Guglielmo Marconi caused a communications sensation when he transmitted wireless messages from his station at Poldhu in Cornwall to Newfoundland on 12th December 1901. Having received a grant of $80,000 from the Canadian Government to build a station at Glace Bay in Nova Scotia, he commenced the task of perfecting wireless communication with Poldhu from late 1902. He experienced extreme difficulty in providing commercially viable communications and decided to move his easterly station as far west as possible and decided on Clifden (Derrigimlagh) after making tests at a number of sites.
The station was not officially opened until 17th October 1907, when commercial signalling commenced between Clifden and Glace Bay. It was a sight to behold, with the huge condenser house building, the power house with its 6 boilers, and the massive aerial system consisting of 8 wooden masts, each 210 feet high extending eastwards over the hill for a distance of 0.5 kilometres. The aerials gave off sparks which could be heard in the distance, indicative of the huge power and voltages involved (150KW at 15,000 volts).
As time moved on, advances were made in the technology and a more powerful station was built at Caernarfon in North Wales. The Clifden station was attacked by republican forces in July 1922 and some buildings were damaged. The Marconi Company sought compensation from the new Free State government, but this did not materialise. The station was closed shortly after.
The remains of the station have lain dormant since the contents were sold for scrap after the closure. Employees of the station have passed away and regrettably, little has been done to record the details of what was a great industrial enterprise of the 20th century. The Clifden and Connemara Heritage Society are currently planning on developing the site for the public to enjoy. It is expected that this will become a major tourist attraction in a beautiful landscape.
Text courtesy of Shane Joyce
Photos: Marconi with original desktop transmitter c. 1896 (above) / original station buildings c. 1907 courtesy of The Marconi Company