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Location Map radiosthelena [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Radio St Helena

The voice of the island for 45 years

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

Radio St Helena broadcast to St Helena and the world for 45 years.

This page is in indexes: Island History, Island Detail

Architecture [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Other radio station pages:

• S.A.M.S. Radio 1

• S.A.M.S. Radio 2

• Saint FM Community Radio

Closed Stations

• Saint FM (2004-2012)

• S.A.M.S. Pure Gold

Other

• Amateur (‘Ham’) Radio

See also a History of radio on St Helena

Below: The DWS testsThe ‘St Helena Government Broadcasting Station’ - aka ‘Radio St Helena’Station staff and othersEquipment & TransmissionOutside BroadcastsRadio St Helena DayQSL: nine years late!‘Teabag’Audio ClipsFluffs, and other problems…ClosedownMemories of local radio on St HelenaFundingRead More

Radio broadcasting began in America in 1920 and in the UK in 1922, but it wasn’t until 1967 that it reached St Helena…

Radio St Helena bumper sticker [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio St Helena bumper sticker

The DWS tests

The concept of what became Radio St Helena was apparently born following a discussion in 1965 at the island Golf Club between islander George Lawrence and two members of the Diplomatic Wireless Station (DWS) engineering section, George Barratt and Roland Whiting. The thought was that a local station could provide local news and maybe entertainment. As a result, George Lawrence approached the Government of St Helena to see if it would fund the venture, which after consultation with London it eventually agreed to do. The DWS agreed to provide the technical assistance, and so the project was born.

DWRS Mk214 device [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
DWRS MK214{a} transmitter{9}

The DWS did not actually posess, at that time, suitable transmitters. Two DWRS Mk214 devices were sourced second-hand from Northern Ireland{10} and shipped over. Once here they were set to 1511KHz (200 metres) - the Mk214 normally operated above 2MHz - and set up at Longwood Farm House with two long bamboo poles to hold up the antenna. Tests began on 11th March 1967. The St Helena News Rewiew carried the following announcement:

Begining Friday 11th March there will be a local experimental transmission to test reception throughout the island. It can be heard on 200 metres, 1511 kilocycles in the medium wave band.

It was soon identifed that the location at Longwood Farm House was not ideal for reaching the whole of St Helena. A higher and more central location was needed. Space was found beside the ‘Country School’{11}, then occupied by a forest of white-ant dilapidated blackwood trees which were cleared and the building that was to house Radio St Helena for the whole of its life was constructed, at a cost of £5,500{12}. On 8th April 1967 the St Helena News Review reported:

A Government broadcasting station is being constructed in the grounds adjacent to the Country Senior School and should be in operation by mid 1967.

Test transmissions continued during August, September and October 1967. The test transmission schedule can be read here (24.8Kb). Notably, on Saturday 19th August 1967 the test-station broadcast the island’s first live musical performance: a band called the ‘Hellbeats’ (Kevin Yon, Norman Yon, George Stevens and Desmond Leo) performed in the corridor outside the studio; broadcast as part of ‘Variety Hour’

The station began official broadcasting on 14th October 1967, relaying programmes from the BBC World Service and with ‘Variety Hour’ on Saturdays from 5pm-6pm presented by Rex Duncan.

The station proved popular and transistor radios soon became in high demand.

The ‘St Helena Government Broadcasting Station’ - aka ‘Radio St Helena’

Late 1970s: Stedson Francis [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Late 1970s: Stedson Francis
1984: Studio equipment [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
1984: Studio equipment{13}
1995: Joy Lawrence, reading the news [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
1995: Joy Lawrence, reading the news
2006: Ralph Peters [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
2006: Ralph Peters
2008: Gary Walters [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
2008: Gary Walters

1984: Governor Massingham on air [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
1984: Governor Massingham on air
1992: Radio St Helena on a commemorative stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
1992: Radio St Helena on a commemorative stamp{14}
1995: Tony Leo in the studio [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
1995: Tony Leo in the studio
2006: Laura Lawrence on-air [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
2006: Laura Lawrence on-air

On Christmas Day, 25th December 1967, at 09:45h the ‘St Helena Government Broadcasting Station’ was officially opened by Governor John Field. Following the opening, at 09:55h, the first programme was ‘Bells & Carols’, followed at 10:05h by ‘Murphy’s Christmas Dinner’ and at 10:50h by ‘Down Main Street’ featuring a visit to the Hospital in Jamestown. At 11:20 Roland Whiting (one of the DWS engineers) presented ‘Christmas with Cliff Richard’.

Although legally registered as the ‘St Helena Government Broadcasting Station’, the station was always referred to on the island as ‘Radio St Helena’{15}, or even just (until Saint FM started) ‘The Radio Station’.

Radio St Helena Logo [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Originally part of the island’s Education Service, broadcasts for schools took place on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:30am to 12noon. The broadcast was first presented by Alan Johns, then Education Officer. Eric George was sent overseas on a teaching course and was also asked to do a crash course in the broadcasting of education programmes for schools on the island. Most of the programmes were bought from the BBC Transcription Services in the UK on vinyl records. All schools were issued with portable battery wooden boxed Pye radios to receive the transmission. A few years later this was taken over by the new Education Officer, Arnold Flagg.

