Conisborough Wireless Enthusiast – Made Set in fountain Pen

November 1938

Mexborough and Swinton Times, November 25, 1938

Conisborough Wireless Enthusiast
Made Set in fountain Pen

From crystal sets to a fully equipped radio transmitting station is a long way – but not too far for 18 years old Mr James Wood, youngest son of Mr Mrs Frank Wood, of Ivanhoe, Minnymoor Lane, Conisborough, an assistant in the Conisborough branch of Mrs David Haigh Ltd.

Mr Ward (or shall we call him Jim, the name his wireless friends know him by), is probably the youngest older of a full Post Office radio transmitting licence.

Jim has other claims to fame; at 11, soon after he had been manufacturing first-class crystal sets, he made a wireless set in the stem of a fountain pen, with the speaker in the cap, and as his work has progressed he has had radio “talks” with three continents.

“I first began to take an interest in the wireless,” Jim told me, “when I was a pupil at Conisborough Middle School, where one of my lessons included electricity. I made it my sole hobby, and I continued until I was about 17 when I was successful in obtaining an experimental Post Office licence allowing me to use a transmitter, but the transmission radiations were not to leave the house. Of course, that was not good enough for me, and I increased the range of my apparatus and transferred the whole lot to my “shack” in the yard at home.

“I got my full licence when I was just under 18, and I know of 23 states transmitted, one of them being an auxiliary, and I have two receivers. All of them are home constructed. I was shortly to receive a licence appointing me a member of the RAF reserve and eventually I shall go to Finningley for training. For this license I had to have a speed of 20 words per minute and I am permitted to use both key (Morse) and speech.”

Jim has been at no small pains to finish his little station as comfortably as possible and at first glance it gives the appearance of a ships wireless cabin. The gleaming transmitters with self-made facing concealing the maze of valves and wires in the 101 things always to be found in a radio man’s “shack” are neatly concealed by the a bright chintz curtain drawn across the bottom half of the shelf.

The tapping keys and microphones are placed on the transmitting table, complete with list of stations, signalling, and calling signs and most important of all, a comprehensive world atlas, which Jim likes to trace the call he received. In a large book, which aptly calls his logbook, he places the names of stations he has contacted in the methanol reception; sometimes he rises as early as 6 AM speak with American stations.

Jim added: “I often speak with Mr Frank Jackson, who has a station at old Edlington. Although our stations are less than a mile apart we have regular conversations together.”

The walls and roof of the shack – at least those parts not already occupy the switches and wires – are almost covered with oblong cards, many strange characters, letters of foreign alphabets. Each card bears a large number, and this is the call signal of the sender of the card.

The cards are sent out to operators, perhaps hundreds of miles away, to ascertain the power of the apparatus. Jim single aged G 3VG in one of the cards in his possession has come all the way from Russia.

“I have been in contact with operators in Poland, Belgium and Norway, and all parts of the British Isles,” he explained, “and I make it my object to contact someone in all five continents. So far I spoke with three continents. To speak with the other two I shall have to adjust my aerial.”

During the crisis Jim gave his household almost minute by minute radio reports of the later development long before they came through on the ordinary wireless set, and he remarked that it was a curious fact that before the German occupation of the Czech Slovakian Sudetenland zones the amateurs could be heard almost every night, but since then he has not heard a single amateur from that country.