Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson


When I was a young girl there were no radios but you would hear of some boy or man trying to make a crystal set, as the first wireless was called.

I used to go out with a girl whose brother was very interested in wireless and one night when I called for her there was a lot of excitement in the house. We all gathered in the kitchen where her brother was standing near a box. He was wearing a pair of headphones. He let us all have a tum with the headphones and we all heard a religious service. I just heard one line of Onward Christian Soldiers. We could hardly believe we were hearing voices coming from that box. He used to have a queue of people outside his house waiting to listen to his crystal set. Later on he had a wireless shop in Oldham.

Soon after that books and plans were sold so that people could make their own crystal sets at home. That kept most men and boys busy and soon nearly every house had their own wireless. Shops opened up selling wireless sets and they got better and better. When I look back I am always glad that I was there at the beginning and I can never hear Onward Christian Soldiers without thinking of my first experience of wireless.

Later, when I was first married we didn't have a wireless or gramophone, so my husband decided to make a wireless. I laughed because no one had a wireless near where we lived. We had seen a shop called Wildbore's. I don't know if it is the same Wildbore's as today but he sold wireless parts, which you could put together yourself. They were very expensive so we bought one part every week. We also bought a paper every week, which told you how to assemble the parts. One week we bought a coil and when we got home that Saturday night we sat and wound wire round the coil. It had to be wound very evenly and it took us over an hour.

When it was finished he made a beautiful case for it. The front was made from a barrel because it was real oak. We put it on the sideboard and just looked at it. I think we both thought it would blow up, but he switched on and nothing happened. He was very downcast but then I remembered a neighbour who worked at an electric shop. He seemed pleased to be asked to help and came round with his headphones. He twiddled a few knobs and after a time he said, "It's alive". Then gradually music came through. It was Jack Payne and his dance band. Leslie's day was made.
How happy we were to listen to music every night after that!

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