 1912. The Titanic was conducting her sea trials and tested her Marconi equipment with the Malin Head station. The station received a greetings message from John G. Phillips and Harold Bride, radio operators on board, on behalf of the newly constructed ship, the largest liner in the world at the time.

The Post Office took over the station which was still using the callsign MH on the 31st December 1909. Malin Head was included in the rebuilding program for coast stations around the British Isles in 1913 and the callsign changed to GMH. By this stage the station had relocated about 3 miles south of the Lloyds signal tower.

The Malin Head Wireless Station was situated in the behind the Lloyds signal tower in an octagon shaped building and access to the station for personnel was made along the beach by foot from the staff accommodation about one and a quarter miles east of Malin Head pier. A telegraph line operated by Lloyds, connected to the nearest post office at Ballygorman three miles away, was relocated further on down the line when the local post office closed for business.

Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club QSL Card


The Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club will be operating from Malin Head during the International Marconi Day in April using the club call Sign EI0CAR.


During the Marconi Day every April by the Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club where once again radio waves will be sent out worldwide from Malin Head.



Technical Info on the 1902 Equipment.


Malin Head Radio Station was established in January 1902 at the Lloyd’s of London signal tower at Banba’s Crown. The stations radio was a simple battery powered spark transmitter connected to a 120 foot aerial supplied by the Marconi Radio Company. Operating through both World Wars, the station has witnessed many historic events.






Simple Marconi Radiator. (Transmitter ) (Left Picture) =  B, battery; I, induction coil; K, signaling key; S, spark gap; A, aerial wire; E, earth plate.


The left schematic of very simple battery operated spark gap transmitter may have been used at Malin Head. A photograph of Marconi with a complete station on the right of the picture there is a large induction coil with an open spark gap which is directly connected to aerial and earth.




His receiver used a coherer as its detector. Although the coherer’s invention is often attributed to Marconi, it was actually invented by a Frenchman, Edouard Branly, but it was Marconi who put it to great effect and, as a result, became the world’s first DXer.


The coherer is a primitive form of radio signal detector used in the first radio receivers during the wireless telegraphy era at the beginning of the 20th century. Invented around 1890 by French scientist Édouard Branly, it consists of a tube or capsule containing two electrodes spaced a small distance apart, with metal filings in the space between them. When a radio frequency signal is applied to the device, the initial high resistance of the filings reduces, allowing an electric current to flow through it. The coherer was a key enabling technology for radio, and was the first device used to detect radio signals in practical spark gap transmitter wireless telegraphy. It became the basis for radio reception around 1900, and remained in widespread use for about ten years.



One electrode, A, of the coherer, (C, in the above diagram) is connected to the antenna and the other electrode, B, to ground. A series combination of a battery, B1, and a relay, R, is also attached to the two electrodes. When the signal from a spark gap transmitter is received, the filings tend to cling to each other, reducing the resistance of the coherer.


When the coherer conducts better, battery B1 supplies enough current through the coherer to activate relay R, which connects battery B2 to the telegraph sounder S, giving an audible click. In some applications, a pair of headphones replaced the telegraph sounder, being much more sensitive to weak signals, or a Morse recorder which recorded the dots and dashes of the signal on paper tape.



The Antenna


The T- antenna was a 120 foot aerial supplied by the Marconi Radio Company and appears to be sloping at 30 degrees from east to west and secured above the ground behind the Banba’s Tower in the picture above. I’m not sure where the feed point is at this time although this type of antenna can be fed at any point. The guy wires connected to the top of the mast show signs that they have insulators part way down.



Guglielmo Marconi

Click here to listen to a recording of Marconi's voice

Birthplace: Palazzo Marescalchi, Bologna, Italy
Died: 20-Jul-1937
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Villa Falcone, Sasso Marconi, Italy

By Peter Homer  EI4JR