History of the Southland Branch

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History of the Southland Branch of the NZRDXL

These lines were penned by Bill Marsh (Jnr.) in 2013 with input from Ray Crawford (Australia) and Paul Aronsen, Keith Robinson, Sutton Burtenshaw, Frank Glen and Tony Magon (Australia).

The Southland branch of the NZRDXL came into existence in 1948 and can trace it’s origins to the Southland branch of the N.Z DX Club. It is without question that Merv Branks  along with Arthur Cushen and Lloyd Warburton who were known to be very active DXers from the 1940’s played a key role in the formation of the branch. It is very likely that others in the greater Invercargill area played a part as well but those persons are not known to the writer.

Some extracts from Merv Branks’s profile reveals the following; He was associated with DX journalism since the early days as a contributor to many DX Club organs such as, “The Radio Record”, “The Radio Log”, and “The Radio Times”. He used the pseudonym, ‘The Southlander’, which most dx reporters of the time were apt to do when reporting to the magazines. Merv became the editor of “The N Z DX-tra” a position he held for eight years and following that he edited “DX Bulletin (N Z)” pending the formation of the NZ Radio DX League. He was Editor of the DX Times for at least 10 years from 1948. He began DXing in May 1927 but didn’t know about verification cards until 3ZC Christchurch verified a letter in January 1928. Merv occupied many executive positions in our hobby and his experiences were always keenly sought when DXers met. He was responsible for negotiating the changeover when DXers took over the NZ DX Club from “Natmags Ltd’ and formed an amateur organisation. Merv played a role when the League was planned and was a member of the Board of Directors at its formation. The Constitution of the NZRDXL is mainly moulded along the lines suggested by him, and the League badge is an adaptation of Merv’s original design, while the ladder competition and its rules were his brainchild.

Some extracts from Arthur Cushen’s profile reveals the following; The N.Z. DX Club was part of the Radio Record magazine, which was a private company. Editor Earl Reid realised that as well as publishing weekly programmes from the many B Class or private radio stations throughout New Zealand, there was an opening for radio listeners to contribute what they had been hearing. Those were the days of silent nights on some broadcast band frequencies and so there were a lot of North American signals being reported. This continued until 1939 and by that time the government had purchased all the private radio stations except two. And it also launched the NZ Listener, incorporating Radio Record. As The Listener was not interested in the DX Club, it eventually became a non-profit organisation, with Auckland and Southland being the main areas of the organisation. The first magazine of the privately operated NZ DX Club was published in September 1939. It was called The NZ DXTRA and was published in Invercargill. During the war years it was difficult to obtain paper but the Southland Branch of the DX Club was very active and had up to 30 members attending meetings by the late 1940’s. In 1945 the DX Club President Ted Andrews and committee member Bill Masson from Auckland visited Invercargill to discuss the future of the club. It was obvious from discussions that the Auckland Branch, although being the Headquarters, were not radio listeners and in fact the National President did not even own a radio and they were more interested in running dances and getting in funds to keep the DX Club going. This continued and the position deteriorated, and in 1947 members of the Otago Branch of the DX Club and the Southland Branch joined for preliminary talks about a new DX organisation. This was eventually formed on August 15th 1948, when the NZ Radio DX League came into being.

From the above it is very evident that the Southland Branch of the NZRDXL came into existence on this same date in 1948 which is confirmed by the first digest. The first official meeting of the Southland Branch of the NZRDXL was held at the residence of Mr Roland Duff, 22 Jackson Street, Invercargill, on Tuesday 31st August 1948. Election of Officers took place. Lloyd E. Warburton was elected to the position of National President of the NZRDXL. Lengthy discussions took place as to the name of the magazine, which was finally agreed on, to be called the “New Zealand DX Times”. Merv Branks became the first editor of this publication a position he held for many years.

In September 1948, Bill Marsh (Snr) offers all club and league members a complete radio repair and alignment service for a nominal fee. He had all the necessary test equipment and the experience necessary. The following extracts are from the Southland Branch Digest; Jan / March 1950Bill Marsh has a new super DX Receiver which is really going places, others are contemplating new receivers as well. May 1950Des Frampton has turned into a radio crank. A visit to Bill Marsh’s workshop will show you a sample of Mr Frampton’s work. Bill’s workshop is in one of the biggest messes you have ever seen.Bill has now donned a “Pinny” and can be seen directing his workers on which wire to solder to which. June 1950The final play off in this eventful series is enacted in the stadium of William Serviceman Marsh.Seven to a dozen DX sets are in the course of construction, bodies of electrocuted DXers lie strewn about the floor, there’s static from the attic, noise from the boys, nurses from the hospital, – the scene blacks out. What is that we hear ? is that one of the new sets squealing ? who’s in hospital ? the set Bill builds of course. We since discovered that the squealing in Bill Marsh’s radio junk room is neither the receivers nor the Kew nurses, but Brian and Des’s melodious voice’s. August 1950 … Brian Ramage looks like the next DXer to be carried from the Marsh factory, his new receiver is nearing completion. Bill Marsh’s workshop is now full of cobwebs and is a lifeless place now that those dead DXers have departed. November 1950South of the “ Southland “ down much binding way, there dwells a man his name is Bill Marsh the dead DXers have been and gone and ere is only one more to receive his portion of electrified cable.

Receiver Joke from Aug 1956

Monthly meetings of the Southland Branch were generally held at member’s houses. On these occasions the host DXer’s wife would put on supper for the DXers to enjoy after their meeting. In the case of single DXers this fell to the parents where they were supportive of the hobby. It was very often the norm for some DXers to stay on after the supper and twiddle the dial, particularly if the host had a good setup and propagation conditions were good. Very early in the branches existence Des Frampton’s father George became patron of the branch and held this position for a good number of years. Most of the Christmas functions were held at the Frampton’s and George and his wife’s hospitality became widely known in DX circles even to the extent of them donating a competition trophy to the branch. Ray Crawford’s father …. took over this role after George. DX Quiz’s were the order of the day during the early years at least of the clubs existence. When an extra large meeting was held, bigger premises were usually used. The Georgetown Hall and the Disabled Servicemen’s Hall figure prominently in old branch digests. Riverton Rocks is where most of the many conventions the Southland Branch hosted, were held.

In August 1950, the following subs were being charged; 3 shillings ($0.30) for working Dxers and 1 shilling and sixpence ($0.15) for Schoolboy Dxers.

In the early years of the clubs existence it had a radio display board in the window of McCraken & Walls, one of the local radio shops in Invercargill, which was obviously used to promote the hobby. At some later date a similar display was set up in the front window of the Columbus Radio Centre which was in Dee Street, Invercargill.

NZRDXL Display Columbus Radio Centre Invercargill

The main Southern DX location was that belonging to Merv Branks. Aerials were initially set up at his crib (batch) at Riverton Rocks and later at the Rocks proper when high voltage power lines were installed to the west of the crib. The crib remained the headquarters where people that wanted to sleep bunked down and where all meals were prepared. This area was a great location for DX and many a DX weekend and convention were held here. October 1949 … The first annual meeting of the League was held at Riverton Rocks on October 8 and 9 when there was a full attendance of the ten Board members. Moving the adoption of the annual report and balance sheet, the retiring president, Lloyd Warburton, referred to the satisfactory progress made by the League in its first year. The League had been able to supply members with much-needed stationery items, such as modernised surface report forms, air-mail report forms, log books, and a booklet “The Hobby of Dxing” was now available to new members. It was expected that enamel badges would be in supply during the coming year, while the most elaborate and handsome certificate system ever introduced by a DX organisation in Australasia was now in the hands of the printer. Finance was sound and “The N.Z. DX Times” was providing a valuable medium of club fraternisation. Lloyd, however, expressed the wish that during the coming year more DXers would send notes to the magazine and not leave it to the faithful few. The Elections resulted in the following office-bearers for the current year: President, Jack F. Fox. Vice-presidents, Arthur T. Cushen and Jim I. Martin. Secretary and treasurer, Des L. Lynn. The Board members are Lyn M. Gerrie, Peter Thorn, Lloyd E. Warburton, Bill Marsh, Alex J. Allan, and A. Mervyn Branks in addition to the above. Many “DX Parties” and conventions were held at Merv’s crib at Riverton Rocks, usually in February or March. Llyod Warburton and Eric McIntosh also had cribs which became listening posts at Riverton Rocks. Des Frampton also set up a listening post at Omaui Beach. Waituna Lagoon was used by Keith Robinson for many years and hosted visits from a great number of DXers in it’s time. Waituna Lagoon is just east of Tiwai. Awarua Bay was trialled also by a number of DXers. In 1962 Bill Marsh (Jnr) and Ray Crawford established a listening post on the banks of the Oreti River near the bridge over the river heading west from Invercargill to Oreti Beach. This was eventually used by a number of Southland Branch members for a number of years until the now famous listening post at Tiwai was established. Tiwai was a venue that including DX provided recreation and entertainment on the beach area. Towards the end of it’s existence a lot of fundraising was needed to pay DOC fees, deal with vandalism and pay insurance and eventually the location became a financial burden.

The club was a very social one, at least in the beginning and got up to a number of alternative activities and antics as some of the extracts below from branch digests highlight.These extracts also go a long way towards identifying some of the members (and their characters) that were part of the club over the years. July 1949 … Branch Skating Party at the De Lux Rink (Roller Skating) in Dee Street on July 12th – Skating is all right for Bill Marsh and Arthur Cushen. They’re both soft. October 1949 … Soccer Match between DX Ranfurly League and H & J Chatham Smiths (Southland). The players were all given names – “Irish right Wing “Bog Marsh”. Bog Marsh banged in two Verifications in the game. August 1950 … Aren’t Arthur Cushen and Bill Marsh a couple of Dumb Clucks ? Soccer Match held on Saturday August 12th 1950 at the Biggar street grounds the players had names given to them and in the Forwards was – Bill Much Binding Marsh. June 1952 … We must mention that it is not unusual for Bill Marsh to be rudely awakened at 4 or 5am – Des Frampton has been leaving his Bike behind Bill Marsh’s hedge then heads for the Nurses home. A number of sporting and other interests were well represented by members over the years including; Alpine Climbing, Badminton, Basketball, Bowls both indoor & outdoor, Boy’s Brigade, Camping, Cricket, Cycling, Dance Bands, Dancing, Deer Stalking, Duck Shooting, Fencing (sport), Fishing, Gardening, Golf, Lodge, Piano and various other instruments, Photography, Rugby, Scouts, Snooker, Soccer, Tennis, St Johns Ambulance, Weight Lifting, Whitebaiting, Wrestling. It’s a wonder anyone found time for DXing, then of course there was all the courting rituals amongst adolescent males that completely sent them off track.

In 1949 members played their part in bringing the results of the All Black tour of South Africa games to the attention of the public by monitoring SW reception. In return announcements were made on behalf of the NZRDXL monitors.

Some humour from December 1949: SELECTIVITY – Two Commercial travellers were swapping tall radio stories in the presence of an old countryman whom they were trying to impress. “You got a radio set?” asked one of the travellers. “Yes Sir” said the countryman. “I got a very good one. “Does it have good selectivity?” asked the traveller, with a knowing wink at his companion. “We1l yes”, said the old fellow, it has. The other night I was listening to a quartet, and I didn’t like the tenor, so I just tuned him out and listened to the other three!

The following announcement was made in the monthly branch newsletter of June 1949:

In May 1938 the first issue of a monthly new-sheet was inflicted upon Southland dxers with the axiom: “If you like it say so, if you don’t we don’t care.” …….”Time marches on. With more or less regularity the branch sheet has appeared monthly since .. first as “The Southland Dx-tra”, then “The Southland dx Burble”, and now as the “DX Digest”. But no matter what the name, our new-sheet is something to be proud of. It presents a record of our dxers and their doings, their achievements in the dx world, and little and big events in the personal lives of our members .. 21st birthday parties, weddings; births, sporting activities and a hundred’ and one items which make interesting reading. One of these days we must take time off to reminiscence .. to recall to members some of the forgotten facts of the past. You will be thrilled from your dandruff to your corns to read of the time when …. but that’s another story. What we want to impress on members is the value of our digest, it is an integral part of the dx 1ife of Southland. Any item of news you have should be handed in to the secretary for inclusion in the “Digest”. As KFRO says: “If anyone Elopes – Dies — Gets Married — Has Guests — Goes Away — Has a Party — Has a Baby – Has a Fire — Wins a Prize – Receives an Award — Makes a Speech — Holds a Meeting — or Takes Place in any Unusual Event – That’s NEWS. So let’s have it!

In 1951 it is reported in the digest that a “Prisoner of War Monitoring Service was formed with Arthur Cushen as Officer-in-Charge. It is also reported that this service is very successful.

The June 1953 issue of the Southland DX Digest announces the following:

SOUTHLAND DXER HONOURED It was with real pleasure that we learn that a DXer has been honoured with the Coronation Medal. Among the list of awards was Arthur Cushen who has been a BBC Observer for the past 14 years and who has conducted the NZ Radio DX League’s Prisoner of War Monitoring Service during two wars. Arthur’s record is as follows: During his 14 years as B.B.C. Observer, Arthur has kept a watchful eye or the BBC frequencies, reported and sent over 500 cables. As P.O.W. Monitor, Arthur has spent many hours at the dials listening for these messages, sending these messages away and keeping up correspondence with people in faraway lands, with some measure of encouragement for those who have loved ones in P.O.W Camps. For Arthur this is a reward for a job well done. We remember too, that this job was of no benefit to Arthur, financially, but he stuck to his self imposed task of doing good unto others without any thought of reward for himself. It is one of the many good principles of a good Christian who has made his life one of serving others. In everything Arthur does, he goes about his tasks in a very methodical manner and if given a job is one that sees that the job is done. To Arthur, the members of the Southland Branch offer their heartiest congratulations.

In the early years of the Southland Branch considerable numbers of verifications were tabled by members. Some examples as follows; September 1953 … during the year 1056 verifications tabled, 530 on b.c, 526 on s.w. July 1954 …. The Southland DX Digest records a total of 516 Qsl’s were tabled for this six month period and a total of 638 qsl’s were tabled during the previous six month period, making a total of over 1150 Qsl’s tabled at branch meetings for a year !!!! From 1948 until at least 1953 Southland Branch members enjoyed ideal DX conditions particularly on the broadcast band. Only one local radio station, station operating hours restricted from 1947 to 1953 due to national power shortages, minimum NZ stations on the air, upper limit of NZ Broadcast band was 1500 Khz until 1965, no 24 hour stations until 1968.

The February – March issue of the Southland DX Digest includes the following paragraph: Minister of Broadcasting Interviewed. — As the result of an appointment arranged by Merv Branks, a deputation consisting of Arthur Cushen and Merv, was received at the National Party Rooms, by the Minister of Broadcasting, the Hon. A. E. Kinsella. The Minister, in the introduction, said he knew about DXing as he used to “twirl the dials” himself. Merv expressed the desire for better public relations between the Broadcasting Service and listeners by making fuller use of “The N.Z. Listener”, and by notifying the League of projected new stations, etc. in advance. Merv stated the number of broadcast band stations in North America where most of our interest was. He stressed DXers’ interest in keeping clear the 250 watt channels (1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450 and 1490kcs). The Minister remarked that we had already lost 1340 and l400kcs but his secretary noted down the frequencies as outlined. Arthur then spoke on the nearness of Radio Noumea on l400kcs to the projected repeater station 1XE which had previously been announced as going on to l400kcs. He also drew attention to the exce1lent opportunity Radio New Zealand offered in the way of publicity and mentioned the ways Overseas shortwave stations used to attract listeners. The deputation received a most cordial reception and the Minister’s reply is given in the March issue of “The N.Z. DX Time”. We feel that much good will come from closer relations with the Broadcasting Department, but the Minister’s reply shows that some of the opinions supplied to him by his officers are at variance to facts in our possession and at the February meeting of the Branch Merv and Arthur were deputed to draft a reply to the Minister. The Minister besides visiting the transmitters at Dacre and the studios in Invercargill, also inspected the new broadcasting house which is starting to take shape in Invercargill.

In 1956 when 4ZA Invercargill commenced broadcasting it shared the same aerial tower as 4YZ. This caused untold trouble for various DXers in the initial years as the signals on 720 & 820 used to provide a strong image signal on 1440 khz. Additionally any receivers that were not correctly aligned or lacked an RF stage became hopeless for DX. Bill Marsh (Snr) along with other club executives spent considerable hours negotiating with known station engineering staff to have this problem initially reduced then eliminated.

In October 1957 digest it is announced that Merv Branks has become the first life member of the NZRDXL. September 1958 announces Arthur Cushen being made a life member also.

The February 1958 digest announces a total of 24 DXers at a meeting and goes on to record it as a record for at least two decades for any such meeting in New Zealand.

The October – November 1958 issue of the Southland DX Digest outlines a speech given by one of Invercargill’s Radio Pioneers. Early Broadcasting in Southland. Frank Rose’s easy and happy manner as he ”Broused through old memories” held the rapt attention of those privileged to be present at the October meeting for a longer time than we would like to confess. In fact, an informal session was resumed after supper and threatened to last until dawn … but as the speaker said at the beginning of his talk “It is the privilege of DXers to reminiscense.” In those days “every station was DX”. Frank’s first radio signal was Awarua in l9l3 … his first valve a UV200 imported from Chicago when activities were resumed after World War I, which when turned on was bright enough so that you didn’t need a light in the room. But evidently folk weren’t so enlightened as the valve for a neighbour complained that with “this new gadget there would no longer be any privacy in the home”. However, it was Easter, 1923, before things became really rosy and Frank heard his first broadcast signal other than morse. After four hours solid tuning he heard “30 seconds of music in four spasms … it was Wellington Broadcasters, call possibly 2SB, but I don’t remember now.” What a thrill! Frank at Myross Bush mounted his motor bike and came to town and told Arthur Jordan who also managed to log it. Things followed thick and fast and soon another DXer, Hugh McDonald, was making inquiries as to “Who was 1YA.” Yes, stations were on flea power, sets were only one valve, the static problem was terrific, DX was a real but enthralling effort. When Frank went into radio commercially in Christchurch in 1924, their first kitset was a one-valver “The DX Bringer-In”. At that time set owners were asking, “Who’s KGO”? An outline of the talk appeared in both Southland Dailies and also “The NZ DX Times”. Frank paid generous tribute to the way DX was organised today and to the very evident interest members were taking in the great hobby.

The announcement in 1963 that Merv Branks with assistance from Des Frampton had published and printed the first issue of the new PAL Logbook.

By the early 2000’s the hobby of DX had unfortunately wained considerably in Southland.

Southland Branch members have played a very active roll in the NZRDXL administration over the years from inception. Southland branch members feature prominently in the “Times” publication.

Southland Branch members were also privy to many special broadcasts over the years from radio stations around the globe.

The following roll of honour identifies DXers that have belonged to the Southland Branch of the NZRDXL. Listed in alphabetical order it bears no resemblance to the order in which members joined the branch. It makes no distinction between length of membership or brevity of membership:

Mervyn AITKEN, Alex ALLAN, Paul ARONSEN, Bob ASHMORE, Norm AUSTIN, A Bartlett, D Batcheor, Brian BELLET, Jack BERRY, Gavin Black, Henke BONTE, Laurie BOYER, Mervyn BRANKS, Colin Brass, Douglas BURROWES, Sutton BURTENSHAW, Ray Butler, Terry Butt,  Dudley CARTER, Bruce CAVANAGH, Terry BUTT, Charlie CHESTER, Peter CHIN, Merv CHURCH, Neville CLARKSON, Richard CLEAVER, Russell Cleaver, Bob COLE, Don COLLIE,   Alan CORNER, Neville CLARKSON, Alan CRAWFORD, Ray CRAWFORD, Arthur CUSHEN, Micheal DAUKES, Arthur DEMAINE ???? John Diphoom?? (Gore), Jan DIPTHORNE, Roland Duff, John DURHAM, Raymond EADE, Mr Edgar, Jack ELDER, Allan EUNSON, Dave Evans, Doug FAIRBANK, Trevor FERGUSON, Tom Finnerty?? Martin FLAHIVE, Stuart FORSYTH, Des FRAMPTON, Allan FRASER, Gordon Frazer, Leone GALT, Ross GIBSON, George GOODSIR, Frank GLEN, Alex Glennie, Merv Gray (Gore), Steven GREENYER, George GRIFFITHS ???? Dave HAWKES, John HAYES, Richard HEMMINGSEN, Neville HENRY, Stuart HOBBS, Donald HORNE, Derek HOWIE, Arthur HUME, Stan HUNT, Hurst, Cyril Huchison (Bluff), D Jenkin, Graeme JOHNSTON, Hans KAUTZ, Ian Kennard, Charlie KISSELL, Len KITSON, R Lee, Phyliss Lewis, George McEWAN, Eric McINTOSH, Heather McINTOSH, Henry McKENDRICK, B McConechy, Graeme McConechy, Wayne McLACHLAN, Colin McLEAN, Dave McMILLAN, Pat McRodden, Eddie MacASKILL, Win MACHON, Tony MAGON, Bill MARSH (Snr.), Bill MARSH (Jnr.), “A” MASTERTON, Ken MATTHEWS, Leo MEIZENBEEK, Wayne Melrose, Graham MERCER, John MILLER, Bill MILNE, Derek MORRIS, David MUNN,  John MURDOCH, Nevin MURCH, Maitland NICOL, Mark NICHOLLS, Andy O’BRIEN, David OFFICER, John OFFICER, Harry OLIFF, Noel PARRY, Rex PARRY, Harvey PERKINS, Alister PERKINS, Fred PIDGEON, Dick PROCTOR, Brian RAMAGE, Les RAMAGE, Bob RAMSAY, Graeme REED, Maurice Reidy, Keith ROBINSON, Lindsay ROBINSON, John ROBSON, Frank ROSE, Neville ROSS, Kingsley SAMPSON, H.R.V. SEARLE, Robin SELLAR, Neil SELLARS, Trevor SERVICE, Robin SHAW, Joe SHEPHARD, Clifford SHERRIFS,  Bert SHUTTLEWORTH, Stan SIMONS, Dale SIMPSON, Ewan SIMPSON, Irene SIMPSON, Des SMITH, Merv SMITH, R. SMITH, Lyndsay SPRINGFORD, Neil van SHAIK, Bruce STEPHENS, Crosby STEWART, Gordon STEWART, Spencer STIRLING, Peter STONEHOUSE, Brian SUMMERELL, Ron SUTHERLAND, C. SWAIN, Bruce TAPP, Alan TAYLOR, Barry TAYLOR, Bert THOMPSON, John THOMPSON, Bill THOMSON, Frank TOD, Evan TOMBS, Tony TRAYNOR, Brandon VAUGHAN, Herbert WALLER (or WALLIS), Lloyd WARBURTON, George WARD, Bob WERREN, Graeme WHISKER, Norman WHITE, Arthur WILLIAMS, Vernon WILLIAMS, Alex WILLIAMSON, Trevor WILLIAMSON, Norm WORTHINGTON, Allan YOUNG.

Related articles:

History of the  Southland Branch – NZ DX Club

1980s branch BBQ at Paul Aronsen's, Wallacetown

1980s branch BBQ at Paul Aronsen’s, Wallacetown


1980s branch BBQ at Paul Aronsen’s, Wallacetown