From the middle of 1968 regular entertainment programmes began to be broadcast on Saturday afternoons from 3pm to 6pm by George Lawrence, with a programme entitled ‘Records around the Island’. This was followed by Rex Duncan on a Sunday afternoon with ‘Dunk’s Juke Box’. On 8th January 1969 Gary Price and Peter Gamble started broadcasting a musical request show every fortnight on Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm. At this time the station was bombarded by requests from individuals to ‘do a show’ and hence the ‘Voluntary Producers’ were born - unpaid amateurs whose programmes supplemented those of the paid staff. By the end of 1969 the station was broadcasting every day of the week, mostly from 8pm to 10pm; program content included a mixed selection of music, a sports program, a written response quiz (riddles) for the younger listeners and phone-in competitions, where some of the prizes were sponsored.

Some time later local programmes were being broadcast between 3pm and 10pm Monday to Friday. The studios were refitted in April 1978.
Download the weekly programme schedule for June 1986 (157.2Kb).

With effect from October 1999 the Government of St Helena passed control of Radio St Helena to a new body which it created - the St Helena News Media Service (SHNMS){34}.

From 2nd October 2000 Radio St Helena moved to a full-day schedule - the station opened at 7am with ‘Thought for the day’ and local news, and programming finished at 10pm with a repeat of ‘Thought for the day’ and another local news broadcast. You can read a detailed schedule (65.2Kb) from August 2001..

Initially the BBC World Service News was broadcast at 8pm each day, taken off-air using two receivers tuned directly to London. This continued until 2001 when the BBC sent satellite equipment allowing Radio St Helena to retransmit digital quality, direct from the BBC African Service.

Programmes were a mixture of music and talk. Talk programmes featured interviews with people who were considered worthy of attention. As befits its ownership, prominence was given to government personnel but not exclusively so. Topics of local interest were also covered, but the station was recognised as taking a largely pro-government line and tended to avoid controversial issues.

For many years on the Sunday before Christmas, family and friends from abroad had the opportunity to send Christmas greetings and messages via Radio St Helena, live on air on the Christmas Connection programme, presented by Stedson Francis. Sadly the messages were only one way - Radio St Helena could only be received on-island, except during exceptional tansmission conditions (see the Article, below) or on Radio St Helena Day.

Advert in The Herald [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Although Radio St Helena employed paid presenters, a lot of the broadcasting, particularly in the evenings and at weekends, was done by unpaid ‘Voluntary Producers’. Many of these were regulars; Stedson Francis, for example, was a voluntary producer for some 43 years, right up to the station’s closure.

COUNTRY EXPRESS
This one-hour programme, filled with mixture of the older type country music, western swing and country comedy, first went on-air on 5th May 1990 and over the past seven months or so, has attracted a large listening audience. The Producer/Presenter is Rick Spurlin, who, we are sorry to say, will be presenting his 37th and final Country Express tomorrow evening from 7 to 8 o.clock. Rick, unfortunately will shortly be completing his work with the Geodetic Survey here in St Helena and will be heading home at the end of this month, which means that Radio St Helena will loose a valuable Voluntary Producer who has spent many hours in preparing and presenting some “mighty fine shows”. In addition to thanking him for his contribution over the past seven months, Radio St Helena also wishes him all the best for the future. In your own words Rick - “May the good Lord take a likin’ to ya and may you live as long as you want, but never want as long as you live.” The Country Express Show will continue however, in the capable hands of an old friend of Radio St Helena, Mr Ambrose Henry. Ambrose will be on the air at 7pm on Saturday, 19th January.
St Helena News, 1991

Station managers over the years were: Tony Leo (from creation of the post in May 1973 to 2002); Ralph Peters (2002-2006); Laura Lawrence (2006-2008); Gary Walters (2008-2011); Ralph Peters (2011-closedown).

Radio St Helena took its position as the island’s sole broadcaster quite seriously. Hence the following notice, dated 1995 and displayed in the studio:

Instructions to all presenters and voluntary producers.
The following records are banned from transmission: French Kiss; Leap up and down with your knickers in the air; Push it; My Ding-A-Ling; Je t’aime...;
Failure to comply with this request will result in further action being taken.
Thanking you.
Anthony Leo, Station Manager.

Station staff and others

Shown below are a variety of photographs of Radio St Helena in action.

Probably from around 1978. From left to right (back) Bert Constantine; Eric George (Officer in Charge of RSH); Len Joshua; Stedson Francis; (front) Tony Leo (Station Manager); Derek Francis; Cynthia Bennett; Vincent March; Geoffrey Francis [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Probably from around 1978. From left to right
(back) Bert Constantine; Eric George (Officer in Charge of RSH); Len Joshua; Stedson Francis;
(front) Tony Leo (Station Manager); Derek Francis; Cynthia Bennett; Vincent March; Geoffrey Francis

Eric Joshua presents the ‘Go Go Show’, c.1976 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Eric Joshua presents the ‘Go Go Show’, c.1976

Les Hartley with Eric Joshua, c.1976 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Les Hartley with Eric Joshua, c.1976

Dave Baker, assistant To Eric Joshua, c.1976 {1} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Dave Baker, assistant To Eric Joshua, c.1976{1}

Tony Leo, c.1980 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Leo, c.1980

Tony Leo, 1980s [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Leo, 1980s

Manfred Rippich, c.2000 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Manfred Rippich, c.2000{b}

Tony Leo with Dave Clarke, 2001 {2} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Leo with Dave Clarke, 2001{2}

Angela, 2003 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Angela, 2003

2nd studio scene, 2003 {3} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
2nd studio scene, 2003{3}

Robin Richards, 2006 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Robin Richards, 2006

Jane John, 2006 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Jane John, 2006

Bert and Laura, 2006 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Bert and Laura, 2006

Gary Waters, 2007 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Gary Waters, 2007

Steve Terry, 2007 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Steve Terry, 2007

Ralph and Hazel Peters, 2008 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Ralph and Hazel Peters, 2008

Maria and Louisa Francis, 2010 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Maria and Louisa Francis, 2010

Stedson Francis, 2012 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Stedson Francis, 2012

Radio St Helena schedule for 10-16th March 2012 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio St Helena schedule for 10-16th March 2012

Your haunting and much loved tender music breaks the dismal and unsought for silence of the dark and lonely lingering nights.
And the word of cheer and wisdom breaks through the sky and hills to rain on my patient and waiting self.

