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THE EDINBURGH HOSPITAL BROADCASTING SERVlCE
(formerly THE FORTH RADIO NETWORK)
…its HISTORY (1962 – 1987).
The origins of today's Service can be traced back to the year 1960, when a group of business colleagues formed themselves into an organisation known as Forth Radio Network. They were hi-fi enthusiasts, some being members of Edinburgh's Tape Recorder and YMCA Record Clubs, and in truly altruistic fashion they decided to apply their skills and enthusiasm, plus their own records and equipment, "to the benefit of patients in something like 16 hospitals in the Edinburgh area"
It was indeed an ambitious scheme, being one of the first of its type in Scotland, but on 28th April 1961 Performing Rights Society Ltd granted free permission for the use of their copyright music, "On the understanding that the record programmes will be restricted to hospital patients and nursing staff on duty". Three days later, on 1st May, Phonographic Performance Ltd wrote, "We have the pleasure to inform you that gramophone records controlled by this Company may be used on a closed circuit radio system for the entertainment of patients in hospitals in the Edinburgh area and that the licence fee normally payable in respect of public performance will, in this instance, be waived.
In obtaining these agreements, Norman Lowe, the then Secretary of FRN, had overcome two important legal hurdles and so, with the blessing of the hospital authorities, the enterprise was begun in May of 1961 by members visiting hospitals and playing requests, armed with a reel-to-reel tape recorder. They took requests one evening, recorded the programme at home and returned the following evening to play back the tape.
At that time another form of hospital broadcasting was well established in the Lothian area. As far back as Saturday, 20th September 1952, Mr Wemyss Craigie, a commentator for the Edinburgh Hospitals Football Broadcast Committee, announced, "Hibs 3, Hearts 1" to end the first hospital broadcast to two hospitals in Edinburgh, The Royal Infirmary and Leith. By 1961 the sports services from both Easter Road and Tynecastle had spread with the expansion throughout the Lothian area in the 1950s of a vast Post Office landline system, the largest in Scotland. These landlines were in operation only when a match was being played and so were lying unused for most of the week.
FRN persuaded the Football Broadcast Committee to allow them to use the landlines during the evenings, thus setting the stage for the patients in the capital's hospitals to hear their requests on headphones. Broadcasting to 16 hospitals in the Edinburgh area, using the Hearts and Hibernian landline, actually began in October 1962. Those original hospitals were The Royal Infirmary, Astley Ainslie, Simpson's, City, Chalmers, Leith, Royal Victoria, Northern General, Longmore, Western General, Eastern General, Edenhall, Corstorphine, Deaconess and Southfield.
Up to 1961 the administrative address of the Service was a house in Dudley Gardens, Edinburgh, the home of the Secretary. It was in 1961 that an application for charitable status was made to the then Edinburgh Corporation. An advertisement to that effect was placed in the Edinburgh Evening News on 8th November 1961 in accordance with the National Assistance Act of 1948, section 41 - Disabled Persons. On 1st February 1962 this application was accepted.
By now the Clydesdale Bank had kindly agreed to provide premises at 69 Hanover Street, premises that were soon converted into a small but functional studio. A founder member, Arthur Jowett, recalls, "The studio was lined with egg boxes for insulation and soundproofing". Another founder member, Derek Anderson, was appointed the station's first Programme Director and he recalls planning and producing, on Tuesday, 9th May 1963, the first "live outside" broadcast from a ward at the Astley Ainslie hospital, and on Tuesday, 1st October 1963, the 100th broadcast at the TA Hall in Gil more Place. Derek also recalls, "Norman Lowe and myself travelled quite extensively to study how other organisations operated. We went as far south as Nottingham and even then discussed the formation of a national body and possible interchange of programmes. We also looked at the TOC H hospital broadcasting service in Dundee and even considered the feasibility of providing a TV service."
The Top Twenty requests of 1963 included Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore", Frank Ifield's "I Remember You", Andy Stewart's "Scottish Soldier" and, at number 1, "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose", by Kenneth McKellar, still a favourite today. Total membership at this stage was ten, broadcasting 12.25 hours per week, nine of which, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, were devoted entirely to record requests.
In 1964 two more hospitals joined the Service: Dunfermline and West Fife in February and by September the Stirling Royal Infirmary, FRN's request programme being taped and sent through each week. Due to the very high level of requests a separate recorded programme was soon instigated for Stirling, a service that continued until October 1972.
