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From the Start

The start of Radio 2AD can be traced back to one person – Ernest Christian Sommerlad. Born in Tenterfield in 1886, youngest of twelve children of pioneer parents, he left school at eleven to work on the family farm.

At twenty-one he moved to Sydney and trained for the Methodist Ministry. After his ordination he went to Fiji as a missionary in 1911, but ill-health forced him to return and resign from the church.

Ernest Sommerlad took up journalism and became a reporter at the Inverell Times in 1912, shortly after he moved to the Inverell Argus and within three months was editor.

In 1918 Sommerlad bought the Glen Innes Examiner and from 1924 he organized mergers of rival bi-weeklies at Glen Innes, Inverell and Armidale. In 1929 he formed Northern Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Inverell Times, Tenterfield Star and the Glen Innes Examiner. Ernest Sommerlad was chairman and Managing Director of Northern Newspapers from its inception, and Member of the Legislative Council from 1932 for the next twenty years.

As Managing Director of the Armidale Newspaper Company Limited, on 13th April 1935 he reported to the Armidale Board meeting of movement aimed at the establishment of a ‘B-Class’ Broadcasting Station in the north. He had, as a precautionary measure submitted an application for a licence on behalf of Northern Newspapers Ltd. and the Armidale Newspaper Co. Ltd. 

This did not commit the respective companies to any financial responsibility, but it ensured the directors would be aware of developments, and if thought advisable in the future to bring about the formation of a separate company to handle the broadcasting project in order that the advertising revenue of the two companies would be safeguarded.

On 15th June 1935, Mr Sommerlad advised the Armidale Newspaper Company Board that he had been successful, securing licences for both Armidale and Inverell. The Board of Directors for both companies met in Armidale later that day to discuss the broadcasting proposal.

This would be the start of commercial radio coming to the New England region with a licence for the Armidale (2AD) and the Inverell (2LV) districts.

The Newspaper Company Boards agreed to proceed with the formation of a broadcasting company to be named Northern Broadcasters Ltd. to acquire the licences for both towns, and to contribute equal proportions of the £30,000 (divided into 30,000 shares of £1 each), required as the initial share capitol.

There would be five Directors of the new company with E C Sommerlad as Managing Director (for a period of five years) and two directors nominated by each of the newspaper companies, in the event of any further extensions of the Company’s activities to other centres the number of directors could be increased to be not exceeding seven.

The first Board of Directors of Northern Broadcasters Ltd. being E.C. Sommerlad, H.T. Knapton, A.H. McArthur, M.D. Stewart and D.H. Drummond, with the Registered Office of the Company to be at Armidale.

Mr E Simpson was appointed solicitor for the proposed company, with W.S. Forsyth auditor and consulting account.  Mr H.A. Kauper, a Radio Engineer from Melbourne was to act as technical advisor.

At the 6th Annual Meeting of the Armidale Newspaper Co. Ltd. held on 24th August 1935, Mr Alan McArthur, Chairman of Directors reported  “it is interesting to note that the formation of Northern Broadcasters Limited is actually a pioneering feat. Many newspapers have purchased interests in radio stations, but the Northern venture is the first of its kind where newspapers have actually established the station”.

Following the call for tenders for the construction of the transmitter and broadcast equipment for 2AD, it was announced on 30th August 1935 that of the seven tenders (S.T.C.) Standard Telephones and Cable (Aust.) Ltd. has been contracted to equip the new stations at both Armidale and Inverell.

For the erection of the large aerials, the tender of A. Howarth & Sons of West Maitland was accepted. The 2AD aerial was to be 120 feet high.

It was reported in the Armidale Express of 25th September 1935, that the Minister for Lands had endorsed the recommendation of the Local Lands Board that Northern Broadcasters Limited be granted a lease of two acres of land, forming portion of Drummond Park, north Armidale, for the purpose of erecting a radio broadcasting station. The period of the lease was for twenty-eight years. It was expected that preliminary work in connection with the erection of the mast and aerial would commenced the following week. Plans have been prepared for the station, and tenders will be invited within the next few weeks.

In late 1935, E C Sommerlad approached potential staff members for the new station in Armidale. John Creighton was at that time chief announcer on Sydney’s 2CH, he accepted the position of Station Manager and chief announcer of 2AD. 

Herbert Victor (Lindo) Taylor, an engineer with 2GB Sydney, was approached to be the station’s first engineer, Lindo and John Creighton had worked together at 2GB.  Lindo was to supervise the installation and testing of the plant for the new Armidale station. 

Keith Robson was employed by the company as an apprentice engineer under the guidance of Lindo Taylor.

The other announcer was an ex-TAS student Richard Peter Macgregor. Richard came to radio after working in the shipping industry with P&O in their London office. He would use the on-air name Peter Macgregor.

Before the start of 2AD, listeners on the northern tablelands were very poorly served, especially in summer when atmospherics made listening a nightmare rather than a pleasure. It was common practice for hundreds of radio sets to be placed in “cold storage” for the simple reason that reception was almost impossible.

Many residents in the New England region welcomed the arrival of 2AD, when on the evening of Wednesday 5th February 1936, Radio 2AD commenced broadcasting.