Tony, your Evening Shuttle brings to me the things I need and want to know.
How much darker would this Island be without the beacon of your informing voice.

And dear Ralph, how I look forward to your voice sailing on the night radio waves.
I tremble to your husky, pleasant tones that strips away my fears and tears.

And Derek I don’t care much for sport but still I like and listen to your views.
So keep on with the good work you are doing by giving us the sports and world news.

And you sweet Joy, how I look forward to your Music songs and pleasant dulcet voice.
For each song or tune you chance the play strikes for me a chord down memory lane.

And now a word for all those lovely people who fill the vacant and lonely hours.
Remember I and others are out there listening sharing with you your thoughts and deeds.

To all, my grateful thank you for the goodness and wondrous work you do and to remind you, your efforts are worthwhile for you bring happiness and sometimes a wistful smile.

By Dorothy Crowie, published in the St Helena News, 17th December 1993

Equipment & Transmission

When the station opened in 1967 the only equipment it posessed was a (2nd hand) 4-channel General Electric mixer which ran at 110 volts and hence needed a step-down transformer; two Decca transcription turntables; two Ferrograph 2-track tape recorders; and a small ribbon microphone. This equipment remained in use until 1976 when it was upgraded by two Diplomatic Wireless Station (DWS) staff: Bob Dray & Mike Meaden. The staff of the DWS provided free maintenance and technical support for the station up until the DWS closed in 1977.

Original studios {4} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Original studios{4}

The original studio [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
The original studio

The studio after the 1976 upgrade [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
The studio after the 1976 upgrade

 

The original 214 transmitters, c.1976 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
The original 214 transmitters, c.1976{17}
Tony Leo with the 214s, c.1980 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Leo with the 214s, c.1980

The Equipment Room, c.2010 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
The Equipment Room, c.2010
Antennas, L-R: New SW antenna; OB Receiver (on roof); MW antenna (only 1 pole); BBC Satellite receiver [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Antennas, L-R: New SW antenna; OB Receiver (on roof); MW antenna (only 1 pole); BBC Satellite receiver
Better view of the MW antenna [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Better view of the MW antenna

There were problems at first because the electricity supply to the Pouncey’s area was inadequate to supply the station’s transmitters as well as the houses and school nearby. At times the supply voltage would fall to the point where the transmitters shut down. Listeners got used to the station just dropping out with no warning. This remained a problem until the power supply to the area was upgraded, some years later.

When it was first opened the station operated on the frequency 1511KHz (200 metres) in the medium wave band, originally using the two DWS Mk214 transmitters and later two Marconi 500w transmitters, one in use and one on standby. The frequency changed to 1548KHz (194 metres) on 1st November 1978, bringing it into line with global radio frequency agreements.

In 1993 the transmitters were upgraded to two 1992 Harris Gates One units, each with an output of 1Kw to provide better coverage. However, despite this, Radio St Helena was never received in upper Sandy Bay due to being in the radio shadow of the Diana’s Peak range.

The antenna towers were refurbished in 1995 and an extra 3m was added to their height. As a result the station was off-air from Monday 4th December until Wednesday 6th December, recommencing on the Wednesday with a test transmission at 17:30h and normal programming from 18:00h.

Radio St Helena remained an AM-only station throughout its life. Earlier it was believed that, due to the many deep valleys on St Helena, island-wide coverage on FM would be impossible to achieve, but when Saint FM launched in 2005 and achieved just that with only four transmitters, requests were made for funding to switch Radio St Helena to FM also. These were denied by the Government of St Helena. Similary plans were presented to expand coverage overseas with an Internet relay, again following Saint FM, but funding for this was also not granted.

The receiving and transmitting antennae are shown in the photographs (right).

The diagram below shows how the MW antenna worked:

MW antenna workings [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Radio St Helena seen from High Knoll Fort [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio St Helena seen from High Knoll Fort, c.2005

Outside Broadcasts

Agricultural Show 1989 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Very early on it was realised that true local radio did not just come from the studio. To capture the life of St Helena it was necessary to go out to where the action was and relay live what was going on. The first live coverage was a Carol Service from St. Paul’s Cathedral, broadcast in 1972. The first true outside broadcast came in February 1974, when Radio St Helena broadcast live commentary of a football game on Francis Plain, from 14:45-16:35. The image (right) shows the broadcast desk for the 1989 Agricultural Show{18}:

Some of the early equipment left a lot to be desired. Tony Leo remembers attempting an Outside Broadcast from St. Paul’s Cathedral (only about 300m from the studio):

This was in the days when no one knew exactly how it should be done, and it was also the time when equipment for something like this was not around. For the audio feed we used a roll of ordinary electricity cable on a spool and wired two audio connectors at the end. One went into a Ferrograph tape recorder that was used as an amp at the radio station and the other was placed in the output of another recorder in the church. The recorder in the church was put in record pause mode. The signal was horrible but the service could be heard. There were three microphones in place in the church but only one input in the recorder, so it was a matter of pulling out one mic and quickly pushing in another as quick as you could without making a noise and at the same time capturing all that was said.

