They work right on at the end of the road 

24 December 2016

From TVWorld magazine for 25 December 1964 to 1 January 1965

To Mr. Norman Payne a white Christmas is something of a nightmare. He is Engineer-in-Charge of the ITA’s Midland transmitter at Hints, a tiny spot four miles from Lichfield.

A winding lane, little better than a farm track, links the transmitter buildings and the 1,000 ft. mast with Watling Street. The lane is three-quarters of a mile long, but when there’s snow, it seems much longer.

It is up this lane on Christmas Day that Mr. Payne will complete an eight-mile drive from his home at Streetly.

The Queen’s Christmas message is a Grade 1 broadcast. That means that, as engineer-in-charge, Mr. Payne must be at the transmitter when it is on the air.

His visit will provide a contact with the outside world for the three engineers who will man the Lichfield station.

John White, David Machon and Bill Lee... three engineers who will spend their Christmas Day at the ITA's Midland transmitter at Lichfield

John White, David Machon and Bill Lee… three engineers who will spend their Christmas Day at the ITA’s Midland transmitter at Lichfield

Burning memory

For John White, married, with two sons, Christmas Day away from the family will not be a new experience. Like Mr. Payne, he will be remembering 1956, the first Christmas at Lichfield, and hoping they don’t have another like it.

On the morning of that Boxing Day a transformer weighing 8 cwt. burned out. It took two hours to manhandle it from its position and replace it, but the job was completed before the first programme was due.

Bill Lee has also worked the Christmas Day shift before. Instead of flying model aeroplanes with Michael Craig, his 14-year-old brother-in-law, he will be at the Lichfield control panel.

Third member of the team who will be spending Christmas Day in this weird world of switches, meters and pilot lights, against a constant background of the noise of rushing air from the cooling system, is Dave Machon.

Dave will not see his five-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, open her stocking. With John White and Bill Lee, he will be busy playing Santa Claus to the Midlands’ nine million ITV viewers.

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