Our home for our week on the Isle of Lewis was The Decca, owned by Pete and Louise.
We couldn’t have picked a better location and couldn’t have been made more welcome. We did wonder if 13 radio amateurs arriving with so much equipment, taking over the garden for antennas and ‘re-modelling’ the houses for the shacks, would have been too much for our hosts – but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We were welcomed by Pete and Louise when we arrived and told to do whatever we needed to do to make our trip a success. They let us take down all of the washing lines in the garden, so that we could guy the masts, they turned a blind eye when we distributed the living furniture around the house to make room for the HF stations, they laughed and got used to their touch-switch bedroom lights going on and off in the middle of the night when we went on 80m and they switched off their solar panels and everything else in the house when we tried to find the source of some noise (it was one of our own laptop power supplies). It was excellent accommodation, in a great location, with fantastic hosts. We’d like to thank them for their hospitality and recommend that any other groups going to Lewis give them a call.
Before it’s retirement in 2000, The Decca was part of the Hebridean Chain of the Decca Navigation System.
The Decca Navigator System was a hyperbolic radio navigation system which allowed ships and aircraft to determine their position by receiving radio signals from fixed navigational beacons. The system used low frequencies from 70 to 129 kHz. It was first deployed by the Royal Navy during World War II when the Allied forces needed a system which could be used to achieve accurate landings. After the war it was extensively developed around the UK and later used in many areas around the world.
We were visited by many local and visiting radio amateurs during the week, just wanting to say hello, swap stories and see what we were doing.
On our last day, we were really lucky to be visited by a very interesting local resident, Norman Smith from Lionel, Ness. Norman worked at the Decca station for all of its operational life from 1954 to 2000 after being a ships radio officer. He told us about the 185 foot masts which were at the station and the 300 foot mast which was nearby. He explained that the main house in the centre of the building used to be the main radio operations building, with the houses either side being accommodation for the Station Engineer and the 2nd Engineer. He was able to tell us about the earth mat which is still below the ground which we had been wondering about all week.
It was really nice to meet Norman, who celebrated his 90th birthday with a meal at The Decca a few weeks earlier, and we’re very grateful that he took the time to come a visit us.