Ron Stephen, a member of the station in 1964/65 and who rejoined some 18 years later, recalls starting a very popular programme called, "Cramond Island Discs", Andy Stewart being one of the many famous guests. The programme title, however, was thought too similar to that of the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" but, after much correspondence, "Cramond Island Discs" was allowed to continue with the proviso that each programme should end, "The programme was presented by Ron Stephen from the studios of Forth Radio Network with the kind permission of Roy Plomley".
A programme of special note took place on 4th September 1964 when for 40 minutes two presenters covered the opening of the Forth Road Bridge. One of those presenters was the then Chairman, Jimmy Sime, who recalls, "We travelled from Edinburgh in a bus with Richard Dimbleby who covered the event for the BBC. For the ceremony FRN had a commanding view, sited on the roof of the bridge's control building. Although it was a foggy morning it started to clear as the Queen made the crossing using the Ferry."
Two other members of that period, Moira and Forbes Furmage, remember travelling across the bridge and recording their impressions of the occasion for the station's listeners. Jimmy Sime recalls two other events of that time: the regular outside broadcast of the annual carol service from the Usher Hall and a special fund-raising event when an old time film show was held in the Leith Town Hall.
Within three years of its inception, the Service was able to state, "Forth Radio Network relays programmes to 18 hospitals in the Edinburgh and Central Scotland area over landlines by courtesy of the sponsors of the Edinburgh Hospital Football Broadcast Committee".
On 15th January 1965 the Service became registered as a charity with the Inland Revenue, in accordance with the Income Tax Act of 1952, section 447. Still on a financial note, the minutes of the 1965 AGM held on 11th April record that, "the balance in hand is £36.6s.lOd!".
In October 1965 Terry McGoldrick was appointed the first record librarian. More "firsts" were to follow - on 27th February 1966 broadcasting was extended to seven nights a week and on 27th March of the same year commercial advertising began: "FRN offers the most economical advertising rates available, 2/- per 30 second spot". It was also in 1966, in November, that the Lord Provost of Edinburgh agreed to become our Patron.
On a more serious note, on Saturday, 19th November 1966, the Treasurer reported that he had been robbed whilst broadcasting. The police were called and arrested a man who had somehow gained access to the then small studio (located a few flights down stairs from our current complex).
By 1966 the membership had risen slowly from the original ten members to about 20, a level that was to remain fairly constant until 1972, not even increasing in 1966 when the station started broadcasting seven days per week.
Hibernian withdrew from the sports service in July 1967 and the Hearts Supporters Club decided they could no longer afford the high landline charge associated with some 18 hospitals. As a result, six were discontinued - Royal Victoria, Astley Ainslie, Liberton, Eastern, Dunfermline and West Fife and the Deaconess. By February 1968 more landline cuts had taken place resulting in the Northern General, Longmore, Edenhall, Western General, Southfield and Corstorphine hospitals being disconnected.
It was in 1968 that the station's two longest serving members, Bryn Goodwin and Willie Fowlie, joined FRN ("the same day as Richard Park who later became a household name on Radio Clyde", Bryn recalls).
A special feature of this time was the exchange of prerecorded material. In 1968 taped programme exchanges were taking place with hospital radio stations in Durham, Colchester, Margate and Manchester. In 1970 a weekly taped programme was introduced for the Cheshire Home at Mayfield House in Edinburgh. This was a request programme, similar to the one which had been provided for Stirling Royal Infirmary. It proved a great success and, indeed, for a time Carnsalloch House, another Cheshire Home in Dumfries, was included in the service. Later on, the service was extended to yet another Cheshire Home, Maften Hall, near Newcastle upon Tyne. After some years the Mayfield House programme was discontinued but much later, in 1977, a similar service was introduced to the Scottish Council for Spastics' School, Westerlea, at Murrayfield. This very worthwhile service, produced and presented by Angus Cunningham, was withdrawn in 1983 due to the closure of the residential part of the school.
In 1967 the Edinburgh Evening News reported on the 1,000th programme from the Hanover Street studio: "In the five years they reckon they have put out 2,000 hours of broadcasting, involving 15,000 requests from patients, and played a quarter of a million records."
It was around this time that FRN had a flirtation with "pirate radio". Radio Scotland, operating from a ship moored off the Scottish coast, approached the Committee and asked if FRN could produce a weekly half-hour programme of record requests for patients throughout Scotland.
On 6th October 1968 a group of our members attended an exploratory meeting in Doncaster to form the National Association of Hospital Broadcasting Services. This was to become by 20th April 1970 the now well-established National Association of Hospital Broadcasting Organisations (NAHBO).
