Stop watch man starts UTV 

31 October 2019

From the Sunday Independent (Dublin) for 1 November 1959

Pat Dowd

It was “third time lucky” last night for Drogheda-born Pat Dowd, transmission controller of Ulster Television’s new service which went out to viewers for the first time yesterday.

Thirty-one-year-old Dowd, son of a former Mayor of Drogheda, was the man who literally put UTV “on the air” yesterday according to the routine sheet. As transmission controller his job is to preview all the film to be transmitted… and ensure that it doesn’t over-run its allotted time

And yesterday, he was the backroom-man with the stop-watch whose hand sent the first “live” image out from the North’s new Black Mountain transmitter.

His other “first nights”? Dowd joined Associated Rediffusion, London, in 1955 and was a master-control operator there when the service’s first telecast went out from the Wembley Studios. In 1956 he transferred to the A.B.C. TV network in Manchester for the opening of commercial television in the North of England. Ulster TV appointed him transmission controller on September 1

UTV open

UPWARDS of 150,000 television sets on both sides of the Border were switched to Channel 9 yesterday afternoon for the official opening of the Ulster television programme radiated from the Black Mountain transmitter. Reception in Dublin was poor, though B.B.C. reception was unusually good at the time.

How to become a TV face overnight – by the UTV kids


They were spotted in the street


★ Until yesterday you had never seen them… to-day, if you’ve got a television set, you’re probably talking about them.

These six Belfast boys became TV stars overnight when they were spotted in the street near the new Ulster Television headquarters in Belfast yesterday afternoon.

They were brought into the studios to appear in the station’s opening programme.

They are Ronnie and Jim Gorman, Pine Street; Jackie Bacon, Lake Street; Michael Stilges, Keegan Street; Frank Quinn, Market Street, and Bobby Gibson, Lake Street.

And BELOW, Lord Wakehurst, the Six-County Governor, speaks at the opening of the service.

Sir Laurence Olivier, Miss Beatrice Lillie, the Earl of Antrim and Mr. Walter McQuitty pictured before starting rehearsals for the opening UTV programme yesterday afternoon.

Iris Jones of Teledu Cymru in Waterford, making a personal appearance for her fans in Ireland

Russ J Graham writes: The brief mention, from page 4 of the Sunday Independent, that reception was poor in Dublin is interesting. The Black Mountain transmitter was designed to throw as little signal south over the border as possible, because who needs the politics of defending doing otherwise? The mast’s aerial sent 100kW to the north west with the goal of reaching Coleraine, and the same to the south west to try to get Rosslea. 70kW headed directly west, almost reaching Omagh, whilst a paltry 20kW was sent east to avoid clashing with ABC/Granada’s Winter Hill transmitter, also on channel 9.

The west of Northern Ireland would have to wait until 1963 for the opening of the Strabane transmitter on channel 8 to get good – or any – UTV coverage. That transmitter was also shaped to avoid as much overspill into the Republic as possible, sending 90kW north and south, but just 10kW east and west, leaving a thin strip in the middle of NI to the east with fringe transmission in order to avoid too much overspill into Donegal in the west.

It would be interesting to know exactly what the measurements for overspill were, but the BBC and ITA transmitter maps of the time all have one thing in common: transmissions stop at the border. There’s nothing beyond that. The occasional map, like the below one from 1964, hints that pictures just about make it beyond the line – south of Lisnaskea stands out, as does the very weird situation south west of Newry – but mostly the British pretended that there was no penetration of the border.

They were less concerned with output coming from Wales, where the whole “people of Great Britain don’t get the idea of land borders” thing was dealt with by it being a sea border and thus overspill was a matter of not wanting to waste electricity rather than politics. Thus the overspill from Wales (West and North) Television’s Arfon and Presely transmitters from 1962 happily reached Dublin with greater clarity, leading to the Teledu Cymru in-vision continuity announcers building a fanbase in Ireland.

That said, maps of Teledu Cymru’s Moel-y-Parc transmitter coverage area also show the transmissions stopping dead at the Welsh/English border, despite the large viewership in Wirral and Liverpool that WWN had because of timeshifting of programmes in an era before videotapes; interestingly, maps of Winter Hill happily show the penetration of ABC/Granada into north Wales: really, the people of Great Britain truly don’t understand how land borders work.

From the 1964 Independent Television Authority yearbook: transmissions (mostly) stop at the border



Richard Logue adds: It wouldn’t be until the early 70s with the introduction of VHF 625-line cable TV that UTV made much of an impact in Dublin, as the RTÉ 625-line transmissions from Kippure on Band III Channel H from 1962 caused buzzing on the UTV sound on 405-line Channel 9 in the Greater Dublin area.


With thanks to Colm O’Rourke, Con Logue and Damien Cahill.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Wednesday 10 April 2024