In early 1990 a vehicle was purchased and converted as an Outside Broadcast Unit. The ‘Radio Bus’ contained a mixing desk and a transmitter, with a tall (but retractable) antenna mounted on the roof. This transmitted to a receiver on High Knoll Fort and thence by relay to the studios at Pouncey’s. The photographs below show the Radio Bus in use at the visit of the Queen Mary II in 2010.

 

Radio Bus, on the Wharf [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio Bus, on the Wharf

Gary Walters [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Gary Walters

Mike Olsson at the controls in 2002 {5} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Mike Olsson at the controls in 2002{5}

Tony Moore at the controls in 2009 {6} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Moore at the controls in 2009{6}

Antenna deployed {7} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Antenna deployed{7}

Antenna again [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Antenna again

Tony Leo, on the bus roof [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Tony Leo, on the bus roof

Radio Bus at an event, 1995 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio Bus at an event, 1995

Recording at The Wharf, 1993 {8} [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Recording at The Wharf, 1993{8}

Gary Walters interview [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Gary Walters interview

Everybody remembers that Radio St Helena re-broadcast the BBC World Service, but it may have been forgotten that, with Radio St Helena’s help, the BBC World Service once broadcast from St Helena!

On Sunday 21st May 1989 - St Helena’s Day - an address by Assistant Education Officer Lilian Crowie given at St. Paul’s Cathedral was broadcast to the world by the BBC World Service.

Radio St Helena Day

Shortwave broadcast 2008 QSL Card [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Shortwave broadcast 2008 QSL Card
QSL requests, from 2008 RSD [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
QSL requests, from the 2008 RSD
Shortwave broadcast 2009 QSL Card [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Shortwave broadcast 2009 QSL Card

Radio St Helena also broadcast internationally on shortwave (11092.5KHz) on one evening a year: ‘Radio St Helena Day’.

A series of shortwave tests were carried out on frequencies of 6100KHz and 11830KHz using an RCA ET4336 transmitter during August-December 1973, the main objective being to reach Ascension Island and give St Helena residents there the opportunity to keep in contact with home; these tests were not satisfactory and the plan was abandoned.

Broadcasts on 11092.5KHz started in 1990 on 6th October. The equipment used was a Redifon G423B (1,500 Watt) short-wave transmitter owned and operated by Cable & Wireless{19}, as part of its marine radio service ‘Saint Helena Radio’, located at 15°57’33”S 5°43’08.8”W (The Briars Antenna site). Thereafter transmissions were made on 23rd Oct 1992, 15th Oct 1993, 14th Oct 1994, 27th Oct 1996, 26th Oct 1997 and 24th Oct 1998. But in 1999, due to the age of the equipment and unavailability of spare parts it was withdrawn from service and the 23rd October 1999 Radio St Helena Day was thought to be the last; afterwards the old transmitter and the complete antenna system and towers were scrapped. Over 750 reception reports were logged for this broadcast.

Radio St Helena’s new SW antenna [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio St Helena’s new SW antenna
TX (mid. left) & 1Kw Power Amp. (mid. right) [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
TX (mid. left) & 1Kw Power Amp. (mid. right)

Radio St Helena Day was revived in 2006, using a small Amateur radio SW Transmitter boosted to 1,000 watts. This involved building a new antenna, with 12m tower (the 3-element monoband steerable Yagi in the picture) at the RSH studios, 5°42’35.2”W, 15°56’33.3”S. QSL Card requests for this broadcast were received from Japan, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Canada, UK, USA, Finland, Italy-Sicily, Denmark, France, Holland, Alaska and the Falkland Islands.

Radio St Helena Day was repeated in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The schedule (for 2009) was:

20:00

-

21:00 

India; Southeast Asia

21:00

-

22:00 

Japan; Asia

22:00

-

23:30 

Europe

23:30

-

01:00 

North America; Central America; Caribbean

While Station Manager, Gary Walters set up a display board so that staff and visitors could see the success of the RSD international shortwave broadcasts (photo, below). Worthy of mention is Noah Price, probably Radio St Helena Day’s youngest listener: Noah had received two RSH QSL cards by the time he was one year old. His parents, Steve and Heather Price, and he live near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, USA. Their reception report can be seen in the top left of the picture (Noah on his father’s knee).

High winds destroyed the SW antenna in September 2010, shortly before the planned 2010 RSH Day. It was never repaired.

For more about these broadcasts see www.sthelena.se/radioproject.

Display board [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Gary Walters’ RSH Day display board

QSL: nine years late!

2006 Radio St Helena Day QSL Card [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

In February 2015 this website was contacted by Brian D. Smith from amateur radio station W9IND in Greenwood, Indiana, U.S.A. Brian said he had found an old recording he had made of the 2006 Radio St Helena Day Shortwave broadcast{20}, and asked if we could put him in touch with anyone from Radio St Helena to send him a QSL card.

Of course, Radio St Helena had closed down two years earlier, but fascinated by this request, we contacted Ralph Peters and Tony Leo, both former Station Managers, to see if they could help. They both searched their archives but neither of them had a 2006 QSL Card (they were different each year) or even an image of one.

Then we found one, care of Robert Kipp in Germany, the enthusiast whose technical support and loan of transmitting equipment made the 2006 and subsequent Radio St Helena Days possible. He emailed us a good-quality image of the card.

So Brian Smith sent me an .mp3 file of his recording, an extract from which appears in the Audio Clips section{21}, and moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]Moonbeams Shop printed up mailed him the QSL Card with reception confirmation, on behalf of the former station.

So Brian got his QSL Card, albeit nine years late!

