“Down Under Comes Up Live”

25th November 1966



Among the many ‘firsts’ for Carnarvon township was that it featured in the first ever satellite TV broadcast to originate in Australia.

In late October 1966, a new Intelsat IIa satellite – intended for geostationary orbit above the Pacific Ocean – failed to achieve the desired orbit due to an early shutdown of its rocket.

This rendered the satellite useless as it slowly drifted westwards. However, ground station engineers realised a window of opportunity would occur as the satellite passed over the Indian Ocean. For up to twenty minutes, a one-way television link could be set up between Carnarvon OTC Satellite Earth Station and the Goonhilly Down Earth Station in the UK.

Carnarvon had no domestic television (until July 1972) and there was no capability to send TV from elsewhere in Australia to Carnarvon for transmission to the satellite. Therefore, at short notice, engineers, technicians and support crew drove outside broadcast vans the 900km from Perth to Carnarvon. ABC presenters Peter Pockley and Kim Corcoran also travelled from Sydney.

The broadcast was produced jointly by the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) and the BBC.

audio Listen to a 4 minute interview (1.4MB mp3 file) with ABC-TV Perth Senior Engineer Allan Hullett. Photo: University of Western Australia.

Allan Hullett


Link up with British families in the UK

The broadcast was to be a relatively low-key family reunion – with three British families in Carnarvon being linked with their families back in the UK.

The three families were Frank and Pauline Vinton and their baby son Ian, Alan and Jean Gilham and their sons Steven and Andrew, and Les and Laura Brightwell. Frank Vinton and Alan Gilham were in Carnarvon to work at the NASA tracking station. Les Brightwell had come to Carnarvon some years earlier and had married a local girl.

NASA Carnarvon engineer Paul Dench recalls,

“We were one of the families interviewed and remember the criteria for selection very well –

1) British migrant family
2) Relatives living in or very close to Central London for a short notice call to the TV studio.
3) An Australian wife (spouse?) and/or an Australian-born baby.

We failed on the second criterion. George Alan would have been a good choice with a new Australian wife of migrant Yugoslav parents except you could hardly understand his thick Scottish brogue and his family were many many hours journey away.”

In addition to the British families, the local publican and Mayor, Wilson Tuckey, a local sheep farmer Clarrie Lewington and ‘flying padre’ Rev. John McCahon from the Australian Inland Mission were featured. Despite dropouts in the signal, there was over twelve minutes of television.

The broadcast began just after 6:25am London time (2:25pm West Australian time) on Friday November 25th 1966. It was seen live in the UK. Because there were no television links from Carnarvon to Perth, a copy of the UK broadcast was flown immediately to Australia and then released as a news item for use by commercial channels.


Historic TV Link

Clipping from a 1967 Department of Supply newsletter.

Scan: Alan Gilham.


The TV Broadcast

With thanks to Alan Gilham for providing a copy of the broadcast.
Thanks also to ABC TV via Derrick Wright and Ken McKay, and to Bill Woods (OTC).
Screenshots and image enhancement by Colin Mackellar.
All rights are fully acknowledged.

 

 

Watch an edited recording of the broadcast from ABC-TV.

 

 

This is how the complete broadcast unfolded –

It is 6:25am in London on Friday November 25, 1967.

On the BBC, the opening title of “Down Under Comes Up Live” is accompanied by the strains of Frank Ifield singing “Walzing Matilda”.


DownUnder Comes Up Live

In London, BBC Presenter Raymond Baxter introduces the broadcast as “another step forward in television history”. He has with him a globe of the Earth, complete with a model showing the position of the Intelsat IIa (also known as the Early Bird II) satellite.


DownUnder Comes Up Live

Raymond Baxter explains that after an early rocket shutoff four weeks earlier, the Early Bird II satellite is now “wandering its errant way round the Earth in an elongated orbit” – thus providing a brief window of opportunity for the television linkup.


studio

Paddy Feeny (seated facing audience) in the London TV studio as live television from Carnarvon flashes on their screens.


DownUnder Comes Up Live

Relatives of three British families in Carnarvon wait in the London TV studio.


Down Under Comes Up Live

As the BBC crosses live to executive producer Kim Corcoran in Carnarvon, viewers see him standing (front and just right of centre) with a crowd in front of the war memorial in Robinson Street.

From an 8mm recording made in London by Bill Woods.


The camera pans up and to the south west to show traffic in Robinson Street. Camel Lane is off to the right.


On the balcony of the Port Hotel across the street, ABC Science Presenter Peter Pockley interviews the 30 year old publican and Mayor of Carnarvon, Wilson Tuckey. (Wilson Tuckey went on to become a long-serving and colourful member of the House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament.)

Local farmer Clarrie Lewington is on the right.


Kim Corcoran begins interviewing three of the British families in Carnarvon.

Front row L–R: Laura & Les Brightwell, Jean & Alan Gilham (with their sons Steven and Andrew in front of them), Kim Corcoran (holding microphone), Pauline Vinton (holding 4 month old Ian), Frank Vinton (holding Sussan) and Joanne (standing in front of Frank).


interviews

Kim Corcoran listens to questions coming back from the UK. Andrew Gilham is in the foreground.


Pauline and Frank Vinton send greetings to their family in the UK. Frank works at the NASA tracking station.


DownUnder Comes Up Live

Pauline Vinton.


Pauline Vinton holds baby Ian for the family to see.


Gilhams

Kim Corcoran speaks with Jean & Alan Gilham (with their sons Steven and Andrew in front of them).


