The Angelus First Broadcast

EXHIBITION : HISTORY OF RTÉ

Pro Cathedral Dublin 1969
© RTÉ Stills Library 0383/030
Pro Cathedral Dublin 1969 © RTÉ Stills Library 0383/030

About this Item

Following a proposal by Archbishop McQuaid to mark Holy Year, the Angelus daily broadcast was inaugurated on 15 August 1950, the Feast of the Assumption.

  • Title
    The Angelus First Broadcast
  • Production Year
    1969 1969
  • Title
    Pro Cathedral Dublin
  • Material Type
    Image
  • Clip title
    The Angelus First Broadcast
  • Extended description

    As the Holy Year of 1950 approached, Radio Éireann officials were considering ways in which the station could mark the occasion. During the late 1940s, the Secretary of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs Leon Ó Broin had discussed the idea of a daily broadcast spoken Angelus with Dr McQuaid, the Archbishop of Dublin. Charles Kelly the Director of Radio Éireann was also consulted but Kelly was not in favour of this proposal. After further discussion they concluded "...the introduction of speech would be a mistake and we should experiment further simply with a bell..."

    Initially, they considered using a gramophone recording of an Angelus bell; this would be easier to manage and there would be no wind-noise, birdsong, and mechanical noises. There was also the issue of the punctuality of a human bell-ringer. However despite these drawbacks, the decision was made to go ahead and to broadcast a 'live' bell.

    The task began to find suitable bell-tower where a microphone could be safely installed. In 1950, only one church in Dublin had an electrically operated bell, the Franciscan Church in Merchant's Quay. This church was inspected by Mr Ferguson the Radio Éireann Engineer but it was quickly made clear that Dr McQuaid preferred the Pro-Cathedral bell to be used.

    Leon Ó Broin told Charles Kelly that the Archibishop "...is inclined to insist on the relays being taken from the Pro-Cathedral; so we may take our cue from that." Diplomatically, Charles Kelly had also listened to the Pro-Cathedral bell and found it had a "nice quality and pitch...The matter has reached the stage where the principle of doing the thing is agreed and how it can be done is one for engineering minds".

    Dr McQuaid, who had an interest in horology, had also asked that the first stroke of the bell should be at 6 p.m. precisely. This meant automation and a foolproof clock system. "The engineers led by Mr JM Ferguson set to work and a ringing mechanism was discussed and designed by him. As to the number of strokes of the bell, Archbishop McQuaid had directed that the sequence 3-3-3-9 was the correct format allowing for the recitation of the prayers.

    The Irish Press reported in August 1949 that "about December next the sound of the Angelus bell will follow the six o'clock time signal from Radio Éireann..." On Wednesday 23 May 1950, the minister announced that arrangements were being made to have the Angelus rung over the air each evening at six o'clock.

    Equipment was being installed in the Pro-Cathedral for the operation of the bell automatically, this was controlled by a master clock in the GPO. While the mechanism rang the bell twice daily, "only evening peals will be broadcast".

    Delays in delivery of the special mechanisms meant the January 1950 the deadline was not met. It was then decided that the next most appropriate date was the Marian Feast of the Assumption on 15 August. According to reports, the blessing was attended by virtually the entire management of Radio Éireann.

    The Angelus has been broadcast almost every day since 1950.

    When television opened from 1962, the 'Angelus Bell' was played from a tape and accompanied by old master paintings of the Annunciation.

    Periodically, the broadcast Angelus becomes the focus of public controversy but it can claim its place along with News and the Weather Forecast as the longest running 'item', if not programme, on RTÉ

  • Information

    The exterior of the Pro Cathedral in Dublin. The photograph was taken in 1969
    © RTÉ Stills Library 0383/030

  • Local keywords
    RTÉ, Radio, Broadcasting, 1950s, Angelus, Religion, Catholic Church, Pro Cathedral
  • Geographical coverage
    Dublin, Ireland
  • Topic
    The Media
  • Country of production
    Ireland
  • Original identifier
    0383/030
  • IPR restrictions
    Rights Reserved - Free Access
  • Rights terms and conditions

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  • Item type
    part/extract
  • Item colour
    Black and White
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The Angelus First Broadcast

Category: The Media

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