‘Teabag’

‘Teabag’, the Radio St Helena cat, in April 2009 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
‘Teabag’, the Radio St Helena cat, in April 2009{c}

There’s one other member of the station staff that deserves an honourable mention - ‘Teabag’{22}, the station cat from the 1990s until her death in April 2010.

How she ended up at Radio St Helena is a mystery. It seems she just wandered in, somebody made a fuss of her, so she came back. She didn’t sleep at the station (which was locked up at night) but she was usually around during the day. She probably helped to keep the station free of mice. As far as anyone knows she never actually broadcast so her musical-style preferences remain unknown.

This from the St Helena News of 29th September 2000:

Teabag, St Helena News [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Readers will note from the photo (left) that the Station cat ‘Teabag’ is also a powerhouse of energy and contributes greatly to the life of the station. Teabag turned up one day and has been a part of the organisation ever since.

Sadly, in 2010 Teabag began losing weight and becoming quite ill so it was decided to have her put to sleep. She hung up her headphones on Friday 9th April 2010.

If you have any more information about ‘Teabag’ please contact us.

Audio Clips

Here are a few audio clips of Radio St Helena in action:

1981: “Operating 1548”, a song about Radio St Helena composed and performed by Bettie Crowie and others{23}

Click on the icon to hear this audio file: 

(right-click to download) 

Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (1.3Mb)

1984: Station introduction (partial; VOX unknown)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (61.1Kb)

1990: Radio St Helena Day 6th October, 20:00h Tony Leo with announcemets, weather & introduce programme, Joy Lawrence

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (1.0Mb)

1990: Radio St Helena Day 6th October, Joy Lawrence & ‘phone call from New York

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (295.7Kb)

1990: Radio St Helena Day 6th October, Joy Lawrence & ‘phone call from the UK

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (410.5Kb)

1990: Station Identification from Radio St Helena Day 6th October (VOX: Tony Leo)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (85.0Kb)

1992: Radio St Helena Day 23rd October, Tony Leo signing off

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (341.6Kb)

1992: Radio St Helena Station Ident

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (64.9Kb)

1993: Radio St Helena Day 15th October, Tony Leo introducing and speech from Governor Hoole

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (2.0Mb)

1994: Local News 14th October: Death of the last wild St Helena Olive

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (499.4Kb)

1995: Jingle and local news, Joy Lawrence (off-air; local)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (296.2Kb)

1995: Tony Leo closing down the station at 22.23hrs on Friday 10th November

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (248.2Kb)

1996: Radio St Helena Day 1996 (off-air: SW radio)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (463.3Kb)

1996: Station Opening: Fanfare and ‘A life on the ocean wave’

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (246.0Kb)

2005: Ralph Peters with ‘PrimeTime’, 15th December (off-air: local)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (318.2Kb)

2006: Radio St Helena Day, official announcement then Stedson Francis (off-air, recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.{21})

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (490.3Kb)

2010: Radio news for 1pm on Tuesday 30th March, read by Claire Bennett

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (1.8Mb)

2012: Closedown - the final hour up to midnight (with copyrighted music removed)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (12.6Mb)

2012: Station Identification (VOX: unknown)

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (159.5Kb)

2012: Tony Leo proving that however competent you are, sometimes the equipment fights back!

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Click here to listen [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (476.9Kb)

If you have an audio clip of Radio St Helena you can contribute to this collection, please contact us

I grew up on the music played over the airwaves by people like Tony Leo, Joy Lawrence, Ralph Peters, Sharron Wade and Russell Yon. I can surely say those were the days. I can still remember Mrs Pasty Flagg on Radio St Helena on a Saturday evening describing the dresses and jewellery worn by the contestants of the Miss St Helena Contest; Mrs Flagg sure could paint a picture. The local news was also very important and woe betide anyone in the family who made a noise when Tony or Joy started reading it.{d}

Interview, 2007 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Interview, 2007

Fluffs, and other problems…

Radio St Helena was a real radio station run by real people using real equipment, so inevitably sometimes things went wrong. Here are a few remembered incidents:

  • The original Marconi Tramsmitters, if they were over modulated, would ‘trip’{24} and would have to be manually reset. Stedson Francis recalls this happening to him. “I didn’t hear it trip out and wasn’t monitoring the Osciliscope{25}, so only became aware after someone called in to say that we were off air, and had been for about half an hour”.

  • Tony Leo: “Doing a live relay with a cable running from RSH through the grave yard amongst the graves to enter the Church at St. Paul’s and after many hours of trying it still wouldn’t work. Suddenly time was up and the service was about to start and there we were rushing in and doing exactly what we had been doing for hours and all at once it worked. Even today no one knows exactly why it failed or why it suddenly started working.

  • Tony Leo: “Russel Yon reading out the shipping announcement and rather than saying ‘Cabin baggage closing time will be at 9.30am’ he said ‘Baggen cabbage will be closed at 9.30am’.

  • Stedson Francis admits: “Rushing to get ready to start a programme (lining up records, CDs, etc. and checking levels) I noticed the previous presenter had left the Mic fader in the up position but the actual fader channel was switched off. Instead of pulling the fader down and switching the Mic channel back on, I switched the Mic channel on with the fader still up, which meant that the Mic went live-to-air. I noticed this and, without thinking, said ‘Oh, F**k’. The phone rang almost immediately and someone said ‘Be careful with your language’, and during that week several others told me they heard me say the ‘F’ word on air.

  • There’s an audio clip (above) from 2012 where Tony Leo proves that however competent you are (and he was, and remains, one of St Helena’s most professional broadcasters), sometimes the equipment fights back!

