History of the Irish Coast Radio Station Service
The first radio signals over water are credited to Marconi, on the 11th May, 1887.
During August 1898 Lloyds of London, set up a radio installation to operate between Ballycastle (County Antrim) and Rathlin Island in the north of Ireland. The tests carried out were so successful, that Lloyds decided to equip all their signal stations with radio equipment and thus the radio station at Malin head came into being.
By June 1901 Marconi had established a number of radio stations in England while in Ireland he had built stations at Rosslare and Crookhaven.
By September 1909, the British Post Office Wireless Telegraphy Section had been established and radio stations were taken over from the Marconi Company and Lloyds. These stations provided a medium range safety of life and radio telegraph service for the 286 British ships then equipped with radio equipment in addition to some foreign vessels.
The 1914, the station at Crookhaven was closed down and the service was transferred to its present location on Valentia Island.
By 1920, only two marine radio stations remained operational in Ireland, those at Malinhead and Valentia, which have provided a continuous service to shipping to the present day. Both stations were administered by the British Post Office up to the 1st June, 1950, when they were handed over to the Irish Dept. of Posts and Telegraphs, both station changing from UK callsigns (GCK/GMH) to Irish callsign (EJK/EJM).
During 1956, the Dept. of Transport and Power took over the administration of the Aviation Radio stations at Ballygireen, Shannon and Dublin.
On the 1st April, 1967, Malinhead and Valentia Radio Station joined forces with the Aviation Radio Service and became known as the Aviation and Marine Radio Service (AMCS), initially under the Dept. of Transport & Power and then under the Dept. of Communications, and now Dept. of the Marine.
The primary function of a coast radio station is safety of life at sea and Malinhead and Valentia Radio Stations were well located to cover the Northwest and Southwest approaches to Europe from the Atlantic. In addition to the safety of life factor, both stations were well placed to handle W/T ship-to-shore radio traffic and provide services to trans-Atlantic shipping. Also provided is a service to provide medical assistance from ship to shore.
The records will show that Valentia Radio handled more traffic than any other UK, Radio Station during the mid 20's. Subsequent developments, such as long distance high frequency transmitters, led to a change in this situation, as regards large volumes of radio traffic, from that source and eventually the liners themselves gave way to trans-Atlantic aviation.
However, the importance of both Radio Stations in relation to safety of life, still holds true and is highlighted on an ongoing basis by the numerous incidents involving ships and aircraft, in any given year, at any given hour.
Today the real purpose of the Radio Station is to monitor emergency frequencies in the maritime bands and respond to calls for assistance from vessels getting into difficulties or where medical problems arise. The appropriate emergency services are then activated to deal with the problem.
When atmospheric conditions prevail, radio communications between the US Coast Guard can be heard at Valentia, even as far as the Hudson River.