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.
From that time the station has continued to be 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.
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. 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's operational building now houses only the equipment required to maintain the Navtex service.