Ray Cleere looks back to that first broadcast on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1950
As the Holy Year of 1950 approached, Radió Éireann (as it was then) officials considered ways in which the station could mark the occasion. During the late 1940s the then Secretary of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, Leon Ó Broin, had discussed the idea of a daily spoken broadcast Angelus with Dr. John Charles McQuaid, the then Archbishop of Dublin.
Charles Kelly, then the Director of Radió Éireann was also consulted but he was not in favour of that proposal. After further discussion they concluded that “the introduction of speech would be a mistake and they should experiment further simply with a bell.”
Initially, they considered using a gramophone recording of an Angelus bell; that would be easier to manage and there would be no wind-noise, birdsong, and mechanical noises. There was also the issue of the punctuality of a human bell-ringer. However, despite those setbacks the decision was made to go ahead and to broadcast a ‘live’ bell.
The task began to find a suitable bell-tower where a microphone could be safely installed. In 1950, only one church in Dublin had an electrically operated bell, the Franciscan Church in Merchant’s Quay.
The church was inspected by Mr. J.M. Ferguson, the then Radió Éireann engineer but it was quickly made clear that Dr. McQuaid wanted the Pro-Cathedral bell to be used.
Leon Ó Broin told Charles Kelly that the Archbishop “is inclined to insist on the relays being taken from the Pro-Cathedral; so we may take our cue from that.”
Diplomatically, Charles Kelly had also listened to the Pro-Cathedral bell and found it had a “nice quality and pitch. The matter has reached the stage where the principle of doing the thing is agreed and how it can be done is one for engineering minds.”