It was in this period, thought to be 27th April 1969, that our long association with the Gospel Radio Fellowship began, an association which continues to this day.
Changes to the original studio had by now become necessary. On Saturday, 10th May 1969, Ben Lyons, a leading Light Entertainment Producer with BBC Scotland, along with Howard Lockhart, also of BBC Scotland, opened the improved studio.
The 1960s were adventurous, exciting years, and a range of stars took interest in the Service. The Visitors' Book shows the following signatures….1963 David Jacobs; 1964 Cliff Richard and the Beatles (a unique recorded interview made by a member still exists); 1965 Andy Stewart, 1965/66 Walker Brothers and Bootsie and Snudge; 1966/67 Jimmy Logan; 1967 Vince Hill, Pinkey and Perky, Roy Orbison, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Jimmy Saville. A number of interviews with celebrities also took place- Lord Harewood (then Festival Director), Kenny Ball, David Frost, Roy Kinnear, Jimmy Shand, Chris Barber and his band to mention but a few.
Up to this point, from the start of broadcasting in 1962, 26,000 requests had been played, nearly 6,600 being played in 1969 alone, with yearly request totals continuing to rise through the first half of the 1970s.
During the 60s there had been four Chairmen: Mr J. Moncrieff (1961 to 1963); Mr N. Lowe (circa' 1963); Mr J.R. Sime (1963 to 1966) and Mr J.F. McRitchie (1967 to 1969), now better known in broadcasting as Jimmy Mack.
The 1970s began under the Chairmanship of Mr A. Coutts (AIf to one and all). Another long-serving member, Don Lorimer, joined in September 1970 and was to become the Service's longest serving Chairm~1972 to 1978). Under Don's wise leadership three of the hospitals disconnected in the 67/68 cuts were restored-the Eastern General in June 1974, Corstorphine in March 1976 and the Royal Victoria in October 1976. In addition, two hospitals joined the Service for the first time, Beechmount in March 1976 and The Eye Pavilion in September 1977. One hospital, unfortunately, for technical reasons, had to be disconnected in 1976-the City Hospital-and, as mentioned earlier, the pre-taped request programme being sent to Stirling ceased in October 1972.
By the late 1960s it had become evident that the studio that had been the home of the Service since its inception was too small. Agreement was reached with the Clydesdale Bank for a move to larger rooms, still at 69 Hanover Street, a move that was completed in 1970. Major improvements to the relocated studio were soon to be proposed by Mac Kirby and in August 1973 a new studio complex was opened by former Chairman Jimmy Mack, who by now had joined BBC Scotland.
During 1973 it was becoming apparent that the Hearts Football Supporters Association could no longer afford the increasing cost of paying for the Post Office landline and on 6th November 1973 FRN agreed in principle to assume responsibility, although allowing the Hearts football commentary to continue.
In 1974 a great deal of thought was given by Willie Fowlie to the formation of a Scottish Hospital Radio Group (SHRG) and after much hard work he was successful in helping to form this first all-Scottish group of seven hospital broadcasting units on 29th October 1974. The Minute Book of the period records that the first meeting took place in Glasgow and "there is no formal constitution and there will be four meetings per annum". A later entry records that the third SHRG meeting was held at Dumbarton on 8th May 1976 and was attended by seven members of EHBS. By this time the Service was no longer being referred to as the Forth Radio Network.
In the early 70s the IBA had granted the local radio station franchise for East Central Scotland to a company which was to become known as Radio Forth. Clearly the name was so similar to Forth Radio Network that something had to be done. After much discussion and sadness the name that had meant so much to so many for so long was changed on Sunday, 2nd March 1975, to The Edinburgh Hospital Broadcasting Service (EHBS).
A significant feature of the 1970s was the rise and then fall in the number of requests played per year, reaching over 10,000 in 1975 but falling back to less than 6,000 by the end of the decade. Since broadcasting began over 100,000 requests had now been played.
The downward trend was to continue until 1981 when, in February, a satellite studio, designed and built by Ian Scott and Willie Fowlie, was established at the Eastern General Hospital, the landline links to the Eastern General and Leith hospitals having been disconnected due to the dramatic rise in landline costs that had started in 1979 and which were to threaten EHBS's very existence.
The 1980s began with this threat of financial ruin overhanging the Service and with a second studio for the Hanover Street complex already past the initial design stage. Many options were considered-time-sharing the landline, disconnecting hospitals and many more. The Lothian Health Board was consulted and they offered a new studio facility in the Royal Infirmary free from rates, rent, electricity charges, etc. This offer was conditional on the availability of suitable accommodation in the hospital. A number of premises were considered and, unfortunately, rejected for various reasons either by EHBS or the Hospital Board. In the meantime, the Lothian Health Board agreed to pay the ever-rising landline bill on a year-to-year arrangement, thus reducing some of the financial burden.
