No. 126 NAI DFA Unregistered Papers

Memorandum on the wireless and cable facilities of the Irish Free State
prepared for 1923 Imperial Conference

DUBLIN, 19 September 1923


The existing means of cable communication with Great Britain are sufficient for the present traffic and leave ample reserve for growth so far as telegraph traffic is concerned. It is anticipated that in the next few years additional telephone outlets will be needed, but the time is not yet ripe for making definite recommendations. No need is felt for wireless communication with Great Britain.

Direct communication between the Irish Free State and the British Dominions either by wireless or cable would be extremely costly to provide and the traffic from the Free State would be insufficient to render such services remunerative; it is thought that it would not be possible to attract traffic from other countries for such Irish Free State services.

There are good prospects of wireless development so far as the ship and shore stations are concerned.

The memorandum deals with the various questions solely in their technical aspects; the limitations which may be imposed by, for example, political considerations, have not been considered.




Excluding stations which may be controlled by Government Departments other than the Post Office, for example the Ministry of Defence, there are no Wireless Stations owned by the Irish Free State capable of transmitting to points outside the Free State.

Except for emergency purposes there is little scope for wireless telegraphy between the Irish Free State and Great Britain; the existing cables provide sufficient channels for the traffic between the two countries. It is hoped to formulate shortly a scheme for small portable wireless stations to be used in emergencies in the Free State, for example, between the mainland and outlying islands when the cables are broken down, and these emergency wireless stations could serve in time of need for communicating with Great Britain.

Commercial wireless telephony to Great Britain is not yet practicable.



A Free State owned wireless station to work to the Dominions would not be remunerative. Since about 1906 there has been a growing demand from the public for a chain of wireless stations linking the Dominions to Great Britain and after many vicissitudes the scheme is now being put into execution. The first stations of the Imperial Chain, Leafield (Oxford), and Cairo, have been found to lack power for reliable communication with the Dominions and a much larger and more powerful type of station is now proposed. The scheme in its latest form is that the Dominions shall arrange for their own stations, the Imperial Government shall own one station in Great Britain, leaving any other stations required in Great Britain to private enterprise. It is believed that the Marconi Company propose to erect in England two stations at the outset. At the moment negotiations are in progress between the British Government and the Marconi Company as to traffic pooling arrangements, in order that the available traffic may be distributed equitably. The capital cost of these modern long range stations is in the neighbourhood of £400,000; there is not likely to be sufficient traffic from the Irish Free State, even aggregating the traffic for all the Dominions, to keep such a station fully loaded, and it would be almost impossible to come to satisfactory working arrangements with the various Dominion Governments about the working programmes to enable the traffic available to be handled expeditiously.



There is some scope for a wireless station, large, but not so powerful as the Imperial Chain stations, to work to North America with news traffic, but since its success hinges upon the arrangements for collection of news, principally from England, it is a matter for private rather than Government enterprise. It would be well to bring this matter under the notice of the people likely to be interested. Commercial firms are not likely to spend money on schemes such as this until they are reasonably sure that conditions are stable. Land lines from England would be needed for the station.1 The Marconi Company might be induced to consider the possibilities of using Clifden for such a news transmitting station; their organisation would allow them to arrange to receive acknowledgments and requests for repetitions at their larger stations in England. The Western Union or Commercial Cable Co[mpan]y might consider such a station as a supplement to their cables.2



The Irish Free State operates on behalf of the British Government two coast or 'ship and shore' wireless stations, Valencia, Co. Kerry and Malin Head, Co. Donegal, which are used for sending messages to and receiving messages from ships. Valencia is the more powerful station; the average working ranges over open sea are approximately:-

VALENCIA 450 miles 1,000 miles
MALIN HEAD 300 miles 500 miles

Both stations use the spark system which, however, is being rapidly displaced by the more modern continuous wave system. The present position is that the larger ships are equipped with both spark and continuous wave plant, the smaller ships having spark plant only.

Valencia and Malin Head are profitable stations in normal times; it would be of considerable financial advantage if the Saorstát owned these stations. There are opportunities for profitable development; it would be practicable to provide at the stations additional equipment for continuous wave working and to operate both this and the spark system simultaneously with less overhead charges for each system than separate stations would require. Though outgoing messages for ships would no doubt be dealt with largely by British Stations, for most of the messages originate in Great Britain, with well organised stations incoming traffic, which is more profitable than outgoing, could readily be obtained, for the shipboard operators are interested in getting their traffic cleared to a shore station as quickly as possible. Though wireless has developed considerably in the past few years the geographical positions of Valencia and Malin Head are still of advantage, and the stations have the further advantage that reception there is less liable to interference from other wireless stations, a trouble which multiplication of wireless services is making quite serious in Great Britain.

