Full houses for first Scots TV show 

22 February 2021 tbs.pm/72440

250,000 viewers pack halls and shops





Dundee Courier masthead

From the Dundee Courier and Advertiser for 15 March 1952

Scotland’s first television programme went on the air last night from Kirk o’ Shotts, after the formal opening by Mr James Stuart, Scottish Secretary.

From firesides, wireless shops and public halls, the ceremony was watched by an estimated 250,000 viewers.

Reports from Central Scotland are that reception was excellent – even better than last month’s relay of the King’s funeral film.

First to face the viewers was Mary Malcolm, a Scot, one of the three London women TV announcers.

For the present the service will carry the same programme as supplied to England.

Last night’s first pictures were the B.B.C. coat of arms and views of Big Ben and the Thames. Then Mary Malcolm introduced Mr Alastair MacIntyre, chief TV announcer for Scotland.

Lord Tedder, vice chairman of the B.B.C. Board of Governors, invited Mr Stuart to open the transmitter.

Scottish country dances to the music of Tim Wright and his band followed.

Mr Stuart said – “Television will present its problems, and people like educationists will have to consider how it will affect their field, because of the ease with which information can be absorbed by eye rather than by ear it may play a very important part.”

Reception was good from as far north as Aberdeen.

A woman looks into a TV camera

Scotland’s television announcer, Miss Mary Malcolm, faces the camera. She is the wife of Sir Basil Bartlett.


Most viewers in Dundee suburban districts were delighted. Representative views were:

  • West End – Just like being at the pictures. Sound and vision perfect except for slight interference from passing cars.
  • Craigiebank – Sound excellent, but vision could have been better. At the start of the programme there was fairly frequent interception, but vision improved.
  • Blackshade – Only momentary interference by an odd car, when streaks dashed across the screen. Buses no trouble. Sound better than the wireless.
  • North End – Vision perfect right from the start. Sound splendid.
  • Broughty Ferry – High standard of reception. Only very slight interference by traffic.
  • Barnhill – Very good. No interference except for an occasional car, and then only for a second or so. Perfectly dear picture. Speaking particularly good.
  • Wormit – Very good. There was little or no interference and a clear picture was obtained. “It’s been a wonderful evening. I’ve seen it from start to finish and it’s been a first-rate show,” was another comment.


Perth and Fife reception


TV tips

These simple rules by an expert are designed to help viewers to enjoy their television.

Never view television with the room in darkness. The contrast between the bright screen and the dark room is very tiring for the eyes.

Have a comfortable amount of light, either overhead or behind you, but not shining directly on the screen.

Tune your set carefully, readjusting after it has warmed up thoroughly. Otherwise the picture may be unsteady and distorted.

Seat yourself comfortably, and do not look up at the screen. It is better to have the picture at eye level, or slightly below rather than higher.

It is advisable to sit about 6-10 feet [1.8 – 3m] away from the television screen.

Perth results varied between superlative and mediocre.

At Messrs Paterson’s premises in South Methven Street, Mr James Morison, the manager, had six sets showing uniformly clear uninterrupted pictures.

In other places pictures were not so good. Where traders operated their invitation shows without “drawing the blinds” large crowds gathered in the streets, and pavements were a solid mass for over two hours.

One dealer said that when the transmission goes to full power the pictures will gain in clarity. Just now, with interference, controls are being operated at the maximum setting, which means losing a certain clarity

There are several hundred Perth people with TV sets in their homes.

Pitlochry reported reception as somewhat disappointing.

Being on the fringe of the Kirk o’ Shotts reception area, there is still considerable room for improvement, which is expected to come when full power transmission begins.

Cupar folk were treated to “free” shows when shops put sets in their windows, and the sound was relayed by amplifier.

In the Royal Hotel, where a dance was in progress, the reception was good, with only minor interference. The dancers, many of whom had never witnessed television before, were able to view the programme from two sets.

By seven o’clock crowds had gathered at all the chief radio dealers in Dunfermline, and a 40-yard [37m] queue formed outside Masonic Lodge, New Row, where a demonstration was being given.


Hundreds of viewers crowded the shops, while many stayed outside in the cold. Halls specially hired for demonstrations were packed. James Scott & Co., one of tho main dealers, arranged two viewings — one in their showrooms and a special “show” in the Carlton Tearooms. Over 200 people crowded into the showrooms.

At the Carlton, ex-Provost and Mrs James Hoggan, Dean of Guild Motion, Councillor and Mrs Andrew Crockatt, and Mr John Douglas (town clerk) and Mrs Douglas were among the watchers.

Early in the programme excellent reception was obtained.

Close on 400 TV sets have been sold by Dunfermline dealers.

In St Andrews reception was clear.



Overflow crowds at local shops


Forfarians went in large numbers to dealers’ shops. So many crowded into one that another set was placed in the window for the overflow on the street.

