KEITH MATTHEW G0WYS A TRIBUTE
A true gentleman
Amateur Radio was his “lifetime hobby”, Marconi was his “obsession”. Both are combined in his extensive involvement with the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club and the Marconi Centre
From Cliff Malcolm,
Chairman of Poldhu Amateur Radio Club
When I heard of the sad loss of Keith Matthew I realised that there were so many facets and so many aspects of his life in amateur radio and the history of Guglielmo Marconi and there were others who had known him for longer than I, that a tribute should be produced for Club members to read.
Keith was the Secretary of the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club based at the Marconi Centre in Poldhu, near Mullion. He was probably the leading authority on the history of Guglielmo Marconi and will be irreplaceable in that role. His enthusiasm was great enough to enlist the support of many members from different disciplines in the field of electronics and communications. He taught and mentored many beginners in the hobby of Amateur Radio and coached them through the three exams to the full licence. As a physicist with a hands-on approach to teaching, Keith built many items of gear for the class and club. Keith, callsign G0WYS, will be remembered at each of the special Marconi radio events when we contact radio amateurs around the world even though he is now a Silent Key
Cliff Malcolm G3UYN
How the interest in physics and amateur radio began.
Keith’s mother thought it would be to Keith’s advantage if he learned to play the piano and she paid for him to receive private lessons. She thought being a schoolmaster would be a good profession and if he played the piano he could be the head and play piano at assembly.
Keith would go to the home of his piano teacher and played the scales and practice pieces that had been set for him. When the lesson was over, one suspects fairly rapidly, his teacher took him to his amateur radio shack and introduced him into the world of radio/wireless and this was to trigger his interest in all aspects of radio, construction, operating and electronics.
Some years later when his mother went to live with Keith and Vicki, she was outraged that she had spent good money on piano lessons only to be told about amateur radio. Keith pointed out that it had given him a lifelong hobby and sparked his interest in science and technology.
This interest was enhanced and developed when he went to London to visit family. His father took him out to museums and he especially remembered a visit to Greenwich Observatory. This developed his interest in all things scientific, the development of wireless/radio and the engineers who pioneered it. Especially, as Vicki puts it “his obsession with Marconi”.
On 7th October 1961 he obtained a Class B amateur licence. He and Vicki travelled the world between 1966 & 1971, teaching physics in both New Zealand and Australia but the call of Cornwall and especially Helston brought him back home. On moving to Helston, they lived in the appropriately named Marconi Close.
The one difficulty he had with getting his Class A licence was, surprisingly, his ability on the Morse key. Needless to say, the written paper had no problems for him. He managed to get an RSGB Morse test pass and obtained the Class A licence in 1992. Living in Helston with its deep Marconi connections, the Town Council having feted Marconi on a number of occasions and with Poldhu the famous Marconi site but 6 miles away it was not surprising that he joined the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club in 1993.
Poldhu ARC originated at a site at the Goonhilly Satellite Station and in the late 1980’s was offered the use of a disused WW2 Nissan hut and with much work and renewal became the HQ for the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club. Essentially the hut was arranged in three rooms. The operating room was in constant use on Club nights and on special occasions it was very busy indeed. Barry Barratt G3KDD made more than one linear amplifier and when Keith joined the club his radio engineering skills came to good use as the linear amplifiers seemed to have a habit of exuding the fumes of burned out capacitors or resistors. They often went home with Keith to be repaired.
Club chairman Carolyn Rule soon realised that Keith had the teacher’s skills in drawing up timetables, rosters and organising events and invited him to take on the role of club secretary.
Since becoming secretary of the club Keith ensured that a GB2GM Newsletter has been produced quarterly. At the start it was a fairly modest affair. Keith used his contacts at Helston School, and it was produced in hard copy there; the copies were left at the club, handed to members or put in the post to those who live at a distance.
As technology moved on he would gather articles, often cajoling regular contributors for copy, send them to Ginny Malcolm to be collated and put into pdf format and e-mailed to members. His own secretary’s report and Marconi exploits and travels being fully reported.
It will not surprise anyone that he agreed a major article for the next newsletter during the days before he became SK.
Joe Craig had promised Keith a piece about the December 12th, 2019 for the PARC Newsletter. On finding out that this tribute to Keith was to be produced Joe Craig VO1NA and David Barlow G3PLE decided to join forces and have jointly written the following as a tribute to Keith’s invaluable contribution in making every 12th December very special.
