Malin Head Marconi Radio Station


Malin Head is Ireland's most northerly point has had a long history of communication with ships. In 1805, Lloyds built a signal tower at a point now called Banba's Crown. The building still stands, though now in a ruined condition. Today there is a viewing area and visitors car park next to this historic site. Semaphore and a telescope were the methods used to communicate with ships and to the island of Inishtrahull, some six miles away where another Lloyds signal station was erected on the western end of the island.

Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station January 1902


Malin Head Today


On 3rd April 1902 the Marconi Company succeeded in sending the first commercial message by wireless from Malin Head to the ship S.S. Lake Ontario thus establishing Malin Head as an important staging post for future trans-Atlantic communication; however the Post Office took over from the Marconi Company in 1910. Experimental communications using Marconi equipment was conducted between Ballycastle County Antrim and Rathlin Island, the latter being about 4 nautical miles off Ballycastle at the islands nearest point to the mainland. In 1901, the wireless equipment was moved to Portstewart, near Coleraine and a station opened but was subsequently closed in 1902. The equipment which had been previously used in the Ballycastle/Rathlin islands tests was installed at Malin Head and Inishtrahull Island respectively the same year.


The Malin Head Wireless Station was situated in the Lloyds signal tower and access to the station for personnel was made along the beach by foot from the staff accommodation about one and a quarter miles east of Malin Head pier. A telegraph line operated by Lloyds, connected to the nearest post office at Ballygorman three miles away, was relocated further on down the line when the local post office closed for business.

Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club QSL Card

Front of the card

Back of the card



The Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club will be operating from Malin Head during the International Marconi Day in April using the club call Sign EI0CAR.


The Old derelict building that was used in 1902 still remains and will be used during the Marconi Day every April by the Carndonagh Amateur Radio Club where once again radio waves will be sent out worldwide from Malin Head.


Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station Original Building Today


Technical Info on the 1902 Equipment.


Malin Head Radio Station was established in January 1902 at the Lloyd’s of London signal tower at Banba’s Crown. The stations radio was a simple battery powered spark transmitter connected to a 120 foot aerial supplied by the Marconi Radio Company. Operating through both World Wars, the station has witnessed many historic events.







Simple Marconi Radiator. (Transmitter ) (Left Picture) =  B, battery; I, induction coil; K, signaling key; S, spark gap; A, aerial wire; E, earth plate.


The left schematic of very simple battery operated spark gap transmitter may have been used at Malin Head. A photograph of Marconi with a complete station on the right of the picture there is a large induction coil with an open spark gap which is directly connected to aerial and earth.




His receiver used a coherer as its detector. Although the coherer’s invention is often attributed to Marconi, it was actually invented by a Frenchman, Edouard Branly, but it was Marconi who put it to great effect and, as a result, became the world’s first DXer.


The coherer is a primitive form of radio signal detector used in the first radio receivers during the wireless telegraphy era at the beginning of the 20th century. Invented around 1890 by French scientist Édouard Branly, it consists of a tube or capsule containing two electrodes spaced a small distance apart, with metal filings in the space between them. When a radio frequency signal is applied to the device, the initial high resistance of the filings reduces, allowing an electric current to flow through it. The coherer was a key enabling technology for radio, and was the first device used to detect radio signals in practical spark gap transmitter wireless telegraphy. It became the basis for radio reception around 1900, and remained in widespread use for about ten years.



One electrode, A, of the coherer, (C, in the above diagram) is connected to the antenna and the other electrode, B, to ground. A series combination of a battery, B1, and a relay, R, is also attached to the two electrodes. When the signal from a spark gap transmitter is received, the filings tend to cling to each other, reducing the resistance of the coherer.


When the coherer conducts better, battery B1 supplies enough current through the coherer to activate relay R, which connects battery B2 to the telegraph sounder S, giving an audible click. In some applications, a pair of headphones replaced the telegraph sounder, being much more sensitive to weak signals, or a Morse recorder which recorded the dots and dashes of the signal on paper tape.



The Antenna



The T- antenna was a 120 foot aerial supplied by the Marconi Radio Company and appears to be sloping at 30 degrees from east to west and secured above the ground behind the Banba’s Tower in the picture above. I’m not sure where the feed point is at this time although this type of antenna can be fed at any point. The guy wires connected to the top of the mast show signs that they have insulators part way down.



Banba’s Tower


Banba’s Tower: Originally built as a Martello Lookout Tower during the Napoleonic Wars. The British Admiralty constructed the present tower in 1805. Weather reports, which were so important to local and international shipping, were first recorded at Malin Head in 1884. It then became a Signal Tower for Lloyds of London using semaphore to connect with ships at sea and the lighthouse on Inishtrahull Island lying to the northeast of here.

Banba’s Tower

In Irish mythology, Banbha, sometimes written as Banba in English, daughter of Ernmas of the Tuatha Dé Danann, is the patron goddess of Ireland. The goddess who represents the spirit of Ireland, and who is the wife of king MacCuill. She was thought to be the first settler in Ireland. She is part of a trinity of goddesses, the daughters of Fiachna, together with Fodla and Eriu. Amergin, son of Miled, promised her the honor of naming the island after her. Banba is also a poetic name for Ireland.

Considering this is Ireland’s most Northerly point, it is only fitting that the area be named "Banbas Crown" after an Irish mythological Queen.

Lookout building


During the Second World War, the small huts were built and used by the Irish Defence Forces to keep a lookout and protect Irish Neutrality.