A proposal has been submitted to the Secretary suggesting that the services be obtained of an Irishman now in the British Post Office, who has had long experience in the actual running and control of Coast Wireless Stations. He would be on the staff of the Engineering Department, and could train the wireless station staffs to a state of high efficiency. The operating staffs are at present employees of the Irish Free State but there is reason to believe that the British Post Office Authorities are considering the question of sending over English staffs to the stations. If the stations be handed over to the Irish Free State the most efficient way of controlling them would be for the staffs as well as the plant to be primarily under the Engineering Department.



It is anticipated that in the near future a demand from ship owners will arise for facilities from the Irish Coast Stations for ships' direction and position finding by wireless. The bearing or direction of a ship can be obtained from a single wireless station, but to find the actual position of a ship[,] readings from two, preferably three stations are needed. Valencia and Malin Head are so situated that readings from them both are not likely to be of much use to ships and actually readings will be needed from Irish and British or French Stations. It is possible too that a need will arise for a position finding station on the South East Coast of Ireland. Additional equipment would be needed to enable Valencia and Malin Head to give these direction readings, and at the outset the service would not be remunerative. It would however work in well with the other duties of the Stations and, if efficiently performed, would reflect credit on the Saorstát.




(1) To Great Britain

All the existing Government owned submarine cables landing in the Irish Free State connect it to Great Britain. The cables are in the joint ownership of Great Britain and the Irish Free State, provide sufficient channels for the present telegraph traffic and give an ample margin for growth in traffic. No improvement in the cable facilities to Great Britain is needed, so far as telegraphs are concerned but it is hoped that increased telephone traffic will, within the next few years, necessitate additional trunk channels. Developments in wireless telephony and in 'wired wireless' may be such that when the time comes for providing these additional channels means other than cable will be the most economical.

Details of the present cables are as follows:-

Howth to Abergeirch, Wales.

One telephone cable, two circuits.

Howth to Trescastell, Wales.

Two telegraph cables, one seven wire, one four wire, in all eleven telegraph circuits.

Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, to Abergeirch, Wales.

Three telegraph cables, four wires each cable, in all twelve telegraph circuits.

Blackwater, Co. Wexford, to Fishguard, Wales.

One telegraph cable, four wires, four telegraph circuits.

Blackwater, Co. Wexford, to Abermawr, Wales.

One telegraph cable, four wires, four telegraph circuits.



The cost of providing direct cables from the Irish Free State to any of the British Dominions would be considerable and the traffic from the Free State is not sufficient to justify any such cable. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain from other countries traffic for the Dominions to go over a cable, if such there were, owned by the Irish Free State.


The following privately owned submarine cables land in the Irish Free State. Except one cable from Waterville to Weston-Super-Mare, they are single wire telegraph cables.

At Valencia, Co. Kerry.

Three cables from Hearts Content, Newfoundland.

Two cables from Penzance, England.

At Waterville, Co. Kerry.

Two cables from St. Johns, Nova Scotia.

Two cables from Canso, Nova Scotia.

One cable from Fayal, Azores.

One cable from Havre, France.

Three cables from Weston-Super-Mare, one being a two conductor cable.

The cable stations at Valencia and Waterville are now used principally as cable repeater stations, only one land line being rented by the Companies, and it is anticipated that the Cable Companies will be reluctant again to rent the long Irish land lines they have recently surrendered, though prolonged freedom from interruption to land lines may make it advantageous for the Companies to use land lines with the short Ireland-England cable link rather than the long submarine cables from England direct to Kerry. Settled conditions may also induce the Companies to terminate in Ireland rather than in England any future long submarine cables they may find necessary. The Cable Companies might be induced to erect in Ireland wireless stations to supplement their cables. The Eastern Telegraph Co[mpan]y is considering such a scheme for their Indian traffic. The point has been raised above under Wireless (C).3

[signed] J MCCANDLESS,
Assistant Engineer in Chief

1Handwritten marginal note reads as follows: 'At the moment we are discussing re-opening of the Station with the Marconi Co[mpan]y. It will work to Canada and U.S.A.'

2This sentence is a handwritten addition to the text.

3This sentence is a handwritten addition to the text.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO