Tom Simpson GM3BCD died on 25th October 2014 at the age of 96. Tom was the Secretary of the Lothians Radio Society in 1960-61. However, his major contribution to the development of Amateur Radio in Edinburgh was in the Radio Club at George Watson's College where he contributed to more than 30 pupils gaining their transmitting licences and constructed & operated a world-class HF DX station with a cubical quad antenna on the school roof.



Tom Simpson, Technical Subjects Teacher, in session 1958-59.

Tom came from Hawick in 1952 to join the staff of the Technical Department at Watson's, where he spent the rest of his career. With his Amateur Radio licence he naturally joined physics teacher John Hughes, who became licensed as GM3LCP in 1956, in running the school Radio Club. Tom applied his constructional skills in building up a state-of-the-art HF station whilst John ran licence classes for the pupils. Between them, they encouraged over 30 pupils to gain their Amateur licences, an amazing achievement, possibly unrivalled by any other school.  

 

L-R: unknown, John Hughes GM3LCP, John Kelly (later GM3POK / KG6XF), Tom GM3BCD

The Watson's station about 1956, to which Tom gave his callsign. It was located in a basement room under the stage of the assembly hall. The receiver looks like a BC-342. The home-constructed transmitter may have been crystal-controlled. The antenna was a V-beam pointing west to the USA, fed with open-wire feeder.

 

L-R: David Guest (later GM3TFY), John Hughes GM3LCP, Mike Senior GM3PAK,

George Millar GM3UM (Watsonian), Tom GM3BCD.

The station in 1961-62: by now the receiver was an Eddystone 750 and the AM HF transmitter, constructed by Tom, consisted of a Geloso VFO feeding a 150W Class-C 813 power amplifier, modulated anode and screen by a pair of 807s in Class B-zero bias. The high voltage power supply for the PA employed a pair of large mercury vapour rectifier valves which flashed brightly and impressively on the speech modulation peaks. Operation was principally on 15m and 10m and much impressive DX was worked during the lunchtime break and in the late afternoons after school. The writer remembers VK statiions (Australia) coming in 5&9 (loud and clear). This was around the time of a sunspot maximum.

 

A dual-band 2-element cubical quad antenna for 10m and 15m similar to this one (source not known) was manufactured and provided to the radio club by Jim McCaig GM3BQA of the Forth Motor Co., Cockenzie, and installed by Tom on the school roof at 80ft above ground level, giving superb performance for working DX on 21MHz and 28MHz.

 

A club member adjusting the rotator for the cubical quad antenna, constructed by Tom and including selsyn repeaters for remote indication in the radio shack of the direction of the beam. 

 


Tom organized participation in several RSGB National Field Days on HF CW around 1960.

This sign on hardboard was produced by one of the art masters and was signed by all participants.

 

John GM3LCP and Tom GM3BCD operating in NFD. 

The transmitter was the exciter portion of the club Tx, without the 150W PA!

 

The club operated in the RSGB 21/28 MHz telephony contest in 1961,

winning this certificate for 3rd place.

 

Real excitement occurred in July 1960 when Tom was called by station 9Q5HF in the Congo, where there were serious "troubles" at the time. The operator Bill told us that he was a member of a missionary group and requested that we telephone his HQ in London to tell them that they were safe. With some slight "complications" around licence conditions on handling third party messages, this was done and we found ourselves in the newspapers!

Decades later, your scribe (Alan GM3PSP) as W2/G3PSP, living and working with Eastman Kodak in Rochester NY, happened to work Bill (using his American callsign xxxxxx) in Philadelphia, PA and when he mentioned his time in the Congo, all became clear. He managed to find the original QSO with GM3BCD in his logbook. 

 


 Newspaper photo used for the Congo story.

L-R: Mike Senior (later GM3PAK), Tom GM3BCD, John GM3LCP & Alan Masson (later GM3PSP / K6PSP).

 

Tom was presented with the Jock Kyle Trophy for VHF/UHF achievement in Scotland

by RSGB President Geoff Stone G3FZL at the Scottish VHF Convention in 1969.

 

RSGB Jock Kyle Memorial Trophy for Scottish VHF / UHF Achievement

 

 Tom's original QSL card

 

QSL card used for the school station

Tom also constructed beautiful VHF and UHF equipment which he operated from his

home station in Braid Road, Edinburgh, but no photographs of this are known. 

 

Tom also operated special event stations from the school, using the special callsigns GB3GWC & GB4GWC.

 

This map later indicated the locations of the stations worked, from the QSL cards received.

 

QSL card for Special Callsign GB3GWC for a special event station. 

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ADDITIONAL PHOTOS KINDLY PROVIDED AUG 2018 BY TOM'S SON, TOMMY.

 

Tom in army uniform, WWII.

 

Tom standing centre at NFD station GM8MQ/P, possibly at Hawick, date not known, possibly pre-war.

 

Tom received an MBE from the Queen on 15th June 1996 for his 44 years' service to the British Talking Book Service for the Blind. He went on to complete 52 years' service in 2005.

 

Tom with his wife Joan and younger son Tommy outside Buckingham Palace after receiving his MBE.

 

 Tom's RSGB callsign plaque which hung on his shack wall.

He was first licensed as GM3BCD in 1947.

He also used the callsign PA9LN while in Holland in 1970 and 1972, and HB9XUX in Switzerland in 1971.

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Tom GM3BCD in 2010, a few years before he became a Silent Key.

 

Location (red) of GM3BCD's grave in Morningside Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Rather appropriately, the grave of Sir Edward Appleton, discoverer of the Ionosphere,

is nearby, in the section N-M on the west side of the cemetery.