Radio Pioneer Charles Maclurcan

Australian Radio Pioneer (Northside Radio, Sydney)

Emma Ramsay, 24th September 2015
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By Jane Arakawa

How and where you access your favourite radio programs is changing so rapidly that it can be challenging to keep up. It may be reassuring to hear that it was only about 100 years ago that radio was the new emerging technology, and an experimenter named Charles Maclurcan spent much of his time educating the general public on how to hear a radio broadcast signal.

My passion for radio and the immediate, intimate connection it creates between us, lead me to discover more about this dedicated Australian radio pioneer and how he faced his technical hurdles and engaged his audience over various media.

I learnt that Charles Maclurcan erected aerial masts on top of the first Wentworth Hotel located on Church Hill, Lang Street Sydney in 1911 and was communicating with incoming and outgoing ships. By early 1922 he was broadcasting an entertaining and engaging radio program each week with a program guide published in the weekly newspapers of the time. He was issued Licence No.1 in December 1922 and continued his broadcasts and experiments until 1927 when he was required to take over the management of the Wentworth Hotel until its sale in 1950.

I discovered that some of Charles Maclurcan’s equipment was held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and also on display at the Radio Museum at Kurrajong, NSW. It was at Kurrajong that I first heard of an ongoing discussion among radio historians regarding which station can lay claim to holding Licence No 1 in Australia. Charles Maclurcan returned to his love of radio in his retirement and his passion and dedication resulted in the Australian Government declaring upon his death in 1957 that his call sign 2CM was never to be re-issued.

Feb 1923 Josie Melville at Strathfield copyright     1924 - Charles Maclurcan talks to England copyright

You will hear how Charles Maclurcan engaged his listeners through multi-media platforms of the time, why historians are debating who holds Licence No.1, and how his grandsons have respectfully and openly shared his story of radio with us.

I now consider Charles Maclurcan to be Australia’s first multi-platform radio producer.

If you wish to discover more about Charles Dansie Maclurcan’s radio programs, technical instructions, newspaper articles, long distance records achieved and his place in Australia’s radio history, you could start at the National Library of Australia (Trove), access reference material at the NSW State Library and Powerhouse Museum, read Ron Langhan’s book The First Twelve Months of Radio Broadcasting in Australia 1923 -1924 or Australian Radio History (5th Edition) compiled by Bruce Carty Phd and visit the Historical Radio Society of Australia.

Pictured: Charles Maclurcan

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