Malin Head Radio celebrated 100 years of service in January 2002

Researched by F.O.Connor, Radio Officer, Malin head coast guard radio


The Post Office took over the station which was using the callsign MH at this time on the 31st December 1909. Malin Head was included in the rebuilding program for coast stations around the British Isles in 1913 and the callsign changed to GMH. The equipment in use up to then was a quarter kilowatt transmitter but in this rebuilding program a 5 kilowatt transmitter was installed and the distinct musical note was provided by the use of a spark frequency of 400Hz. Design for Malin Head following closely the one used at St. Just but in this case only one mast and one aerial instead on the two used at St. Just.


During the great war of 1914/1918, the Enniskillen Fusiliers were billeted at the station and accommodation was provided for them. The records of the time are scant during the years from 1914 to early 1922, as the Naval authorities who vacated the premises at that point seemed to have removed nearly all the paperwork. In May of 1922, as radio staff settled in to resume their work, there are records of long lists of requisitions to re-equip the radio station with items such as Enamel collanders at 3 shillings and 9 pence to wire mattresses at one pound and 15 shillings. It is obvious the Navy had well and truly cleared off with everything not screwed down or heavily cemented in place. A perplexed Officer-in-Charge writes to London pleading for the provisions of stores, stationary message pads etc. to keep the station functioning


Malin Head Coast Guard Radio Today


The station at this time was equipped with a 5 kilowatt and 1.5 kilowatt transmitter and it is interesting to note the lists of ship stations worked during the mid 1920's when records were made of the range of GMH during day and night hours. On the 24th July 1924 at 1041GMT, the Helligolav was worked at 600 miles west of Malin Head, whilst the Regina 490 miles west was in contact at 1015GMT on the 22nd August 1924. The average distance during daylight hours appeared to be 450 miles. At night this extended to 1200 miles west whilst working the Samuel L Fuller at 0003GMT on the 19th July 1924. Then on the 26th September 1924 on a night duty at 0612GMT, the Marinula established contact from 1300 miles west of GMH. The Columbia was reached at 1400 miles west again on a night duty at 0559GMT on the 23rd January 1924. Malin Head Radio was certainly getting out well and the location of the station being close to the sea on two sides and built on marshy low lying ground was well chosen.


During the period of the Second World War, military personnel were posted at the station. There is still evidence of foundations for pill boxes and huts. In addition, the station had a number of personnel appointed as censors who left as soon as hostilities ceased in 1945. At this stage, the Irish Free State was a neutral power remained so for the duration of the war. On the 31st of December 1949, the callsign GMH was used for the last time and as 1950 dawned, a new callsign was born to replace what had started as MH and progressed to GMH. The Irish Free State had left the Commonwealth and was now the Irish Republic. It had a new name and Malin Head Radio had a new callsign - EJM.


By this stage the station had relocated about 2 miles south of the Lloyds signal tower, The bungalow containing the radio station and the three staff houses located beside the Crossroads Hotel had been built during the 1913 rebuilding program. At the close of the 1990's, the station is still located in the same building and used the original radio room up to 1986 when a new operations room was added to the bungalow. The high tension room or transmitter room is still in use today. The remote receiving antennas are fed to the station by open wire feeder over the half mile distance between the station and the T-type receive antenna on a nearby hill.


Until 1988, the station operated on 500kHz and 2182kHz. However, on the 31st of December 1988, the last transmission on 500kHz, running 1000 watts, was made and Malin Head went off the air on this morse code frequency. Today the station continues on 2182kHz and controls 6VHF remote stations at Malin Head, Glen Head, Belmullet, Clifden, Donegal Bay and Lough Ree.. These are operated via landline to the various remote sites. The VHF equipment is manufactured by Motorola, running approximately 45 watts output to colinear Antennas.


On 2182kHz and the working frequencies, the output power from our transmitters is 1000 watts on the 1677kHz (our primary working frequency) and 1644kHz and 250 watts carrier peaking to 500 watts (on speech peaks) on 2182khz, amplitude modulated SSB is used on the working frequencies. Our transmitters which are co-sited within the radio station transmitter room are fed underground by very heavy duty co-axial cable to the antenna tuning huts at the base of 150 foot masts. There are two 150 foot masts on site. The antenna tuning brings the antennas to resonance on the various frequencies. Buried under the station grounds is a large network of earthing wires and radials in order to achieve as near perfect efficiency as possible. Strung between the two 150 foot masts is the old 500 kHz wire T-antenna which we now use as a reserve receiving antenna should our remote receive antenna need repairs. The various receivers on station, are fed via co-axial cable out to the station boundary fence and under neighbouring farmer's field to a termination unit to convert 50 Ohm co-ax to the 600 Ohm open wire feeder which runs approximately a half a mile to the large T-wire antenna strung between the 60 foot poles at the summit of a nearby hill.


Malin Head Coast Guard


Regarding our SSB transmitters, they were recently replaced by one manufactured in England by SPT electronics at Southend-on-Sea. We have a standby power plant to generate our own electricity in the event of mains power being off at any time. Power output available from the generator is 60 KVA.


On February 2nd 2000 The name "Irish Marine Emergency Service" was changed to "Irish Coast Guard". Malin Head Radio was upgraded to Malin Head MRSC (Marine Rescue Sub Centre). All of this means more than just a change of name for the station, it added responsibility relating to co-ordination of search and rescue. Medical evacuation by helicopter from a tossed sea or offshore island, air ambulance, mountain rescue, inland waterways, lakes and rivers, these are all within the remit of the rescue co-ordination from Malin head.

Guglielmo Marconi

Click here to listen to a recording of Marconi's voice

Birthplace: Palazzo Marescalchi, Bologna, Italy
Died: 20-Jul-1937
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Villa Falcone, Sasso Marconi, Italy

By Peter Homer  EI4JR