The original Lewis Radio was a temporary station operated from the Post Office's Emergency Coast Radio Station located near the Butt of Lewis. The purpose of this station was a trial to evaluate the need for a maritime communications facility to cover the Scottish northwestern approaches. Originally intended to be a six month trial, Lewis Radio actually ran for two years!
The station was officially opened only between the hours of 9am and 5pm local time Monday to Saturday. In reality, it was often heard on-air evenings and Sundays! Two Radio Officers at a time were seconded to this outpost.
There are many stories go along with Lewis Radio!
It was not unknown to be telephoning Lewis and get no answer! Then to try the telex machine and, despite "belling" them, still to get no answer. The reasons could be amusing.
On one occasion, after failed attempts at raising Lewis by any method, the 'phone at GKR rang. "Sorry Old Man", said the voice from the Butt, we were out putting the aerial back up. It's blowing a gale up here and the mast came crashing down!"
Then there were occasions when there was a delay in answering, because the station was down to one man. The second man had been called away on emergency mid-wife duty! Donald Morrison, a native of Barvas on Lewis and a Radio Officer from Oban Radio, was well known on the island and was known to be an expert at the lambing. So, in the springtime, it was quite normal to get a knock on the caravan door and a request for Donald to come and help with a difficult lambing!
But there is an even better story than that about Donald. Being a caravan, the loo was outside - in a wooden hut. The gales didn't just wreak havok with the aerials! Poor old Donald was sitting contemplating on the throne one day when a Butt of Lewis gust of wind blew the hut away and left Donald exposing himself to the elements. Fortunately the population is pretty spread out in that part of the world!
A regular visitor at Lewis Radio on Sundays was Bob Corcoran. Bob had been a lecturer at the Watt College in Greenock and then at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies. To finish his career he went back to sea on the Cal-Mac ferries. But the two northern ferries didn't sail on a Sunday and were in port in either Stornoway or Tarbert. Bob was well known for his trips on his touring trike, a machine he took with him when he was on the ships. And it was this machine he used to get him to Lewis Radio's door on Sundays - no matter the weather, Bob and his trike would get there!
Two years of operation, providing a vital service to remote areas of northwest Scotland, failed to convince the powers that be of the need for full time facilites on Lewis. Two years of exposure to the elements also took its toll on what was supposed to be an emergency radio caravan designed for a few months operation. The decision was therefore made to withdraw the Lewis Radio service. Some time later, however, a permanent VHF service was provided, controlled from Oban Radio. And several years later MF communications returned to the Western Isles with the introduction of Hebrides Radio.
Operations at Lewis ceased at 1600GMT on Tuesday 19th April 1977, the final announcements being made by Donald Morrison first, briefly, in English followed by a lengthy speech in Gaelic, the native language of that part of the world.