Of Mice and Men - Portable Operation in EI Click here to go back to the home page

by Gary Hyde, G7LXK

It was some years ago now that my Uncle Tom (G2AVY) got me interested in radio with my first short wave receiver when I was 12yrs old. I first went to El to see him & my Aunt Amity just after we got married in 1989, but I was not licensed then. Since then I’ve been planning to go back and take the radio gear, to try to re-kindle his interest in amateur radio since he gave up his license (in the sixties, I think).

The EI/G7LXK QTH in Corofin, County Clare (IO53).The EI/G7LXK QTH in Corofin, County Clare (IO53).

So it was that this year after a bit of humming & hawing that I decided to go and visit. After placing a mail on the UKSMG web-site announcements page of my intention to activate IO53, although only four people seemed to want this rare square. At this point I must thank Don G3JHM for pointing me in the right direction about the licence - without that it would all have been in vain.

Unfortunately Murphy had it in for me from the off! The week before we were due to leave, I was made redundant with one week’s notice and I had to hand back my company car on the Friday before we travelled. This was rectified by a visit to the MD’s office, to call in the favour that he owed me I had saved him a lot of money in the previous years. It was agreed that I could keep the car for an extra week so the trip was still on.

Luckily, over the years l had given my uncle several radio-related things for Christmas presents, like an antenna rotator, two-metre nine-element beam, T&K brackets, coax etc. So most of the basics were in place, although I still needed a six-metre beam (thanks to G3SYC for loaning me his two-element portable beam) and a two-metre radio and TNC for the packet link (thanks to G3ZRS for that). My trusty ICOM 706 would be the prime mover for the band, so all set, a quick check to make sure it all worked and we were in business.

Saturday morning soon came and we were all packed and prepared with sandwiches and drinks for the journey. I had left enough time to travel to Holyhead with time to spare but Murphy struck again. Around Manchester, on the M62, we were caught up in standing traffic for 40minutes and then we had a late nature call which took 20 minutes, due to my son not being able to make his mind up if he wanted a No2 or No3! So the extra hour I had allowed had gone, making things pretty tight by this time. So with the pedal to the metal we set off - "Warp Factor 10 Scotty!"

Unfortunately, Murphy still had a couple of cards up his sleeve for me. MORE road works, MORE standing traffic on the way through Anglesey - I could not believe it. The HSS ferry was booked for 13:55 and we had to be there at least 30 minutes before for security clearance. I kept on looking at my watch and getting more & more flustered by the second. I thought I was going to explode. I kept on asking my wife Dawn to ring the shipping company on the mobile phone to find out what was the latest time we could check in, but no use - 30 minutes and no later was the answer.

We arrived at 13:45, 20 minutes too late even though the HSS ferry was still there in berth - we were too late for security reasons! But we secured a place on the next sailing, which was on the slow ferry which took four hours to do the crossing and set off at 15:00hrs. By the way, it really takes a lot to unsettle me but I had reached that point already; so l had a cooling-down period and rang Tom to let him know that we would be late by some four hours.

On arriving in Dublin at 19:00hrs, we set off on the last leg of the journey. My uncle lives on the west coast of Ireland 180 miles away, which does not seem all that far but unless you have travelled the N7 you really don’t know what its like. Thankfully, the roads weren’t that busy so we arrived in Corofin, County Clare (IO53) at 22:45.

Our arrival after dark put paid to my three hours of setting up the kit on Saturday night, so it all had to be done early Sunday morning and all the skeds I had arranged were missed - SORRY.

A quick description of the location, which was a sleepy small village surrounded by hills and quarries. My Uncle’s place is at the bottom of a small valley, with the terrain rising up from around 160 degrees through to 90 degrees; the only clear take- off was at about 115 degrees. To the south is a high hill, which is being quarried but it will be some time before the hill goes away!

On checking the GB3MCB beacon as I was told to, I could not hear anything. To the north east there was yet another hill, this time a little further away but still too close. GB3ANG beacon, nothing - a little disheartening to say the least.

So by the time I was ready to ‘Rock & Roll’ it was well after lunch and on checking the video frequencies around 48.250 MHz were starting to buzz but CQ after CQ brought no response so I left it until tea time when I felt that conditions would be better.

After tea I called CQ again on 50.110 (naughty but when you can’t hear anybody anywhere it is the only place to raise some trade). I was called straight away by SQ9ACE 57 each way into J090, the first in the log! The next morning I was up early to try and catch the guys I had made skeds with, but nothing at all so off to breakfast.

Gary, G7LXK and his son in the shack - at 90 Fahrenheit!Gary, G7LXK and his son in the shack - at 90 Fahrenheit!

All over the previous evening the mobile phone had good full-scale signal, but as soon as we parked up in the drive you could see the signal dropping off to ZERO. The only way to get any kind of reception was to stand on the garage roof on a pair of steps and even then it was iffy! So trying to arrange skeds by GSM was out really and the only way was by land-line. I did not like asking Tom so I made one phone call, to G3SYC (whose number was the only one I could remember as I had left my phone book at home - Murphy again!) to inform the cluster of my predicament. I hear you say well why not use the two-metre packet link you borrowed from G3ZRS to do that? Well I would have, but due to a mismatch between TNC lead and rig I could not get the TNC wired to match the Kenwood radio lent to me!

My operating activity was late afternoon through early evening due to the hot weather. The shack had cooled to a comfortable 90 F, hence no T-shirt worn during operating (try not to laugh too much at the photo).

On the 12th I quickly tuned through the band and heard lots of European stations. I tuned to 50.135 and called CQ there. This CQ call was quickly answered by a flurry of stations from Germany & Poland; all the signals were nearly 59 so no problem in hearing anyone, most notably six stations from OZ worked more or less in succession which would be quite rare from my home location in 1093.

The morning of the 13th saw rain, so out I went to the shack to tune around and prepare for the day’s activity. I had arranged that I would listen for G station skeds from 06:00 onwards, with MS sequence, 1st minute call etc.. Nothing until I heard G0JHC at 07:06 at RS 31 tropo. By turning the beam all ways I found the optimum to be slightly to the edge of the hills to the north east, scattering the signal. I stayed in the shack until mid morning but only worked seven stations all day with no propagation in the afternoon or evening.

The 14th was the last day with yet another early start at 06:00. An hour later G4KCT came creeping through at 51, again by tropo, followed by G3SYC 519 on CW. I stayed there until 07:30 when I closed down and called it day.

All the European contacts were made by Es and the UK ones by tropo. A total of 86 QSO’s, 17 countries and 42 locator squares:


G 3

GI 1

GW 1

El 4

I 22 (all on 11th)

DL 11 (all on 12th)

9A 3

S5 2

OE 1

OK 1

OZ 8

SP 15

F 1

HB9 3

CT 3

EH 3

SM 4


JO 21

JN 14

IO 4

IN 2

IM 1

Thank you once again to all those who helped on the trip with advice, equipment loans and of course to all you guys for giving me some excuse to get away from the family for a few hours a day.

Hopefully, this trip will have spurred my uncle on to re-applying for his licence. One day we may hear him on the magic band and that would really be magic!

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