Radio Rag

Radio Rag 88.6 MHz transmitter


Radio Rag 88.6 MHz mono (lower) and 103.0 MHz (stereo) upper on UMIST roof in 1984

View looking east from the UMIST roof in 1984. Manchester Piccadilly station is in the foreground.


View looking south from the UMIST roof in 1984. BT office building (curved, left). UMIST Chandos Hall (front left) and UMIST Wright Robinson Hall (rear left) can be seen.

View looking north from the UMIST roof in 1984. Manchester Town Hall clock tower (centre) and Scottish Widows Fund tower building (right)

Radio Rag antennas in 1984. UHF communications colinears (top and mid right) and crossed VHF broadcast yagis (lower).

Bogle Stroll

The Bogle Stroll is a 55 mile sponsored walk around Manchester. Radio Rag always rose to the occasion and set up dedicated transmitters and outside broadcast links.

The Bogle Stroll route used to go via Wigan and Chorley, where the "Bogle Monsters" live. Thousands of students left Manchester Rag headquarters at UMIST campus just before midnight and walked all night through Salford and back. You wouldn't get that past a risk assessment these days.

This all happened in the days before mobile phones. The only official communication link for the entire event was a single BT Radiophone installed the Bogle Warlord's (the Chief Steward's) car. So, unofficially, Radio Rag was the link between the event organisers and the walkers. 

Radio Rag broadcast all night and the organisers instructed walkers to carry portable radios and tune in.

The key thing for Radio Rag was to establish broadcast coverage all around the course. In some years Radio Rag installed a relay transmitter at Haigh, near Wigan, and in other years installed a second transmitter on the roof of UMIST connected to a directional antenna pointing north west, looking out over the main route.

The Radio Rag Redifon relay transmitter for Bogle operated on 88.6 MHz and produced about 50 watts. Radio Rag acquired two of these, one installed on roof at UMIST and the other stored in a loft in Droylsden. These devices were suspiciously similar to some BBC local radio transmitters decommissioned a couple of years previously. Of course, they couldn't be quite the same, because ours had the nameplates taken off and serial numbers erased.

We had a problem getting the 88.6 MHz transmitter onto the UMIST roof. It wouldn't fit through the access hatch. This was eventually tackled on a Saturday afternoon, when the university estate staff were off duty. We removed a glass ceiling above the main stairwell and were busy winching the transmitter through the roof when the police arrived. I can still remember our horror as the police clattered up the stairs towards us, carrying truncheons and handcuffs! It turned out they were stewarding a nearby street demonstration, saw the mysterious activity on the university roof and thought we were gunmen. We burbled vaguely about amateur radio. The police went away happy and we collapsed with relief.

Bogle Stroll outside broadcasts were a spectacular Radio Rag achievement over the years. Radio Rag broadcast live from many locations, including the Bogle Stroll Headquarters at UMIST and checkpoint locations up to 30 miles outside Manchester. I remember sitting on sofa in the back of a transit van, somewhere outside Wigan about 25 years ago, interviewing an official from the St John Ambulance live on Radio Rag.

Amazingly, some of the outside broadcast reports have survived. Here are two marvellous clips from 1981.

Ray Rabid is in the studio and Sally is on the Bogle desk. The time is about 0800, and Martyn and Duncan are several miles away at the Bogle Headquarters, waiting for the first walker to return.

Ray and Sally speak first with Martyn, then few minutes later, Duncan interviews the first walker. I cringe every time I hear these clips, but hey, it was a long time ago.

Remember, these outside broadcasts were achieved without mobile phones or even landline telephones. All of the communication links between the outside broadcast and the studio are using two-way radios and private repeaters in the 144 MHz and 432 MHz amateur radio bands.

If you can bear to listen to the full programme, the introductory jingle is by the "Chemical Engineering Singers".


OB with Martyn 2.26
OB with Duncan 4.39
Full programme is not yet available 46.37