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 World’s First Broadcast: Re-enactment of the 1916 Wireless Transmission by the Irish Rebels

Event Notice


25th April 2016, 7.30pm, Computer Museum of Ireland, Galway


 World’s First Broadcast: Re-enactment of the 1916 Wireless Transmission by the Irish Rebels


 In recognition of the historical role that the Irish rebels played in the development of global wireless communications, the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland, located at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in NUI Galway, will host a re-enactment of the radio transmission of Tuesday April 25th 1916 which became the world’s first broadcast.


Museum board members Frank McCurry and John-Owen Jones will send Morse code transmissions using high voltage spark technology as operated by the rebels. Induction coils invented by Irish physicist Nicholas Callan of Maynooth College were used with a Morse telegraph key.


The re-enactment will take place at 7.30pm at the The Insight Centre for Data Analytics


National University of Ireland, Galway


The DERI Building


IDA Business Park,


Lower Dangan,


Galway, Ireland


For further information contact:


Brendan Smith Phone: +353 91 495053


Louise Holden FH Media Consulting Ltd 087 2423985


Notes for the Editor


The Irish Republican ‘Call to Arms ’ Irish Rebel’s Ambitious Radio Communications Plans


The 1916 Easter Rising, when Irish rebels rose up against British rule and declared an Irish Republic, was the setting for the world’s first radio broadcast.


Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the rebel leaders and a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, was a keen advocate of the new developing technologies of wireless telegraphy. He established a special wireless unit within the Irish Volunteers.  In the lead up to the rising Plunkett developed a technologically ambitious plan to use radio to coordinate national and international communications, to provide information on the movement of weapons into Ireland and to spread the news of the insurrection across the world. One of the first steps was to make radio contact with the German government in order to relay messages onto Roger Casement who was organising the purchase and transport of weapons to Ireland. But neither the arms-ship, the Aud, nor the submarine that Casement was on, were equipped with wireless.


As part of this process it was planned to take over the wireless and telegraphy station in Caherciveen Co. Kerry on the Atlantic coast which would, through republican sympathisers working at the nearby trans-Atlantic telegraphy station on Valentia island, send progress messages on the armed revolt to Clan na Gael and other supporters in the United States. Caherciveen would be used as a two-way wireless station with the rebel headquarters in Dublin. With the cutting of land-line telegraph and telephone cables from Dublin and the occupation of the main hub of tele and postal communications hub in Ireland, namely the General Post Office on Sackville Street, it was hoped that the Irish rebels would have the upper hand in the battle for control of electronic communications in and out of Ireland. Unfortunately one of the two taxis hired to take the four Irish volunteers to Carherciveen from Killarney rail station on Good Friday crashed on its way killing all occupants. So no two-way wireless system was established from the Atlantic coast to Dublin.

On the first day of the insurrection (Easter Monday) seven volunteers under the command of Fergus Kelly left the rebel HQ at the GPO to take possession of the nearby Irish School of Wireless to establish radio contact with Cahirciveen. Though radio transmission was banned under the Defense of the Realm Act which came into operation once World War One began in 1914, nevertheless the school was still used as a training centre for wireless operators.  The spark transmitter was made ready and the dissembled rooftop antenna was re-erected on the roof with the aid of commandeered cabling and in spite of firing from British snipers. However as the receiver’s batteries were past repair, they never knew that the Atlantic station had not been activated and would not therefore re-transmit messages from Dublin.  Yet the Morse code message sent at regular intervals into the atmosphere was in fact received by radio operators at multiple locations outside Ireland. The world’s first broadcast was picked up in Wales, Bulgaria, Germany and by ships at sea. The message was, “Irish Republic declared in Dublin today. Irish troops have captured city and are in full possession. Enemy cannot move in city. The whole country rising.”


Transmissions ended when the volunteers had to abandon the building on Easter Thursday as a result of heavy British shelling.



The Insight Centre for Data Analytics


Insight is Ireland’s national data science institute and is a world leader in Big Data research. With over 400 researchers, it's one of the biggest centres of its kind anywhere in the world. Insight is the largest of the new SFI funded research institutes, and has researchers based in DCU, UCC, UCD, and NUI Galway.

Publication Date: 
Sunday, 24 April, 2016