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Sunday, June 7, 2015

WORLD EXCLUSIVE - THE TRUTH ABOUT THE REBEL BROADCASTS IN 1916

In an extract from my forthcoming book 'Rebel Radio, Broadcasting 1916' we reveal for the first time anywhere the success of the rebel broadcasts in 1916.
(Some text from this chapter has been omitted © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”)

                                                                                                                           © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”

We now know the dangers the broadcasters faced, the hurdles they overcame, the propaganda machine they faced, we have discovered who these men were, the rebel cause they were fighting for, exactly where the station was located, the leaders who created a way and genre of broadcasting and the innovation and ingenuity they displayed in putting the station together now it is time for

A Nation Speaks Onto Nation....

Former broadcaster Maurice Gorham in his book ‘Forty Years of Irish Broadcasting’ observed that,
‘This was not broadcasting as we know it, for wireless telephony was not yet available and Morse messages were all that could be sent out. But it was news by wireless, not aimed at any known receiver but sent out broadcast and that was a new idea in 1916’
His statement is inaccurate as facts show that the station in O’Connell Street was neither the first to ‘broadcast’ nor the first to deliver news via wireless telegraphy. In the years preceding World War One news bulletins were broadcast from a station located in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France and was broadcasting news at fifteen words per minute and was not aimed at any known receiver. A station located at the broadcasting building at Nauen in Germany was broadcasting news at eighteen words per minute. In Britain a wireless station at Cleethorpes broadcast weather reports primarily for shipping.

Experiments in sound and speech broadcasting began in 1900 with the first truly successful broadcast carried out by Professor Fessenden from Brant Rock, Massachusetts a decade before the rebellion. In 1910 in California a college of Wireless Engineering was set up broadcasting speech radio with news and music. The United States recognized the growth in amateur broadcasting and began issuing licenses for these fledging stations from 1910. In the same year one of the greatest inventors and innovators in the field of broadcasting Lee De Forest broadcast the world’s first live opera. There were a number of stations broadcasting speech and music regularily in the United States. These included 6XE in San Jose California that went on air in 1907 broadcasting on 740Khz AM, 2XI broadcasting on 810khz AM in New York on air in 1915 and 8XK in Pittsburgh on 1020khz AM.

Professor Chris Morash in his published book titled A History of The Media in Ireland commented,
"It was an attempt to tell the world what was happening and was very much before its time. Here they were coming under fire from all around them but they were under strict orders to get the message out to the rest of the world"
While American sociologist Harwood Childs noted in 1965 that in the early days of radio propaganda that its purpose was ‘to win allies, to gain the support of neutrals, to build up morale at home and to engender defeatism in the ranks of the enemy’
A. Panfilov in his book ‘Broadcasting Pirates’ noted that the Germans used radio because the telegraph was controlled by other countries. Used radio extensively during WW1 to keep in touch with its agents
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The success of the radio station and having reached its desired goal comes in the response of the British Government’s man in Ireland Augustine Birrell when responding to a question in the House of Commons when he said,
‘It had been necessary during the last few days that news should not reach  countries and especially our friends in America which would give a false impression of the importance of the events, important as they were.’
He added that he hoped that he strict censorship would be taken off soon. But the rebellion was front page news in the New York Times as it hit the street Tuesday morning. In Wednesday’s New York Times their report stated,
‘According to a statement of a prominent leader in Irish American affairs last night (Tuesday), the revolt in Ireland has spread to a far greater extent than has been given out by the British authorities. It was affirmed that the news had come from private sources in Ireland and received in Brooklyn.’

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It is possible that when the first broadcast was made at 5.30p.m. Tuesday in Dublin it was 11.30a.m in New York allowing plenty of time to make the newspapers that day in New York. The New York newspapers on the street Tuesday evening carried reports that contained the exact words of Connolly’s communiqué. In the New York Times on April 27th, it was reported that Irish Americans in New York knew of the plans to launch a radio station.
‘A letter seized in the investigation as to whether assistance was given to the Irish rebels from within the United States, (sent) to an Irishman in Brooklyn carried details of plans early in the month (April). Dublin Castle was to be seized and held as was the Post Office and several other public buildings. Irishmen loyal to the cause were to occupy cable office and wireless stations and were to flash the news to the whole world that Ireland was free.’
The Federal Bureau of Investigations had discovered documents in raids in New York on supporters of John Devoy that rebellion plans had always included the setting up of a broadcast station.

 
Devoy and his Clan na Gael organisation in New York had been the main fundraisers for the rebellion and much of the coded messages between the rebel leaders and Germany went through the German consulate in New York. It was these messages that had been intercepted by the British and fore warned them of the planned shipment of weapons. Plunkett and McDermott wanted to make sure that Devoy knew the rebellion started so that political pressure could be put on the American administration from the large Irish lobby group to recognise the new Government in Dublin. A message was to be sent to New York by telegram. In January 1916, Timothy Ring was brought to Dublin from his place of employment, the Valencia Wireless station. He was given a message to send when the time was ready. Early in Easter week Timothy’s brother Eugene sent a wireless message to Newfoundland to test the British detection and censorship. The message was detected but caused little suspicion as it simply asked the operator in Newfoundland if he would like to buy a bicycle. With plans for the Rising complete and expected to be launched on Easter Sunday, Timothy Ring sent a wireless telegram to Devoy’s housekeeper on Saturday morning that read ‘Tom operated on successfully today’.

The message arrived early Monday morning New York time before the Rising had actually started. Devoy had called a press conference and within hours the first newspapers were on the streets of New York announcing an armed rebellion in Ireland. The newspapers were seen by the British at their consulate in New York and passed onto Washington who dispatched the news to London arriving almost immediately as the news from the temporary telegraph office in Amiens Street. For many months after the Rising the British were unable to trace the origin of the news that arrived in New York until a Irish magazine revealed that the message had come from Kerry and armed with this information they were able to trace the cablegram to Timothy Ring who along with his brother Eugene were arrested and interned in Frongach prison camp.

