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Portpatrick Radio BYS GPK

Portpatrick Radio started life in 1905 as the part-time Admiralty station BYS. The station is located on a clifftop site from which the Radio Officers can see across the North Channel to the coast of Northern Ireland. With such a dramatic site, it has long been a favourite station to be photographed to illustrate Coast Station service leaflets.

In October 1921, with the station still on a part time basis and on a day when it was "off watch", a serious casualty incident occurred at the entrance to the Firth of Clyde in which 36 people lost their lives. The Portpatrick Lifeboat had to be alerted by a telephone call which went via Liverpool and Glasgow and, as a consquence of this delay, when she arrived on the scene there was nothing to be found. Within a month of this incident control of the station had passed to the GPO and the station was in full time operation.

GPK building alteration at time of takeover from Admiralty
Drawing of proposed alterations to building
to allow for GPO operations

Portpatrick Wireless Station was transferred
to the Post Office from the Admiralty in 1920.
It opened for service as GPK on 9 November 1921.

Portpatrick Radio 1930
Portpatrick Radio GPK around 1930
to the right is the Portpatrick Coastguard lookout.

From that time the station became a vital link to shipping making for Glasgow, Belfast and Liverpool as well as vessels transiting the North Channel. It's function as part of the UK's distress watch service continued to be vital and was perhaps especially so in 1953 when the Princess Victoria sank.

View over Portpatrick in 1950's showing Portpatrick Radio GPK on the clifftop
View over Portpatrick in the 1950's
showing Portpatrick Radio GPK on the clifftop

There were threats over the years that the station would be either closed entirely or remotely controlled from another location. Although the latter state did, in effect, take place, the equipment and local operational capability were retained at the Portpatrick site until the UK's Coast Radio Station service eventually came to an end on 30th June 2000.


From Hansard 21 March 1963

Radio Stations, Portpatrick and Oban

Mr. Brewis asked the Postmaster-General what his future plans are for the radio station at Portpatrick, Wigtownshire; and whether he will make a statement.
Mr. Bevins answered

I propose to retain the coast station at Portpatrick.

In addition, it will be responsible for operating, by remote control, a permanent but unstaffed station with which I propose to replace the present temporary station at Oban.


 

In later years the station became the second in the UK to provide a Navtex service, the beginnings of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (and the one remaining service being provided from the GPK site). Laterly GPK ceased to have local distress watch responsibility and became a working station in the new network controlled from Stonehaven.

In the final minutes of 31st December 1997 control of the Morse service on 500kHz reverted to GPK. This allowed a respectful acknowledgement as the Morse Code service, operated from the site since 1905, closed for the final time.

The station continued to operate on 2Mhz and vhf radiotelephony as part of the UK network. But, with technology changes having caused a dramatic slump in radio traffic and GMDSS and financial constraints having removed the distress watch responsibilities, the future was limited and most of the station eventually closed with the remainder of the UK coast radio station service at 1200z on Friday 30th June 2000.

Portpatrick Radio GPK in 2010
Portpatrick Radio's operational building in 2010
now housing only the equipment required to maintain the Navtex service.

 

Ship's Nostalgia - The Radio Room

Portpatrick Radio GPK in 1930

Vie over Portpatrick in 1950's showing Portpatrick Radio GPK on clifftop

Princess Victoria

Graham Mercer (Amateur Radio callsign GM4BES) at Portpatrick Radio GPK in 1980

Portpatrick Radio 2010