Reception was good, but in the centre of the town it was subject to considerable interference. The interference was much less noticeable in an exhibition given in Jarman’s Hotel by another dealer. There the crowd was so large that they had to be taken in relays.

There are about 30 sets in use in the town.

In Kirriemuir a large number of people went to the Ogilvy Arms to witness the broadcast given by a local dealer. One viewer, however, remarked: “I’ll buy one when my pools dome up.”


BBC Scotland

Dealers in Arbroath are expecting a big rush for receivers after last night’s excellent reception. Halls and hotels were hired for the evening to give the public an opportunity of seeing the ceremony.

At the British Sailors’ Society in High Street over 208 members of the fishing community packed the hall to watch three receivers, loaned by F. H. Atkinson (W. Black, Millgate). Three hundred people filled the Hotel Seaforth. where again seta were lent by Mr Atkinson.

Cycles and other equipment were moved to one side in the front showroom of Messrs Oswald in Brechin last night, and stools and forms accommodated the crowd.

Reception was very good, and the premises remained open until the end of transmission.

In Montrose reception was excellent. The Provost and town councillors were among the viewers who saw the programme at a demonstration given by Messrs Larg & Son in the Park Hotel


Reception in Aberdeen and the North-East improved after the first half-hour.

In the city Mr H. S. Mackie, head of a local radio firm, told the “Courier and Advertiser” the sound was good, but earlier pictures were disappointing. Later in the evening there was a marked improvement.

At Arnage Castle, 21 miles from Aberdeen, and 130 from Kirk o’ Shotts, Mr D. S. Stewart reported:– “The images were not very good from Edinburgh. When we went on to the London relayed programme there was a decided improvement. The Kaleidoscope and News Reel were very good. There was a good toned image, and sound was excellent.”

At Peterhead. Mr Edward Paterson, of local firm of radio engineers, confirmed that the first results compared favourably with that seen recently by him at Brechin.



The missing licences


Up to midnight on the eve of the opening of television in Scotland only 2730 viewers out of the 25,000 who have bought sets had taken out licences.

In Dundee 160 had been taken out.

A selection of toe figures from Scottish post offices indicated that contrary to expectations, the residential areas lagged behind the industrial centres in the number of licences purchased.

The Post Office said yesterday Glasgow had taken out 440 licences, Edinburgh 654, Alloa 34, Falkirk 63, Stirling 55, and Perth 52.

Dumbarton, within hail of the home of the pioneer of television, John Baird, had taken out eight licences.


TV listings for 14 March 1952

BBC Television Service listings from the Dundee Courier on 14 March 1952


The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: There’s a lovely sense of wide-eyed amazement in the Courier‘s article, not only about the arrival of television in Scotland but also about the very idea of television itself.

That box – now a thin rectangle rather than a box – in the corner has for so long been so completely normal and taken for granted by everybody that it’s sweet to find people enthusing over it even existing in the first place, well within living memory.

The picture quality and signal strength appears to be exactly what the BBC engineers were seeking from the Kirk o’Shotts transmitter, although of course people will (and did) still complain that it’s not perfect in the fringe areas. For them, an increase in the power will help, but there’s nothing that can be done about the interference caused by passing cars. This was because the alternators of cars at the time put out electric pulses that happened to sit right in the middle of VHF Band-I. It would take TV moving out of the way, up into UHF Bands IV and V, and for far better methods of suppressing electrical interference to be developed, before this problem would go away.

The ‘TV tips’ are also great for aiming at people with no experience of television. The advice to not sit in darkness wasn’t followed by most people, partially because early TV sets were comparatively dim and partially because people’s only experience of similar viewing was the cinema, where sitting in darkness was and is the norm. It’s no surprise they chose to replicate that environment at home.

Not looking up at the TV is now a rule we’re increasingly breaking as sets get lighter and mounting them on walls becomes commonplace. Legs for TV sets back then were surprisingly expensive and an optional extra. Most people placed the set on a convenient piece of furniture; in smaller houses, this could be the dining table, ensuring that people in easy chairs were looking up at it. The playwright Alan Bennett recalls the arrival of television in his grandmother’s house putting a stop to their usual practice of gathering around the piano for a sing-song after Sunday tea – not just because they were all watching the new TV, but also because playing the piano became impossible because the set lived on the piano stool.

It’s interesting to find the recommended distance-from-screen for these, largely 12″ or so, televisions being about 2 to 3 metres. Modern recommendations appear suggest that your ‘small’ 32″ TV should be 1.4m from you. You’re watching a 43″ TV before you reach 2m, 70″ before you reach 3m. We now seem to be expected to sit a lot closer, although I’d be pretty sure most people’s large TVs now are actually further away than the small ones used then.

You Say

1 response to this article

Iain Cleland 4 August 2023 at 8:19 am

My Grandfather was the Engineer in Charge at Kirk O Shotts for this and it gives me great pride to read this article Thankyou so much

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