Swinging to you …. on 242

Radio Scotland


The Comet

Radio Scotland, which transmits music, entertainment and feature programmes every day to listeners not only in Scotland, but all over Great Britain and Europe, broadcasts from a ship moored off the West coast of Scotland.

This is the “Comet”, a former Irish lightship built at John Brown’s famous yard on the Clyde. She holds the technical equipment and transmitters, and the broadcasting team of station announcers, disc jockeys and technicians.

The “Comet” took up position off Dunbar, on the East Coast, in late December, 1965. Experts immediately boarded her to complete the installation of technical apparatus which had started earlier in the Channel Islands, and at ten minutes before midnight, on Hogmany, New Year’s Eve, 1965, Radio Scotland went on the air.

Paul Young, a youthful Edinburgh actor well-known for his appearances on the Scottish stage and television screen, made the opening announcement; Mr T. V. Shields, the managing director of City and County Commercial Radio (Scotland) Ltd., made a brief statement of the company’s intent, and offshore commercial radio had arrived in Scotland!

Within a matter of days Radio Scotland found itself well-established as a new and exciting entertainment medium covering an area much wider than was originally anticipated; one surprise reaction here was the amount of mail which began to pour in from the Scandinavian countries. Not only the Scots, but also the Norwegians, Swedes and Danes found themselves with a new station giving them the kind of programming they liked.

The primary target, however, was Scotland — and the Scots were quick to react, pouring in a flood of mail requesting that records be played for individuals, for factory workshops, for hospital patients, office and shop staffs. All over the country radio receivers were moved across the dial to 242 metres on the medium waveband, and Radio Scotland’s team of disc jockeys found themselves becoming national personalities.

A few months after transmissions began, Mr Shields, as executive in charge of the entire operation, found himself faced with a tremendous problem: Radio Scotland, heard clearly up and down the East Coast of Scotland, was not penetrating all sections of the West.

And round the north <of the United Kingdom went the “Comet”. Not without adventure — for there were storms and even a fire hazard at one stage — and not without success. For not long after the “Comet” was re-moored at her new station off Troon, in the Firth of Clyde, a survey carried showed that Radio Scotland mustered a listenership of FORTY EIGHT PER CENT of the adult population of Scotland.

This meant that not only had thousands of new listeners been gained in the vital, industrial areas of the West, but that those listeners in the East who were already Radio Scotland enthusiasts had retained their keenness for their very own station.

To-day Radio Scotland is a feature of Scottish life. Everywhere you go, you can hear the familiar “Black Bear” signature

Sackloads of correspondence flow in daily from steady listeners in Ireland, in Germany, Finland, Holland, Belgium and France.

The Comet

The man who ‘invented’ Radio Scotland

Radio Scotland


Tommy Shields
Mr. T. V. Shields

Mr T. V. Shields — known mostly as Tommy — is the managing director of City and County Commercial Radio (Scotland) Ltd. the man who created Radio Scotland from a dream, through phenomenal trials and tribulations, to reality.

He is a Glaswegian, a former newspaper reporter and war correspondent who became the owner of his own advertising agency in Glasgow.

During a spell as publicity manager for the dynamic millionaire, Lord Thomson of Fleet, he was preparing a biography of his employer and found out that the Thomson empire was founded on commercial radio.

Some years later, now a successful advertising man, he watched the start of offshore radio in Europe with interest, and began to plan a similar enterprise which would serve Scotland.

The station which swings to you on 242 is the result.

The task of raising capital, finding a ship and suitable transmitting equipment, and ensuring that the enterprise was legal and worthwhile, was not an easy one.

Tommy travelled hundreds of miles only to find that potential ships had sunk, had been claimed by people to whom the owners owed money, were too small or too large, or were dangerously rusty.

Working 16 hours a day, often as many as 20 hours a day, he nursed the “Comet” through the transitory period when it was a bare hull, stripped of light equipment, through the time when technicians swarmed over her like Lilliputians transforming a metal Gulliver, and through the marathon, nerve-wracking tows in which tugs took the “Comet” completely round the coast of Great Britain.

As well as supervising the mechanical installations, Mr Shields set up an administrative headquarters at Radio Scotland House, which is just off busy Byres Road, in the thriving west end of Glasgow, and organised programming and advertising sales divisions.

Despite his meticulous attention to the smallest business detail, he also found time — and still does find time — to personally reply to vast amounts of the correspondence which comes to Radio Scotland. He also handles personally the intricate arrangements necessary to operate airtime appeals for a wide range of Scottish charities.

For the technically-minded

Radio Scotland


The technical operation of Radio Scotland is recording studios, and the shipboard transmitting split into two distinct parts … the shore-based station.

The transmitters are mounted in the “Comet”, which is itself some 90ft. in length, and is of 500 tons displacement. Two diesel generators drive these transmitters, which are R.C.A. BIO J’s, employing the Ampliphase system of phase modulation.

Each transmitter develops 10,000 watts, and the transmitters feed via a combining network to the aerial. This gives a total power output of 20,000 watts, with the added facility that either transmitter can shut down for maintenance, and the service retained on half-power.

The recording studios, which are in Radio Scotland House, are equipped with a Pye sound-mixing desk and full recording facilities, enabling interviews, beat group and light entertainment shows to be pre-recorded and dispatched to the ship for transmission at scheduled programme times.