  • Planter’s Peanuts Tin [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]In May 1995 I [Tony Leo] called the Chief Secretary in public by his nickname (‘Peanut’).

    The Island had a Chief Secretary by the name of John Perrott, and as soon as people saw him they remarked that he looked like the man on the Planters Peanut Tin, i.e. rather long faced. He was here for a year or so and was always referred to as ‘Peanut’, though only behind his back, of course.

    One afternoon there was a Féte at Plantation House, which included a raffle. The Chief Secretary took a ticket. At the prize draw winners were to collect their prizes from the Radio St Helena Outside Broadcast Vehicle because that was where the public address system was operating. I was given a list by Daphne Francis and read out the winners and asked them to collect as soon as possible, and in doing so I called out on the loud speaker that ‘Peanut’ was a winner. I waited for a long time and he did not show up so I called again - twice, both times referring to the winner as ‘Peanut’. I saw the Chief Secretary looking rather stern and walking slowly towards me. He came up to the vehicle and said ‘I shall have that’, so I picked up his prize and at that moment I suddenly remembered what I had announced. I was devastated, to say the least, because he was my senior boss.

    The next morning before I left home to go to the station I had a phone call to report to him at the Castle, where I was questioned about referring to him as ‘Peanut’. I apologised but he threatened that I could lose my job for insulting a high ranking government official. I kept my nose clean and got out of his way until he left the island.

Closedown

Radio St Helena closedown mug design [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Radio St Helena closedown mug design{26}

In 2010 it was decided by the Government of St Helena that Radio St Helena would be replaced by a new radio service, S.A.M.S. Radio 1, operating on FM (and with an Internet relay).

Final five days [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena] (5.9Mb)

Significant delays occurred in the establishment of the new service and Radio St Helena’s closedown was put back several times during 2012 but eventually Radio St Helena was instructed to close down at midnight on 25th December 2012 - the 45th Anniversary of its launch{27}.

Click on the image (left) to download the leaflet issued in December 2012, detailing the last five days of Radio St Helena.

The final day started at 06:30h with Bert Constantine, followed by Stedson Francis and later by past-presenters Tony Green and Ray (Matches) Williams. Ralph Peters took over at 20:00h and Tony Leo at 22:00h. By midnight 14 people, all with past connections to the station, joined Tony in the studio as he gave the station’s final goodbye. You can hear the last hour of this final programme in the Audio Clips (above).

The staff of Radio St Helena were not re-employed on S.A.M.S. Radio 1.

Presenters lineup, at the time of closedown [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]
Presenters lineup, at the time of closedown:
REAR, LEFT TO RIGHT: Graham Beckett; Daniel Leo; John Moyce; Stedson Francis; John Coleman; Ralph Peters; Jane John; Hazel Peters; Liz Johnson-Idan; Bert Constantine{28};
FRONT, LEFT TO RIGHT: Layla Andrews; Merlin George (kneeling); Claire Bennett


Transmitter disposal notice [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

On 26th June 2015 this notice appeared in the St Helena Independent, advertising the old Radio St Helena medium-wave transmitters for “disposal”.

These transmitters were last powered on 25th December 2012. Since then, they have been sitting in the old Radio St Helena building at Pounceys; an area known to be damp and prone to the growth of mould. It would therefore seem likely that they would no longer function, even if subjected to significant repair. In addition the purchaser would need to obtain a broadcasting licence to actually use them. So it must be assumed that they will realise only scrap value.

A sad end for devices that were, for many years, an essential part of the lives of Saints on St Helena.

Memories of local radio on St Helena

The following is extracted from the online book ‘Across Islands and Oceans{29}{30}, describing the author’s visit to St Helena in 1986:

A good way to get to know the Saints, I found, was to listen to their two-hour daily radio broadcast. It takes the place of an island newspaper by reporting anything and everything that happens locally. My interview was repeatedly broadcast between the two big news events of the week: one being that a car knocked over a road sign in town, the other from the local doctor describing as “nonsense” the rumor that people were catching venereal disease by swimming in the town’s pool. “The only way to catch VD in the pool,” the doctor explained over and over, “is if you are doing something other than swimming in it.” It was evidently a persistent rumor because they rebroadcast the doctor’s message every day during my stay on the island. I can imagine the unfaithful husband explaining to his wife that he must have caught some germs in the public pool. Most of the islanders, myself included, decided to stay clear of the pool just in case{31}.

Funding

Originally Radio St Helena was funded by advertising revenue, supplemented by an annual subsidy provided by the Government of St Helena. However from 1st November 2008 it was prevented from accepting paid advertising, so was funded purely by the subsidy.

Read More

Below: Article: “Early Birds - Radio St Helena (1999)”Article: “Reply to a Reception Report (1985)”Article: “St Helena Or Bust! (1994)”

Many of the facts used on this page come from a personal history of Radio St Helena by Manfred Rippich (2.6Mb){b} and from an earlier history (c.1997) (2.7Mb) published on www.sthelena.se, suplemented by reference to back-copies of the St Helena News and St Helena Herald. Other sources have included former D.W.S. staff, the Internet, the listeners and the station staff and presenters themselves.

If you have any material to contribute to this page please contact us.

Article: “Early Birds - Radio St Helena (1999)

Station staff 1999 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

By Johnny Drummond, Editor, St Helena News, 29th September 2000{29}

Readers will remember the period between June and December 1997 when Radio St Helena ran a trial expanded service. The new programming format was very popular and there were many requests for its return. Well, starting on Monday 2nd October the Radio Station will commence broadcasting at 7.00am and continue throughout the day until 10.00pm.