On 12th December 1901 Guglielmo Marconi and Kemp were at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland listening for the prearranged signal being sent from Poldhu. The signal was the letter ‘S’ in Morse code. The first transatlantic signal was received and once validated became the most important such signal in wireless history.
In 1961, 1971 and 1981 the event was celebrated by the Cornish Radio Amateur Club when they set up a station in the then Poldhu Hotel adjacent to the Wireless Field used for the transmission.
The hard work converting the Nissan hut in the former hotel car park being complete the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club took on the celebration of the 12th December and taking to the airwaves became an annual event.
Two years later Keith took part in his first 12th December celebration which in those days was a 12-hour event starting at 0800 GMT (as it was then). By the following year Keith was club secretary and would produce a stiff cardboard rota which members would complete to get operating slots. This would often be full by 12th December. Keith produced the rota sheet every year for the next 25 years.
VO1MRC 12th December 2019
Things got off to a late start last fall. Because Joe VO1NA was engaged in academic matters, there was less time to prepare for the commemorative contact. As usual, Keith G0WYS had done his part in coordinating the QSO with a cheerful email. Len Zedel and Joe had hoped to install a portable station at the university by stringing a wire from a physics classroom window and sending telegrams to Poldhu. Unfortunately, since the last such operation, these rooms had become labs and offices. By now, the physics head, Kris, WO0H felt it was a bit late to make alternate arrangements, so Joe offered to activate VO1MRC from Wireless Hill 20 km to the north of Signal Hill. On the evening of the 11th, an LF transmitter was activated to send the message ‘MARCONI’ using a BPSK mode known as EbNaut on 137.477 kHz. By the morning it had been received at DF6NM, DL0AO and fittingly by IZ7SLZ in Italy. Joe was cautiously optimistic on the morning of the 12th, considering the reliability of the 10m (half wave) monopole, the absence of sunspots and solar flux of only 71. Despite this, many callsigns were in the log that morning including a CW QSO with GB2GM. As 1600UTC approached, there was a VE3 on QRG, but GB2GM could be heard 1 kHz up. It was Cliff G3UYN and later David G3PLE who were loud and clear on the TS590 at VO1MRC. Once contact was established at 1600ut, the letter ‘S’ was sent and recorded. Telegrams of greetings sent from Len and Siu on behalf of their academic units. David relayed Keith’s regrets for being ‘under the wx’ and Joe, hoping this was minor, asked to relay his wishes for a speedy recovery and that a report of the day’s activities for Keith to include in the newsletter would be forthcoming. Sadly, Keith’s illness had become such that we did not hear his voice, but we knew he was listening. GB2GM – 12th December and Keith Matthew For 18 years Keith Matthew G0WYS has been the lynch pin and organiser of the most important day for both Poldhu Amateur Radio Club and the Marconi Radio Club of Newfoundland. 12th December 1901 was the day that Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic signal sent from Poldhu and received at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland. The day is marked annually by both Clubs from the site of both the transmission and its reception. The Morse letter ‘S’ being sent at the same time as it was in 1901.Keith made sure that the Marconi Centre, the home of Poldhu ARC was open for the day and operating on the amateur bands ensuring that as far as possible two or three amateur bands were manned by experienced operators, sometimes with assistance from club members, keeping the log books entered when the contacts were being made. This entailed organising up to 18 one-hour slots for operators and while these days some will operate for a number of hours the event still needs an administrator and Keith always worked to make everything run smoothly. While contacts were made with VO1MRC from GB2GM during the day preparations started at 1545UTC for the annual ritual of the formal exchange between the two sites and at 1555 UTC calls would be made, SSB to contact VO1MRC and at 1600 UTC the switch would be made to CW and the Morse key would send the three dots of the letter ‘S’. Keith on the microphone on 2018 12th December There have been years when the contact was hardly audible and other years when it has been near broadcast quality. Keith often handled both aspects of the call himself, however on some occasions, there were visiting or newly qualified radio amateurs and he would invite them to send the precious ‘S’ Morse signal, the act of the generous man that was Keith Matthew. The newly qualified radio amateur had probably been trained and taken through the exams by Keith. During 2019 Keith’s health was declining and the need for hospital surgery became a necessity. Keith decided he could not attend Poldhu Club for the 12th December and asked if David G3PLE would take over the important re-creation. Good contact was made, SSB and the letter ‘S’ sent, followed by the Poldhu Club Chairman Cliff G3UYN sending greetings. Keith was listening in from home to make sure it was done correctly. On ending proceedings, a QRP station VE1PTR/VO1 called VO1MRC and was also received at Poldhu not loud but readable and was delighted to make the contact with both stations. For the remainder of the day, GB2GM and VO1MRC worked many more stations on both sides of the Atlantic. This December, VO1MRC will operate again from Signal Hill and looks forward to a re-enactment in Keith’s memory.