The Executive Committee at that time, by then under the steady influence of Calum McDougall, was under considerable pressure. The demands were great and the future was extremely unsettled. Many Committee Members resigned, unable to cope with the increased workload. In 1983, under the Chairmanship of Bryn Goodwin, the Health Board agreed to discuss a case put forward by EHBS for the landline bill to become the responsibility of the Board on a permanent basis and this obligation was duly accepted.
In July of that year, despite all the financial problems, the second studio, designed and built by the outgoing Technical Director Bryn Goodwin and Mike Milne was completed, the official opening ceremony being performed by Jimmy Mack.
In 1979 the Service foresaw minimum running costs of £8,000 per year, a burden too great for the small membership broadcasting 17.5 hours a week. By 1985 the Service had reduced drastically the minimum running costs, increased the broadcasting hours and consequently increased the membership from 40 to 75. It had established lower, attainable, fund-raising targets on the enlarged membership pool.
Changes in the Service's running costs over the years can be seen in extracts from the 1965 and 1985 accounts, typical figures for any service operating from a central studio located in a large city.
Other plans were taking shape. The Technical Department, by now under the expert eye of Mike Milne, carefully studied the landline layout and proposed changes that would allow for the addition of hospitals and a consequent reduction in charges. By December 1984 a further two of the hospitals which were disconnected in 1968 were reconnected: the Western General and the Northern General.
The new studio at the Eastern General was proving a great success and Graham Logan took over the day-to-day running of it from Brian Dishon, who became EHBS's Chief Librarian. The number of requests being played at the Eastern General had risen dramatically from about 100 in 1980 to over 3,500 in 1983. New and better equipment was urgently required and over £1,500 was set aside for this purpose. By 1985 most of the design work had been completed and many items were under construction by the overworked Technical Director, Mike Milne. In 1986 the renovated studio was in operation, keeping up a long tradition of all the Service's new studios being designed and built by its own members.
The Chief Librarian reported in 1984 that the record library indexing system, started when the station was founded in 1962, had become unwieldy and impossible to manage as the cards detailing the record titles, etc, became worn out. After a careful study it was decided, reluctantly with all the financial pressures at the time, to computerise the indexing system. To carry out this enormous task a computer and expensive software were donated free of charge to EHBS, thanks to the very kind generosity of Microworld, ACT, the manufacturer, and Select Micro Systems Ltd.
Broadcasting was by now covering a wide range of programmes, requests, features, sports reports, news and special events, such as the Edinburgh Festival (a particular event the Service had been covering for many years). Ron Stephen had rejoined the Service after a gap of 18 years and famous and interesting personalities including Kenneth McKelIar, Una McLean, Jimmy Logan, Ken Bruce, Chas Evans (Director Lothian Region Transport), Andrew Hamilton (General Manager Edinburgh Airport), were once again taking part in his programmes.
The quality of the Service's programmes is a matter of much pride, many of its members being involved over the years either full or part time with the BBC or commercial radio stations . . . Jimmy Mack, Richard Park, Dave Jamison, Hazel and Willie Fowlie, Moira Furmage, Ian Purdon, Bryn Goodwin, Gerry McKenzie, Mike Gower, Jeanette Coutts, Brian Ford, Ian Fisher, Ian Wilson, Mac Kirby, John McCalman and Charles Hodkinson to mention but a few.
In 1987, as the Service celebrates its 25th year, it has played well over 150,000 requests. It has, thanks to those early pioneers and the many volunteers who have followed them, become a major provider of entertainment to the patients in ten of Edinburgh's hospitals.
Message From The Chairman
"Twenty-five years of hospital broadcasting-there must be a tale to tell."
With this thought in mind, one of our longest serving members and an ex-Chairman, Bryn Goodwin, set about what proved to be long hours of exhaustive research into the history of our organisation.
The fruits of his labour are presented in this fascinating booklet. ( now this webpage - webmaster )
I believe this is the first time that such a history has been recorded, and it provides a unique insight into the development of a hospital broadcasting service.
I should like to thank the Clydesdale Bank for its sponsorship of this publication.
This book is dedicated to Wemyss Craigie, Tom Wilson and other past members of the Edinburgh Hospitals Football Broadcast Committee and to the founder members of the Forth Radio Network.