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Arthur Ernest Dillon - 4CH

By Alan Shawsmith VK4SS    
  Arthur Ernest Dillon was active from 1921 to 1927. Full and just recognition does not always come to those who deserve it. Fate deals with individuals in her own whimsical way, sometimes bestowing immortality on those less worthy than others. The early history of wireless is studded with such examples; Fleming, Lodge, Armstrong, Vail, Popov (to mention a few), who have never rightfully been acknowledged. In Queensland many made valuable contributions to the post - WW1 state-of-the-art, but their efforts are seldom remembered now. One such person was Arthur Ernest Dillon 4CH/4EZ

Young Ernie grew up in the gold mining town of Gympie. It appears that his first professional occupation was with the Gympie Times Newspaper. After a short stint as a cadet journalist, he turned his attention to wider horizons and took off for the "big smoke" - Brisbane. During the following six years, AE Dillon was to accomplish more in wireless than many do in a full lifetime of experimentation.

Perhaps his most noteworthy achievement was his claim to be the First Sound Broadcaster in Queensland - 25th July 1921. This was an outstanding demonstration of ability for one so young as his station was constructed from 'raw' materials only. The event was published in both the Brisbane Courier and Daily Mail. This brought a response from one or two others, who were similarly engaged, as to the relative success of their tests, records clearly show that A E Dillon 4CH, was as progressive as anyone in this area of early broadcasting on the medium wave band.


Brisbane's oldest and historically rich building (convict built in 1828), is the Observatory, Signal, or Windmill Tower. It is undisputed that A E Dillon 4CH, was the first experimenter to conduct MW tests and transmissions from this tower during late 1921, or early 1922. The Tower was ideally suited for this purpose as it commanded a panoramic view from Moreton Bay in the east, to Darling Downs on the western horizon. Nearby he erected a 150 feet (45m) mast and strung an 80 feet (24m) antenna between it and the Tower - the most impressive configuration of its kind in Queensland at the time. Under his direction, 240V AC was supplied. This simplified the problem of power supplies and enabled his tests to be conducted on QRO instead of QRP.

A E Dillon was largely responsible for the formation of the Queensland Institute of Radio Engineers (QIRE) and became its first Secretary/Treasurer. This body claimed to be the first of its kind in Australia. The list of Charter Members included the names of some very prominent citizens; vis experimenters, pioneers, academics and business men. Its main aim was to raise the status of wireless 'tinkering' to that of an organised science, with its members willing to assist anyone interested in intelligent research.

The Articles of Association of the QIRE are still in existence, but are too lengthy to be included here. The Institute set-up its headquarters in the Observatory Tower, installed its own transmitter and operated under the call 4EZ. The inaugural meeting was held in March 1922, and the first radio broadcast a month later, in April 1922. The Daily Mail Newspaper reported the test as a phenomenal success: "Using only six watts, reception of music and voice was logged as far south as Sydney, New South Wales". Success indeed!

Convict-built windmill on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill

Convict-built windmill on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #4831-0001-0002)

Ernie the returned home to his home town and, with the help of his former employer The Gympie Times, called on all those interested to form a radio club. The Gympie Amateur Radio Club came into being in May 1923 - a first for Gympie and another first for 4CH.

Back in Brisbane in October 1923, Ernie participated in arrangements made by the QIRE to demonstrate wireless transmission to the general public. Using 25 watts of power a musical program was transmitted from the Observatory Tower and listened to by an audience of 1000 people attending a concert at the South Brisbane Technical College. This was quite a remarkable display of interest by the man in the street in the 'new fangled invention of wireless'. Yet another successful first for A E Dillon 4CH - a telegram was received from Sydney saying reception of the concert was loud and clear.

Before the end of the year 1923, 4CG was involved with yet another wireless interest group; vis the Australasian Radio Relay League. The already well established American Radio Relay League (ARRL) no doubt influenced the formation of this body in Australia and New Zealand - the aims of both Leagues being basically similar. At the inaugural meeting of the Queensland chapter of the League, A E Dillon was voted into an executive position - more work but also more success for the now very prominent Ernie 4CH.

The Relay League of Queensland (RLQ), a group completely distinct and separate in aspirations form the above-mentioned group, was then founded - and again A E Dillon's name was to be found listed as an RLQ Committee Member, it appears he was also on the Executive Council of another freshly formed society; vis The Radio Society of Queensland.

One might now well ask how he found time to attend adequately to all these various commitments. Besides his 8am-5pm work as an Electrical and Wireless Contractor he conducted broadcasts from both the Tower and his home at New Farm and made himself available as a guest speaker whenever asked. The newspapers and radio magazines of the period were already printing many of his articles and in October 1925 4CH accepted the position of Technical Editor and Adviser with the newly-formed magazine The Queensland Radio News. As with all other aspects of his busy life, his output was prolific. This stay with the QRN can only seen as most successful. In retrospect, there is no doubt that the intense activity of A E Dillon 4CH, as an experimenter, broadcaster, administrator and journalist played a great part in stimulating wireless progress in Queensland between the years 1921-1927 and later into the 1930s. It is a pity that so little is now known of him. At the height of his popularity and success during the late 1920s, he appears to have dropped his experimental work, put away his very persuasive pen and left the City of Brisbane to take up work in northern and western Queensland. He also married. Fortunately, in his wisdom, he left to posterity a stack of newspaper clippings - stories and articles attesting to his various accomplishments. All these factually place him where he rightfully belongs - one of Queensland's outstanding early wireless pioneers.

A E Dillon 4CH, became a silent key on the 24th March 1960 in Brisbane. He is survived by his wife, son Brian and daughter Ernene.

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Original site content Greg Weir VK4GDW

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