Allan Rainbird

MR. A. RAINBIRD, meteoroligist at the Weather Bureau, gives the forcast in the first Weather Forecast programme on ABN, on Tuesday, November 6. Weather reports will be a regular feature on Channel 2, and will be arranged and televised by the A. B. C. Rural Department

Extract: The A.B.C. Weekly-November 3, 1956


The Advent of Television

There is no doubt that the advent of television in Sydney and Melbourne in 1956 was a major milestone in Bureau communication with the general community, many of whom were engaged in workplace activities where Bureau products were extremely useful.
In the early years of 1956 Harold Bond and John Lillywhite visited the ABC offices in Sydney to discuss the form of presentation of weather forecasts and other information in their TV programs. These were followed by discussions on the same subject with commercial TV stations.

The ABC decided to follow the British Broadcasting Commission practice of having the weather session presented by meteorologists from the meteorological office. After ABC auditions in Sydney and Melbourne, programs in Sydney commenced on 6 November and those in Melbourne on 31 December 1956. Allan Rainbird, Ray Sheard and Alan Wilkie (brother of Ray and later to become a fulltime weather presenter on a commercial station in Sydney) were the presenters on ABC TV in Sydney while the Melbourne team for ABC TV was Gordon Hunter, Tony Powell, Geoff Tyler and Arthur Woolcock.

In the meantime the commercial TV stations in Sydney and Melbourne decided to use their own presenters and after a period of elementary training in the Bureau TCN 9 commenced broadcasting weather programs on 15 September in Sydney and HSV 7 broadcast two weather presentations each night beginning on 4 November 1956.

Allan Rainbird has been one of the most generous in responding to my request for information on his career in the Bureau. He recalls that following the completion of his cadetship in Sydney and training as a forecaster in Melbourne he joined the Sydney Divisional Office and worked as a forecaster with Max Moss, Gwynne Wilson, Ken MacKinnon and Bruce Kell. He also worked in the Climatological Section and remembers an interesting assignment in 1954 when he and Ken Smith were attached to an army unit at Holsworthy camp some distance from Sydney to provide meteorological information for a 25-pounder artillery calibration shoot. It lasted three to four days from daylight to dark with little opportunity for rest.

By 1955 Allan was a full-time member of the forecasting team which by that time included Alan Wilkie (brother of Ray) and Ron Sheard, who, as mentioned earlier, together with Harold Bond and Allan comprised the team from the Sydney Divisional Office who made history by being the first Bureau weather presenters on the ABC. As previously mentioned, though, the Sydney commercial TV station TCN 9 had commenced weather presentations some weeks earlier based on information provided by the Divisional Office.

Allan recalls that the Sydney ABC TV station ABN 2 was officially opened on the eve of Melbourne Cup day by Prime Minister R. G. Menzies in November 1956. Regular transmissions began on Melbourne Cup day with Allan presenting the weather program immediately following the 7 pm news. It says a great deal about Allan's self-confidence and ability to communicate that he was chosen by the ABC to be one of the Bureau presenters and that he made history in presenting the very first broadcast by a member of the Bureau.

He mentions discontent among some of the forecasting team when the ABC had not selected them to be weather presenters. Another unhappiness was that rosters were amended to enable the forecasters who were TV weather presenters to be available to attend ABN 2 in the evening.

Allan also mentions that his visits to Gore Hill were full of interest as he met many interesting celebrities appearing on ABN 2 and enjoyed working with the ABC staff. He observes that the appearance of Bureau staff on television contributed much to the improvement of relations between the Divisional Office and the news media. The Sydney newspapers had been critical of the Bureau for some time, possibly because of a lengthy period of temporary occupancy of the Deputy Director's position in the Sydney office. David Mares had a very cordial relationship with newspaper staff in the pre-war days, possibly because he had occupied the position for many years during which he had developed harmonious working arrangements.

We will hear much of Allan later. He was one of the many cadet meteorologists whose contributions to the development of the Bureau were significant in the progress made during the Dwyer years. (1955 - 1962)

Published with Permission

Gibbs, W. J. 1999 'A Very Special Family: Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1946 to 1962', Metarch Papers,
No. 13 May 1999, Bureau of Meteorology
Published online: Federation and Meteorology, 2001
Online Edition, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001, pp.1027-28,


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