The Night the Welsh invaded Horwich. (4th March 1977)
by: William Kay Ex ITA/IBA/NTL engineer, Winter Hill.

It was 21.05 hours on a typical Winter Hill early March evening (Fri 4th March 1977 to be exact) when the assault was made. The night was clear and stars were shining.
Click here for an article by Angharad Tomos and the Welsh view.

Bill Kay from Adlington used to be an Engineer working at the Winter Hill Transmitter Station above Horwich. Bill died in Nov 2018 at the age of 80 but some years ago I spoke to him about his time working on Winter Hill. He told me of a little known incident in 1977 when members of the Welsh Language Society invaded the control room and switched the transmitter off. Bill had written an account of the incident and gave me a copy. He said it was OK to put it on-line and recently his widow said she'd like to see it published. Read on for Bills story
It was 21.05 hours on a typical Winter Hill early March evening (the 4 March 1977 to be exact) when the assault was made. The night was clear and stars were shining, however a thin ground mist wreathed the road and moor land. I was the senior shift engineer on duty that night along with two other shift engineers, Mike Ingram and Peter Dennis.
Bill Kay (1938-2018)
Peter was manning the control desk, whilst I was in the test room repairing some piece of equipment. By a stroke of good fortune Mike was just heading for the kitchen via the entrance hail when the incident began. He rushed to the test room and informed me that we had intruders on the premises. I immediately followed him to the hall where I saw that the glass panel in the front door had been broken to gain access and I was just in time to see someone going away from me down the corridor leading via the garage to the UHF transmitter hall. I shouted to Peter to contact the Police and then, accompanied by Mike, followed the intruders into the UHF transmitter hall I switched on the lights as I went for the intruders were using torches.

On entering the transmitter hall I saw four people, two young men and two young women in the room. One of the women was operating the HT Isolator and earthing switches of the A transmitter, (almost the quickest way of switching off).

I immediately challenged her but she continued to operate the switches. I went up to the transmitter and switched it back on again. In all there was a break in transmission of about 15 seconds. I subsequently found out the B transmitter had also been switched of by the same method. The intruders made no effort to stop me re-powering the transmitters; they just stood back from me whilst I did it. As I stood there guarding the A transmitter whilst Mike stood by the B I noticed that one of the women was carrying a carpenter's hammer. I was glad I hadn't spotted that before.

When my panic subsided and I was in control of myself and of the situation, I questioned them about their motives They informed me they were members of the Welsh Language Society and that the intended disruption of the Winter Hill transmissions was part of their campaign for a 4th channel for Welsh speaking Wales. Winter Hill had been chosen because Granada programmes beamed from it
not only covered NW England but also leaked over into north Wales, and this they objected to. I tried to explain that radio and tv signals are no respecters of geographical or political boundaries, and I tried to point out to them that inhabitants of N. Wales did not have to tune their sets to the Granada channel if they did not wish to receive it. But all this fell on deaf ears.
At about 20.25 hrs the Police arrived, first the Horwich police, then those from Cborley and lastly the PC from Adlington. As the Winter Hill station is actually on the Chorley side of the boundary, and in the Adlington section of the Chorley Police area, then the privilege or pain of arresting the culprits fell to the Adlington PC.
Winter Hill Transmitter Station.

When the prisoners were searched, there was found in the handbag of one of the women, a quantity of 6in nails. The idea had been to disrupt the transmission and then to barricade themselves in the transmitter hall by nailing all the doors shut, thus preventing early re-powering of the transmitters. This part of the plan luckily was thwarted by our good luck and Mikes prompt actions. This was of course the reason the woman was carrying the hammer. The Police questioned me closely as to whether at any time they had threatened us with the hammer, but in all truth, I had to say that the group behaved impeccably after being challenged. In fact it seemed a major part of their policy was to get arrested and go to court to extract the maximum publicity for their cause.

As the Police were leaving they asked what would be the cost of replacing the glass door. Just off the top of my head I said 100. It was eventually replaced at a cost of 30 but the damages set by the court and paid by the miscreants was the sum of 100, so that night I made a profit of 70 for the IBA. The group pleaded guilty and were sentenced to some months in prison I believe.

The Welsh finally got their 4th channel but when 1 look at the programmes that appear on all channels in general, I often wonder if those four people still think it was worth their sacrifice.

William Kay
Ex ITA/IBA/NTL engineer, Winter Hill.

Winter Hill Base Station and Mast.
Winter Hill mast replaced an earlier 140m (450 ft) high transmitter that was built in 1956. The current mast came into service in 1966 and is over double the height at 309.48m (1,015.4 ft) tall. It's not the tallest mast in the UK but as the base of the mast is 441m (1,446 ft) above sea level Winter Hill has the highest television transmitting antenna in the UK at 750.5m (2,462 ft) above sea level and also the highest point in Lancashire.