Radio Rag



Tony using a field telephone in the Radio Rag studio in 1981.


Radio Rag private UHF repeater in 1982.


Note the cavity filters for single aerial working.


Pye PF1 Pocketfones as used for Radio Rag communications from 1982.

Radio Rag communications mast in 1982. Note the top mounted UHF colinear at the top of the mast and the side mounted UHF colinear just below.

The lower antennas are crossed yagis for Band II VHF .



It is difficult today to imagine personal communications in the 1980s. No mobile phones, no email, no text messages, no internet. Most student houses didn't even have a landline telephone.

Radio Rag was better off than most, since many of the people involved were radio amateurs. We could talk to each other legally, usually on 145 MHz FM, but our conversations could be heard by other radio amateurs all across Manchester.

The solution was a network of private repeaters around Manchester. I recall at least 4 of these were operating by 1982, in Oldham, Hyde, Altrincham and Manchester city centre. Each repeater operated on carefully selected frequencies in the VHF and UHF amateur bands.

The Radio Rag private repeater went on air in 1981. I remember that it was bought as second hand surplus equipment from a radio dealer on the south coast of England. There was a whipround in the student union bar one evening to pay for it. I vaguely recall that 20 bought each user a share in the repeater and a set of Pye Pocketfones.

We called the repeater System X, or sometimes GB3MU. That's a radio amateur in-joke. Official amateur repeaters in Manchester have callsigns such as GB3MN, so we thought it a jolly student jape to give ours a fake callsign in the same series. I don't think the authorities would have been quite so amused if they had found out.

'MU had inputs in the 144 MHz and 430 MHz bands, and an output in the 439 MHz band. Over the years it grew other features, including at one time, a telephone connection. It had marvellous coverage over the city and could be accessed up to 15 miles away.

The Radio Rag repeater was a great way to keep in contact with each other. I remember keeping my Pye Pocketfone switched on day and night, as you would do these days with a mobile phone.

During Rag Week itself the repeater was used for outside broadcasts. The Radio Rag studio had a Pye Pocketfone chassis in a diecast box connected to the main sound mixer. This received outside broadcasts from the Bogle Stroll radio car and out-and-about reporters, via the repeater.

I also remember the Bogle Stroll radio car could access other temporary repeaters set up just for Rag Week. I really have forgotten the details, but I remember some of the Bogle Stroll outside broadcasts being relayed to the studio via mysterious locations on the Pennine Hills.

In later years other private repeaters were set up around the country. Some of these were installed in unusual locations with fantastic coverage, that can't be mentioned, even now. I recall hearing one of these naughty networks in 1984 from somewhere in the Midlands, almost 100 miles from the repeater location. Of course, all of these systems closed down years ago.