The Physics teacher.
The highly respected physics teacher was in his element when on a Sunday afternoon he could be found in the club meeting room with three or four aspiring radio amateurs teaching the requirements of the Foundation, Intermediate or Advanced Radio examinations. He also used the facilities at Helston School for the Amateur Radio examination courses; these were advertised through Cornwall Council Adult Education brochures. He arranged for on air microphone contacts with other amateurs and would ask experienced amateurs to help give newly qualified operators experience.
His enthusiasm for the hobby saw him train well over 100 to full licences over the years at the Marconi Centre.
His ability to repair broken equipment and make replica Marconi exhibits was essential to both the Club and the Marconi Centre.
On one occasion he introduced Club members to amateur radio direction finding, demonstrated 2m DF aerials, organised a “fox hunt” (find the sending station) and promptly won the contest.
Keith and Vicki have family members in all continents it seems, and they went to visit them quite often. Further, and perhaps it was coincidence, that there was always a Marconi site that Keith wanted to visit not far away (or perhaps a bit further), sometimes the planned visits coincided with birthdays or anniversaries but nevertheless Vicki went along with him.
His visit to South Wellfleet, Chatham and Cape Cod, Massachusetts visiting the site from where the message from President Roosevelt to King George VII was relayed to Glace Bay then to Poldhu on January 18th, 1903 was the basis of a fine illustrated Poldhu Club night talk. His last visit to Canada included a visit to Glace Bay and was the subject of another club night talk.
Keith gives Glace Bay talk
St John’s Coast Guard Radio VON. Keith is pictured between two 5kW MF transmitters.
While out for a run one day, Joe Craig VO1NA noticed a brick amongst the ruins of the fever hospital used by Marconi in 1901, and mentioned it to Keith. We agreed it would be fitting for the Marconi Centre in Mullion to display an artefact of the transatlantic conquest. We also agreed that mailing a brick across the pond would be costly. Serendipitously, a commemorative helicopter flight presented an opportunity. As part of festivities following Canada Day, a brick was presented to the Marconi Radio Club of Newfoundland by Parks Canada on Signal Hill where VO1MRC was set up to relay the good news to Keith and his guests at GB2GM.
In 2015 Keith was approached by e-mail regarding a proposed round the world helicopter odyssey by a father and son to celebrate 150 years of confederation in Canada. He was asked if it would be possible to land the helicopter in the Wireless Field at Poldhu.
In addition to visiting all Canadian provinces the helicopter wanted to include historic sites involving Canada on its journey and, of course St. John’s and Poldhu were essential to the endeavour.
C150GO left Ottawa on July 1st, 2017. Arriving at St. John’s on 3rd July they took on their cargo of one over one-hundred-year-old brick. It was handed over with great ceremony.
The C100GO journey across Greenland was delayed by bad weather and the original plan to land at Poldhu and refuel at RNAS Culdrose was abandoned and Keith was told that they would land at Truro he went there only to find that C100GO was at Newquay. He drove to Newquay in time to receive the BRICK. Vicki was left at home in charge of communications.
C100GO took off for an important engagement in London but not before it had completed the link between St. Johns and Poldhu by overflying the Marconi Centre.
Keith receives the BRICK.
The next 12 December event, Keith was again on the air at GB2GM with VO1MRC on Signal Hill to confirm the safe delivery of the brick by the valiant pilots and to copy an official telegram from the Government of Canada marking 150 years of confederation and the part played by Poldhu in the celebrations.
Other annual events.
Keith was very keen that Poldhu ARC marked and celebrated significant milestones in the development of wireless and Marconi anniversaries. He ensured it was on air for 18th January, the anniversary of the first two way transmission across the Atlantic Ocean.
The club also was a major participant in International Marconi Day under his guidance. It always takes place on the Saturday closest to April 25th, Marconi’s birthday.
Being a true Cornishman Keith was very active on air with the special prefix for Cornwall and on St. Piran’s day was at the Club operating GK3MPD and at home with GK0WYS.
He assisted Robin M0RRX with the very special GB50AML at Goonhilly for the Apollo 11 Moon landing celebrations.
To mark Poldhu’s role at the start and end of World War 1 special events GB100ZZ and GB100MPD saw Keith at the microphone and involved in the administration of both events. ZZ and MPD were the call signs used at Poldhu during WWI.