Jean Gilham

Jean Gilham speaks – her husband Alan is on the right in white shirt. (The satellite video link was temporarily lost just as Alan spoke. The audio to and from London was transmitted independently by cable via the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.)


Andrew Gilham – just after the picture is restored.


Steven Gilham smiles for his unseen grandparents.


Mr & Mrs E.J. Gilham – Alan’s parents – in London are enthralled as they watch the live picture from half a world away. Mrs Florence Brightwell is at top right.


Mr E J Gilham

Mr E.J. Gilham – Alan’s father.


Laura & Les Brightwell speak with Les’ family in the UK.


Down Under Comes Up Live

Laura Brightwell hears Les’ family through Kim Corcoran’s headset.


‘Flying padre’, the Rev. John McCahon from the Australian Inland Mission, is introduced by Peter Pockley.


Down Under Comes Up Live

Part way through the interview, the satellite link is lost and Raymond Baxter in London concludes a memorable and historic programme.

The plan had been for a Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft to fly above Robinson Street for the final shot, but apparently, the signal to the pilot to take off from Carnarvon airport was not sent at the right time and the satellite link was lost before he could move into position. (Source: Phone conversation, Colin Mackellar with Dr. Peter Pockley, January 2013.)


Down Under Comes Up Live

The Goonhilly Downs Earth Station ident card briefly displays as the satellite link is lost. From an 8mm recording made in London by Bill Woods.


Down Under Comes Up Live

From the closing credits.
From an 8mm recording made in London by Bill Woods.



 

Photos of the event

Down Under Comes Up Live

The convoy of ABC Television vehicles heads to Carnarvon for the broadcast. ABC TV via Derrick Wright and Ken McKay.


setting up

The camera used for the family interviews is mounted on the Main Roads Department building – this photo taken not long before the broadcast. Photo: Alan Gilham.


Camera mount

Looking along Robinson Street. In the distance is the tower used to relay the pictures to the OTC satellite station. Photo: Alan Gilham.


setting up

The ABC’s Kim Corcoran and Frank Vinton (?). Photo: Alan Gilham.


Down Under Comes Up Live

The ABC’s Peter Pockley (left) and Rev. John McCahon (back to camera) in preparation for the broadcast.
ABC TV via Derrick Wright and Ken McKay.


Down Under Comes Up Live

Preparations inside the Outside Broadcast van. Image from ABC TV footage via Derrick Wright and Ken McKay.


crowd scene

The crowd at the war memorial waiting for the telecast to start. Photo: Alan Gilham.


Gilhams interviewed

Kim Corcoran listens to voices from London on his headphones. Photo: Alan Gilham.


Gilhams interviewed

Alan Gilham is interviewed by Kim Corcoran as Jean and the boys look on.

Joan Dench is just visible behind the microphone and Paul Dench is hidden behind Kim Corcoran. The Denchs’ daughter Alison and son Alan are at centre, just in front of Joan. Photo: Alan Gilham.


Brightwells interviewed

Laura & Les Brightwell are interviewed.

In this photo, Pauline Vinton is holding baby Ian – and Frank has his arms around Sussan (white dress). Standing in the foreground with her back to the camera is Joanne Vinton.

(With thanks to Suzi Vinton for help with the IDs.)

Photo: Alan Gilham. Click on the image for a much enlarged version.


interview scene

Another view as Kim Corcoran speaks with the Gilham boys.
Photo: Alan Gilham.


Les Brightwell

Les Brightwell. Photo: Alan Gilham.


OB camera 1

The ABC-TV camera atop the Main Roads Department building in the main street.

From The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14th December 1966. Scan: Alan Gilham.


OB vans at 42'

The ABC-TV links truck in the red dust beside the OTC antenna used to uplink the TV signal. A microwave link was established to the OB van in town, 5 kilometres away.

From The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14th December 1966.
Scan: Alan Gilham.


OB vans at 42'

The ABC-TV links truck beside the OTC 42' antenna.

Image from ABC TV footage via Derrick Wright and Ken McKay.

 

Press clippings

Magazine article

Alan Gilham has also scanned this page from The Australian Women’s Weekly, 14th December 1966. (Click on the image for a 300kb enlargement, for here for a 1.1MB version). All rights of copyright owners are acknowledged.


Evening Standard

The Evening Standard of 25 November 1966 reported the TV programme.

Scan: Alan Gilham. All rights of copyright owners are acknowledged.


Evening Standard

Another report from an un-named UK newspaper.

Scan: Donna Vinton. All rights of copyright owners are acknowledged.


UK news reports

Alan Gilham has shared these extracts from the Isle of Wight Chronicle, 1st December 1966.


With grateful thanks to Alan Gilham, Paul Dench, Suzi Vinton, Donna Vinton,
Bill Woods (OTC), Derrick Wright (ABC) and Ken McKay (WA TV History).

See also:

Photos of the Historic Carnarvon – Goonhilly TV Broadcast by Guntis (“Gus”) Berzins.

Establishment of the OTC(A) Carnarvon Earth Station and the Historic
Carnarvon – Goonhilly TV Broadcast by Guntis (“Gus”) Berzins
.

Down Under Comes up Live by Cyril Vahtrick.

 

 

Photos of the Historic Carnarvon – Goonhilly TV Broadcast by Guntis (“Gus”) Berzins.

Establishment of the OTC(A) Carnarvon Earth Station and the Historic
Carnarvon – Goonhilly TV Broadcast by Guntis (“Gus”) Berzins
.


(Would any of the other OTC or ABC people who helped make the broadcast possible like to share their experiences?)