FRANK BROGAN’S RECOLLECTIONS OF GORE HILL IN THE 1950S
I was recruited around mid 1956 from the Long Range Weapons Establishment (LWRE) in Woomera by Lloyd Hadfield (the ABC’s first Director of Technical Services) and Kevin Bourke (Senior Engineer) for one of the Sydney and/or Melbourne positions. I elected Sydney.
At that time at LWRE, I had responsibility for the various range radar sites, plus their recorders, base predictors and plotting tables (the various ranges had a heavy firing load). I was not released from the Department of Supply until early 1957, and came to Sydney some time during February 1957. I remember the noise of Kings Cross, where I was accommodated at the Oriental Hotel, and didn’t sleep properly for two weeks until I got "digs" at Naremburn. My family remained in Adelaide.
I met Ken Middleton (Supervising Engineer), John Poll (Senior Engineer) and Dennis Andrew (Engineer) and also Paul Marlan (Engineer ex AWA) at the Cottage (at Gore Hill), after reporting to Lloyd Hadfield and Carl Wilhelm (Senior Engineer). I was to look after Telecine, Telerecording and Film Processing etc. I knew nothing about film or processing or telecine or telerecording, but I was assured that I would "pick it up".
At that time, the Arcon Studio was in operation and telerecordings were being processed in Melbourne (at ABV-2). Both Telecine machines (EMI Flying Spot Scanners) and the telercorder (Fernseh) were soon moved to the main complex. Those facilities were in the capable hands of Don Crowley (Telecine Supervisor) and Vic le Pla (Telerecording Supervisor). I remember Vic Zeleney (Supervisor Telerecording Processing) was processing densitometer control strips (by hand) for Carl Wilhelm, in his efforts to get some parity between Melbourne’s and Sydney’s outputs.
I ‘lived’ at the Cottage for a considerable time and in reality Carl Wilhelm was my boss. Dennis Andrew was also there, and John Poll divided his time between the new complex and the Cottage. I remember Lloyd Hadfield squired a bunch of us off every second Friday for a Chinese lunch with Kevin Bourke and Algy Smith. (Engineer). Hadfield had been a designer at a Weapons Research establishment, and from time to time brought me in classified papers to read. Lloyd Hadfield also asked me about servo mechanisms within the EMI film-loop circuits (of the EMI Flying Spot Scanners) and passed me some early design papers on that equipment.
The Fernseh telerecorder circuit diagrams (and handbook) were difficult to understand, and I spent a lot of my own time with a German-English technical dictionary, and the equipment became less of a ‘black box’. After Telerecording issues had settled down, I assisted Carl Wilhelm in the establishment of Film Processing facilities next to the Telerecording Suite.
At that stage, John Poll, Paul Marlan, Dennis Andrew and I had moved to new offices near Telerecording and Telecine. Carl and I were also involved with the Head of News regarding 16mm camera, sound tracks and issues regarding "on-air immediacy".
The Processing plant worked reasonably well, and at that stage I began to appreciate the craftsmanship and expertise of Merv Somers (Workshop Foreman) and his Workshop staff, and to understand the contribution of Vic Le Pla and Vic Zeleny.
Then we took on magnetic striping with some Pyrox equipment. The process had some ‘bugs’ which, took some time to minimise (striped telerecordings were still causing difficulties during the late1960’s). The News Department problem of immediacy was overcome to some extent by using film negatives in telecine machines (and some use of direct positive film).
In the meantime, I had acquired a block of land at Allambie Heights, arranged for the building of a house, and shifted my family over from Adelaide.
Just as we felt pleased with ourselves regarding the systems in place at Gore Hill, Carl Wilhelm asked me to visit Channel 9 with him, and we saw what immediacy was all about, with one of the first Ampex Quad 2 inch videotape recorders. That really ‘put a snake within the woodpile’, which would change television within a year or so.
It was around this time that John Starr joined the NSW Engineer group, and was concerned with the testing of Image Orthicon camera tubes and in recovering guarantees from suppliers for sub-standard tubes. There was a back-log and apparently significant funds were involved – Head Office had a serious problem involving NSW.
Work, more or less, had dried up for me, when the Store rang to say more equipment associated with the Fernseh telerecording equipment had arrived, I jumped to get my hands on it. The device was a video square-wave tester. I remember it as a great piece of video test equipment, and Carl Wilhelm and I used it to set up the Fernseh telerecorder; it made a significant improvement.
The News Department finally managed to have their operational issue recognised, and I was given the responsibility for the design etc., of the Film Dubbing Suite. Carl Wilhelm as the Head Office person, arranged contracts for the prime synchronising gear and associated equipment (Rotosync, Klangfilm recorders, projectors, audio consoles and sundry other equipment). The Dubbing Suite was located on the ground/mezzanine floor at the front of the studio block at Gore Hill.
I suspected Ken Middleton was rather ‘unhappy’ with me as he provided some ‘difficult people’ to work with me as the installation crew. I remember Don Owrid (Senior Technician), Ken Roenfeldt, and from Western Australia, Warren Jacobs. I found them intelligent, cooperative, helpful and interested – all one would wish for in an installation unit, and they certainly seemed to have the respect of Vic Le Pla – they had apparently run foul of someone!
That project ran rather well, and it’s performance could not be faulted during the tests carried out on the Sunday before the promised Monday ‘on-air’ date. Ken Middleton seemed to be happy that News Department would have their Suite on the committed day, but I also got the impression that he was rather ‘put out’ at the system coming in on time. He immediately took the project off me and gave it to Paul Marlan, who had to ‘introduce’ it to the News staff, and write the manuals using my notes and circuits. Poor Paul, he was so embarrassed – it was a difficult situation for him.
About that time, four Engineer Class 4 positions were posted, and while John Poll initially missed out, he appealed against the provisional appointee Algy Smith, and won. Algy left the ABC and John Poll moved to Head Office (located in the Cottage at Gore Hill). I remember Lloyd Hadfield as Director of Technical Services, with the Class 4 Engineers being Kevin Bourke, Carl Wilhelm, Dave Prichard and John Poll. Grace Harvey and Judy Clarke provided the secretarial aspects.
I had indicated to Lloyd Hadfield some time previously that I would be happy to join Dave Prichard and return to South Australia (to help set up the ABC- TV facilities in Adelaide for the Phase 2 expansion of the National Television Service.). There was a promise, (maybe more an inference) that the BAPH (Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart) Class 2 Engineer positions would be upgraded within a relatively short period of time. Tom Curtis and Alan Hullett (recruited at the Engineer Class 2 level for Brisbane and Perth), came up from Ripponlea (ABV-2) and spent some time with us before going their respective ways.
John Starr moved into the NSW TV Eng. Class 3 Engineer position, and Dennis Andrew won a Head Office Class 3 Engineer position. Around that time, I left the NSW Eng. Department and worked with Dave Prichard in the Cottage. This was towards the early part of 1958. I flew to Adelaide for a week or so visiting suppliers and placing orders, or obtaining quotes for equipment that was to be delivered in the new financial year – workshop tools, tool rolls, a guillotine, a bender, welders, lathes, a press, scaffolding, components, ducting/navy grid, steel, power cable, audio and coaxial cable, associated jack-fields and musa panels, work benches, stools, ladders, drafting board, pencils/pens/rulers/ instruments/ paper, and the like.
Frank Brogan commenced work in Gore Hill in early 1957 as an Engineer. He transferred to Adelaide in 1958 but resigned in 1966. Frank rejoined the ABC in 1968. He held several senior engineering positions and retired in 1987.