Storytellers – Charles Maclurcan ‘Wound Up the Cat and Put the Clock Out’

Charles Maclurcan

Many of those present at the March meeting were brought up listening to the radio. In England popular broadcasts like The Archers, Mrs Dale’s Diary, and those wonderful comedy shows such as Kenneth Horne, The Goons and my favourite Tony Hancock’s ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ ( … who of course had that wonderful episode THE RADIO HAM) were remembered fondly. Radio was the common factor and our Storyteller for the night was the grandson of one of the real radio pioneers Charles D Maclurcan, engineer, businessman, hotelier and a pioneer in the development of wireless radio in Australia from his grandson, John Maclurcan.

Storyteller supporter Judith Pearson kindly recommended John as a speaker describing him as ‘an interesting character and never lost for words’. To say John is ‘an interesting character’ is an example of English understatement. John possesses a great knowledge of Mosman, vintage cars and is the brains behind the current handicap system for all yachts in Australia and much more.
John is also an historian and has written some significant books on his unique family and found in his spare time to have write books on the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron where he is the youngest ever Life Member.

John was joined by Jane Arakawa, a producer and presenter on Northside radio 99.3, who had produced a radio documentary on Charles Maclurcan.

For those members and guests that braved the foul weather it was a most entertaining and educational evening to see how far Radio has come. We were treated to a well prepared tale delivered by John without any notes, though accompanied by a selection of photos and audios which included a 12 minute radio interview with Charles Maclurcan in 1944. Everyone marvelled at Charles’s beautiful diction. We also listened to a famous stage celebrity of the day Josie Melville who had broadcast for Charles to a lot of fanfare – we had a little sing along to “look for the silver lining’.

John with Jane at the control panels

John touched on some wonderful facts about ‘Grandpa’ being issued with the very first radio licence in Australia in 1921 for station 2CM. This broadcast from the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney (with landmark aerial erected by Charles), owned by the Maclurcan family, and Charles also broadcast popular classical music concerts every Sunday night. Radio 2CM was the first radio station in Australia to publish a regular program guide and Charles was clearly good at generating publicity, because his first broadcast resulted in over 2000 letters from enthusiastic listeners.

In fact 2CM could trace its heritage back to a morse code station, XDM, which began broadcasting in 1911 and established numerous long distance records such as being heard in New Zealand with a power of 0.0037 watts.

During the war Charles’s expertise was put to good use ‘undercover’ with ship to shore transmissions.

Jane spoke about how some of Charles Maclurcan’s equipment is currently held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and also on display at the Radio Museum at Kurrajong, NSW. She also mentioned that if you wished 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.
Many thanks to John for his most interesting presentation accompanied by Jane looking very much at home at the control panels managing the photos and audios.

Some interesting links:

Kurrajong Radio Museum 842 Bells Line of Road, Kurrajong Hills

Northside radio 99.3 – Jane Arakawa time slots – “The long way home” Thursday 16:00 and “The Brekky Club” Friday 06:00

https://www.cbaa.org.au/article/australian-radio-pioneer-northside-radio-sydney

You’ll also enjoy watching Tony Hancock’s Radio Ham which can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJ2EoM2t6Uw

As Charles Maclurcan would sign-off on his radio show…

‘Wound Up the Cat and Put the Clock Out’