A great deal of planning has gone into developing new ideas but there will be the return of old favourites like Job Shop, Tradio and Golden Trunk. The revised schedule will involve live announcers working shifts, linking programmes together making announcements as well as playing music, which will act as the carrier.

The local Radio News, will, in addition to the normal evening broadcast be repeated in the morning. Local news headlines will also be given at intervals during the day. There will be radio competitions and interviews as well as invited guests on radio shows. Breaking News will have a place, this was a popular feature last time and will be aired as and when it comes in.

The Radio Station staff has expanded in numbers recently and there are two new Production Assistants, Natasha Clingham and Laura Lawrence. Cyril Gunnell took over as News Editor at the end of August. There is also the station clerk, Monica Johnson who works quietly away behind the scenes and the librarian, Valerie Williams who looks after the recorded material. The Radio Station Veterans, Tony, Ralph and of course Joy are spearheading the new service.

The staff are looking forward to the challenge of providing an expanded service but there can be no doubt that it is going to be hard work. Needless to say the faithful Voluntary Producers will be a great support.

So tune in on Monday morning at 7.00am for the start of a new era in radio on St Helena.

Article: “Reply to a Reception Report (1985)

The following is a reply sent to a Reception Report send in by a listener in Saanbaii, South Africa{32}; retrieved from capedx.blogspot.com{29}{33}

Information Office
Broadway House
Jamestown
Island of St Helena
South Atlantic Ocean

19th July 1985

Mr Gary Deacon
114 Ringwood Drive
Pinelands
7405
Cape Town
Cape Province
Republic of South Africa

Dear Mr Deacon

Thank you for your letter dated 15th May 1985 which contained a reception report for Radio St Helena. I apologise for the delay in replying, but as you might be aware, we are dependant on the one ship (RMS St Helena) which calls here once every six weeks en route to Cape Town and carries all our letter mail.

Your report has left us in no doubt that you actually received our transmission from Radio St Helena. We have checked your report against our Station log for Wednesday, 15th May, and you will be happy to know that, with the exemption of a few words, your report is almost as accurate as the actual transmission and just to let you see how accurate, I’m enclosing copies of the announcements you heard that night.

Radio St Helena is owned by the Government of St Helena and is staffed at present by a temporary assistant and myself, although plans are currently in hand for increasing the staff to four or five people in an attempt to increase and improve our output. The majority of our programmes are produced and presented by voluntary helpers, locally termed as ‘voluntary producers’ numbering about 15 people although this figure varies with departures from the Island etc..

The Station has been in operation since 1967 using a 500W medium wave Marconi transmitter which was originally a communications transmitter but which has been modified for our use. We use a flat top T omni-directional aerial. The Station broadcasts for two hours every evening with additional time on Mondays and Thursdays when we have a 1½ hour lunchtime programme. Extra broadcast hours occur on special occasions like Christmas, public holidays etc.. I am enclosing a copy of our programme schedule for your information.

We open our transmission every evening just before 8 p.m. with our identification callsign which is four evenly spaced trumpet calls followed by a few bars of music entitled ‘Life on the Ocean Wave’ and then the announcement "This is the St Helena Government Broadcasting Station, operating in the medium wave band on a frequency of 1548 KHz 194 metres". This is followed immediately afterwards by a relay of the BBC World Service News, then our local news which is usually read by myself and includes items of local happenings, public announcements and adverts. The St Helena Cricket Association runs Radio Bingo every Wednesday evening after the local news as part of their fund raising activities. The programme you heard following Bingo on Wednesday, 15th May, was called ‘Evening Shuttle’ and is produced and presented by myself. This programme contains local interviews, talks etc. and the part of the interview you heard when there was mention of ‘handicapped people’, was one I did with the Chairman of the St Helena Day Celebrations Committee, when he was explaining that there would be some special sports events for handicapped people on St Helena Day (21st May) which is always celebrated with a public holiday and sports or a carnival or suchlike.

We have received several reception reports in the past and I do recall correspondence with Mr Isaacman and mr Gardner. However, may I say that your report really outshines any other report we’ve received.

I hope you will find what I’ve written of use/interest. We would be interested to know if you have received any further transmissions from our Station.

Yours sincerely

A.D. Leo
Broadcasting Officer

You can also read a more brief report from 1987 (428.2Kb).

Article: “St Helena Or Bust! (1994)

This article first appeared in the March 1995 DX Times of New Zealand{29}

RSH QSL Card, 1992 [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

A small but keen bunch of Auckland DXers have over the years looked for St Helena’s annual test transmission with varied degrees of success. Never has it been heard at anything better than poor. We have in the past operated from the Motu Moana Scout Camp in Bockhouse Bay, the site of the 1980 League Convention. Half-wave dipoles and random long wires were used.

1994 was to be the year we tackled St Helena with scientific preparation. Everything was to be carefully planned. John West, Barry Williams and Ivor Williams (ZL1AGO) initially studied the propagation for St Helena.

We decided on the short path, across the South Pole - but it would he marginal.

Next we considered the location. The abseiling tower at Motu Moana had recently had another 20 feet added to it, raising the tower to 50 feet high. Ivor had access to the key to the tower so it looked the logical place to hang our antennas from. Now, what type of antennas? Ivor had a wire V beam antenna some 200 feet length per leg. I opted for this beaming north and south. It worked out approximately 3 wavelenghts per leg, giving a 5db gain and a beam width of 60 degrees. Ivor and John had been discussing loop antennas for some weeks and designed a 3 element loop antenna cut for 11092 khz. This was duly assembled prior to the test date.