But while most US newspapers published the British official reports on the Rising issued through the press association offices in London, some newspapers in the US revealed the truth about their information sources.Some New York papers published a mixture of official London communiques with statements issued by the Irish-American societies in New York. As we discovered in Chapter Five the communiques issued by the rebels were very precise, utilising the morse tappers ability to broadcast a limited amount of text. The Newcastle Times newspaper published in Pennsylvania reported almost word for word the first communique broadcasts by the rebels. Perhaps their only error was referring to Padraig Pearse as 'Peter'. Few newspapers accurately reported the position of James Connolly as noted in the rebel broadcast. The Newcastle Times headlined
                                                                                                                 © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”
                                  " WIRELESS TELLS STORY OF NEW STATE "
'news of the action of the rebels in declaring Ireland independent and free of the British Government was sent out from the revolutionary headquarters in the Dublin post office by wireless'

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In an edition of the magazine ‘tOglach’ in an article penned by John O’Connor he spoke about the radio station and said that,
‘transmissions were commenced on Tuesday stating that an Irish republic had been declared. This message was transmitted at intervals and at a much later date evidence was found that it had been received and re-transmitted to the outside world thus countering the British propaganda version of events in Dublin.’

Over the years much has been written often based on rumours about where the broadcasts were heard. According to Johnny O’Connor’s memoirs testifying to the success of the broadcasts
‘there have been some stories that in fact it was (a success) one involving a sailor somewhere near Japan.’

In the Irish language weekly INDIU in an article in the 1940s describing the 1916 broadcast it stated that the news of the Rising reached Argentina, a country with a definite Irish population at that time. In fact the Volunteer who raised the flags of the new Republic on the roof of the GPO was Argentinian native Eamon Bulfin born of Irish parents in Buenos Aires in 1892 but from the evidence in Chapters Four and Five we can see the impossibility of this occurrence. 

Canadian media historian and commentator Marshall McLuhan, in his 1964 book Understanding Media wrote
The Irish Rebels used a ship’s radio to make, not a point-to-point message, but a diffused broadcast in hope of getting word to any ship that would relay their story to the American press. This is widely accepted as the world’s first radio broadcast.”
Desmond Fisher, in his 1978 Broadcasting in Ireland, quotes both McLuhan and Gorham and concluded that
“the world’s first radio broadcast was made from Dublin, Ireland, on Tuesday, April 25th 1916.”

So what can Radio na Oglaich be classified as? The radio station in O’Connell Street was in fact the world’s first pirate radio station. The British Government had used the Defense of the Realm Act to impose strict censorship during the World War. On August 2nd 1914 a notice appeared in the London Gazette stating
‘expedient for the public service that his Majesty’s Government should have control over the transmission of messages by wireless telegraphy.’
The following day in the same newspaper decreed that by order all wireless equipment on board merchant vessels should be dismantled immediately and ordered the closure of all experimental wireless station in Great Britain.
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The problem that the Governments had with the new medium of wireless was that a wireless message could be received by all stations and vessels within the radius of the transmissions and that these transmissions could contain vital information to the enemy. The United States followed a similar line to Britain and attempted to close the thousands of amateur and experimental stations. They did not censor or close telegraph communications because while a wireless message could be intercepted or heard by the enemy a telegraph message was a point to point communication that could not be intercepted the most damage that could be done was to have the telegraph line cut.

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Apart from the listeners aboard H.M.S Adventure, the broadcasts following the Adventure's reports were picked up by the British radio monitoring station located in Carnarvon in Wales who were monitoring all frequencies in an attempt to locate German spies and intercept broadcasts and messages being sent back to Germany. Under William Hall and James Ewing who ran what was known as ‘Room 40’ the British Admiralty set up a number of broadcast intercept stations around the British Isles known as ‘Y’ stations and these stations sole responsibility was to intercept German radio transmissions and decode them. They were aware that The German wireless operators were using lower frequencies as these had been intercepted by Amateur operators whose knowledge was then used by Room 40. The ‘Y’ stations were continually checking all frequencies for transmissions as they were now aware of the German changes and as they covered a complete frequency band scan they would have easily revealed the station broadcasting from Dublin. The British were already aware that there had been contact between the Irish rebels and the German military and the intercepted messages had led to the seizing of the Aud off Kerry and further military activity occurred during the Rising.

The Germans were also active in the monitoring business and one of the most prolific men in World War one who may have also monitored the broadcasts knowing that the wireless station was part of the rebellion plans was Wilhelm Canaris who operated in Spain using wireless to communicate with Berlin with information on shipping movements.

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The damage caused by both the rebels and the British attempting to stop either side from communicating with their other forces was immense. Edward Gomersall, the chief Post Office Engineer in Ireland noted that not only was the new telephone and telegraph facilities in the GPO destroyed and would have to be completely replaced but that main telephone and telegraph lines were cut in two or three places. Telegraph poles had been chopped down, wires cut, the instruments removed and smashed from offices, equipment in signal boxes along main railway lines had been damaged even underground cables had been served. During the rebellion when engineers were sent out to repair communication lines they were fired upon or intimidated. They would report to the army who would send men to protect the linesmen but the rebels would be further down the line cutting more cables.
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The station was imaginative and innovative especially of the period and it also set a precedent for rebellions in the future when leaders of various coup d’état place seizing the broadcasting stations as one of their main priorities.       

1 comment:

  1. Hi, where can I purchase this book?

    ReplyDelete