Saturday the 15th October saw the three of us assemble at the tower early in the morning to finish the erection of the antennas started by Ivor and John on the Friday afternoon. Bryan Clark joined us shortly before the test commenced and 2 ICOM R71Es and a Drake SPR4 were set up, tuned to the frequency ready to hear a clear opening announcement.

Unfortunately: not so. Yes there were signs of the station mixed with severe digital QRM similar to that which plagued us the previous year. After all that planning and effort, the only solace was that no other DXers in NZ heard St Helena much better.

A few observations were made by those assembled. What was heard, was heard better on the V beam. The loop was quieter. Whether this was due to a narrower beam width, less gain or its direction, we don’t know. The question was raised; in fact which path, long or short, was the signal coming from? Later when talking to Tony Mar (ZL2AGY), I was told Dene Lynneberg had listened on a 20 metre beam and the best signal was coming from the north. An interesting observation but its value debatable as one is not too sure of the radiation pattern of a 20 metre beam receiving a 11 Mhz signal.

Although somewhat frustrated after the effort put in, there is now talk of constructing a trapped 3 element beam for 11MHz and having it rotating manually on the top of the tower. If nothing else we might discover the actual path St Helena is taking or where the QRM is coming from. Roll on the next test transmission!

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]

Laugh at funny radiosthelena humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]


Credits:

{a} The Mk214 at the Military Wireless Museum, Kidderminster, UK

{b} Manfred Rippich (Germany)

{c} Gary Walters (Station Manager, 2008-2011)

{d} Jane John, quoted in the St Helena Herald, 14th October 2011{29}



Footnotes:

{1} No comment on the choice of record…

{2} Dave Clarke was a visiting ‘yachtie’ engaged in a round-the-world voyage, aged 77.

{3} Angela Williams (left), Natasha Moyce/Clingham (right), John Noden (on air).

{4} Note the communications receiver, middle-left, for picking up the BBC World Service.

{5} Mike went on to found the original Saint FM and the St Helena Independent.

{6} Tony was one of the many unpaid voluntary helpers who kept Radio St Helena on the air. As the husband of an ‘ex-pat official’ (his wife was teaching at Prince Andrew School) Tony could not automatically work on St Helena so occupied his time doing voluntary work, as most ex-pat partners do.

{7} On Francis Plain for the visit of Anne, the Princess Royal in 2002.

{8} Ralph Peters (we think) recording an event at The Wharf in 1993 - the burial of a Time Capsule, to be opened in 2193.

{9} More about these transmitters on our Diplomatic Wireless Station page.

{10} Where they had been used for jamming purposes as part of ‘The Troubles’.

{11} Now St Paul’s Primary School.

{12} 

{13} Being operated by Eric ‘music’ George, then Information Officer and Officer in Charge of Broadcasting.

{14} There was a friendly dispute on the SHATPS Facebook™ page as to whether the person depicted was Ralph Peters or Tony Leo. Ralph resolved the issue, writing: “There was a dispute when the First Day Cover came out in December 1992. Yes it’s me; the only thing that is a little confusing is the hair colour - mine is/was black. Proof that it is me: check the little finger on the right hand, I only have one joint! (You might need a magnifying glass.)” and Tony Leo confirmed this.

{15} Not to be confused with ‘St Helena Radio’ (callsign ‘ZHH’), the marine radio service for the island.

{16} Later the St Helena Herald: it was renamed from 1st June 2001.

{17} Note the oil lamp and can of fuel, bottom left, for when the lights went out!

{18} In case you’re curious, the record playing was ‘I wish I were back on the farm’ by The Wurzels.

{19} Now Sure South Atlantic Limited.

{20} Brian says: “The recording took place at the station of my late friend, Mike Koss, W9SU. He had quite an amazing amateur radio set-up in the heart of Indianapolis, with antennas as tall as 60m, and I wonder if it would be possible to at least give him credit for providing the ‘listening post’ that I used to make my 2006 recording.” …Done!

{21} Full recording available here: archive.org/details/RadioSt.HelenaProjectEDIT1A2MONO.

{22} Or, sometimes, ‘Teabags’.

{23} If you can give us any more information about this song please contact us.

{24} If the audio output from the studio was too loud the transmitter was designed to shut down, to protect the transmitter valves.

{25} An Oscilloscope was positioned in the studio, connected to the antenna feed, so presenters could see if the transmitter had ‘tripped’.

{26} The mugs were produced at the moonbeamsforall.com • Moonbeams Shop • opens in a new window or tab [Saint Helena Island Info:Radio St Helena]Moonbeams Shop.

{27} Even though the new government radio service S.A.M.S. Radio 1 was not yet operational at that time - it started in January 2013.

{28} Simon Pipe has pointed out that this photo makes it look like Bert has sprouted wings!

{29} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

{30} Read the full chapter here (6.2Mb).

{31} For other debunked myths see our Myths Debunked! page.

{32} Just round the coast from False Bay, start point of the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race.

{33} See more blogs.

{34} Set up by the Government of St Helena in October 1999 to own and manage its newspaper, the St Helena News{16}, and radio station, Radio St Helena. It set out to be “The prime presenter of news, current affairs and entertainment in St Helena, in a factual and unbiased manner, leading to a self-sustainable service which caters for the ongoing needs of all stakeholders.” It never achieved self-sustainability, always requiring a government subsidy of c.£100,000 per annum (2010 figures). Although officially an independent body, SHNMS continued to be funded by, and its Board appointed by the Government of St Helena.



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