George A. Adamson



Started as a Radio Operator in 1927. Retired in 1994.

A commencé comme opérateur radio en 1927. Retraité en 1994.


George Adamson VE3XS (right) receiving his 75 year pin from
Doug Leach, VE3XK at QCWA 8 Mar, 2005
(John Gilbert, photo).

George passed away on March 24, 2010 in Ottawa. The following is an interview with George by Ernie Brown, prepared May 1998 and reproduced here with Ernie’s permission.


George was born in Darlington, England, on October 2, 1910. He lost the sight of his right eye through an accident, with a sharp pencil, at the age of 4 years.

While in high school, he and a friend built radio broadcast receivers using three tubes. He developed an interest in going to sea as a radio operator. After High School he attended the Cardiff Radio School and in 1927 qualified for the PMG 1st Class Radio Certificate. (Post Master General was the regulatory body issuing the Radio Certificates.) He found there were no job openings at the time, so spent two years driving trucks, delivering fertilizer to farmers, which was his Father’s business. His Mother was corresponding with her brother in Toronto, and he suggested there may be jobs available in Canada. As a result, George took passage on the “Duchess of Richmond” to Canada in 1930. Third class passengers had to disembark at Quebec City, so he had the long train ride to Toronto. On arriving at Union Station in Toronto, he was met by his cousin, and was impressed by the huge columns of the Union Station and the parade with bands playing on the street to welcome him. He found that this was the 24th of May, the Queen’s birthday celebration! He stayed at the home of his Uncle, Charlie Brown, and visited Canada Steamship Lines office to see about a job. They advised him they hired Radio Operators through Canadian Marconi Company, and in their office he was interviewed by Mr. C. S. MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald said they would call him at his Uncle’s home, where the phone number was Holland 1488. The call came at the end of the week, and Mr. MacDonald delivered to him train tickets to Fort William where he was to join the grain carrier “Gleneagles”. The train left Toronto at midnight, and arrived at Fort William about 4PM He stayed overnight at the King Edward Hotel, and next day went by taxi to the ship. He remembers seeing Buffalo grazing in a field along the way.

The radio equipment on the “Gleneagles” was a 500W spark transmitter, with a receiver having a crystal detector and two-tube amplifier, and powered by batteries. On leaving the Port he fired up the transmitter to get a signal check from Port Arthur radio, VBA, and found the equipment working well. The loaded ship sailed to Port Colbourne. He spent nine years on the lakes, and was radio operator aboard the passenger vessel ‘Harmonic” in the last few years of that time. During the winter months when the ships were tied up, he stayed with Walter Twomley in Toronto, and they built an amateur radio station, using a pair of 45 tubes in a push-pull oscillator circuit. In the winter of 1932 George obtained the amateur radio license, and the call sign VE3YA.

During his years on the Great Lakes he copied only two SOS calls. One in about 1934 was from the US Passenger ship “George M. Cox” which ran aground on the western tip of Isle Royale in fog. The ship ran up on the shelving rock, and passengers were able to walk off the ship without getting their feet wet. The other was from an Algoma Central ship, which had collided in fog with another US ship. Pat McMenemy was the operator on the Algoma Central ship.

In 1939 he had responded to an advertisement by the Government of Canada for Radio Operators, and when the ship docked in Sarnia, there was a letter from the Government waiting for him. He reported to the Meteorological Office in Toronto for a two week course in weather observing. Then was posted to Killaloe Radio Range. At Killaloe he was attracted to Marion, the daughter of another Radio Operator on the station.

In 1940 he was transferred to St Hubert where they needed CW operators for the Airlines operating position. The Dorval station was being built at the time, and one day he finished the midnight shift at St Hubert, and reported on the next shift to Dorval. In a year or so he was doing maintenance at the Beaconsfield transmitter station, working 16 hour shifts at the site. Jim McKay from Ottawa came to visit him there as he was looking for technicians to build Fan Marker Monitoring receivers. George accepted the transfer as it would greatly shorten the drive to Killaloe to visit Marion. He reported to Jack Brooman at the test labs, but found himself building crates to ship equipment to the North West Staging Route! (The NWSR was the chain of airfields through northern BC and the Yukon and Alaska.)

George and Marion were married in 1942, and lived in rooms rented from Fred Hatch on Clarendon Ave. The position of Officer in Charge at Earlton Radio Range was advertised, and George applied and was selected. They were at Earlton from 1943 to 1947, when they came to Ottawa. Daughter Patricia, and son George, were born while at Earlton, in the hospital at Haileybury. In September 1947, he was appointed a Radio Technician at the Ottawa Short Wave Transmitter Station, on Greenbank Road. Houses for staff were under construction, but not yet ready. They stayed at Webb’s Motel on Carling Av. until their house was ready. He worked the night shift at the station and his hours for sleeping did not match those of daughter Patricia, nor of George. During their time at Greenbank Road, Pamela and David were added to the family.

Bill Aitken was another Technician on the station and Ed Gauthier was Officer in Charge. Mr. Gauthier became ill, was sent to the Hospital at Brockville, and did not return. The new OIC appointed in 1949 was Bill Maclean from the west coast. In 1954 Mr. Maclean moved to the USA to work for one of the electronics companies, and George became the OIC. The station had 4 transmitters for the Department of Transport, three for the Time Signal CHU, a number of VHF and UHF transmitters for the Ottawa Aeradio Station, and one for the RCMP. There were 6 rhombic antennas (large, diamond shaped antennas, pointed in the direction of the receiving stations) directed on six different locations, east west and north. During these years George’s vision was gradually deteriorating. In 1962 when he could no longer drive the station vehicle, which was required of the OIC, he was moved to the Clyde Av. Laboratory where he worked at calibrating test instruments. They now had a home on Glenmount Av. He worked at Clyde Avenue until retirement in 1974. George continues to enjoy amateur radio with the call sign VE3XS, and sings with the CNIB choir.

(Prepared by E. Brown, May 1998)


Obituary - Avis de décès

George A. Adamson

1910 - 2010



ADAMSON, George A. Silent Key VE3XS Peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 in his 100th year.


Beloved husband of Marion (nee Herbert). Cherished father of Patricia Drew (Bob), George (Sandra), Pamela Thornton and David (Cathy). Loving grandfather of Joanne, Laura, Gregory, Michael, Geoffrey, Christopher, Andrew, Scott, Jessie, John, Thomas and great-grandfather of Nicholas, Liam, Olivia, Hannah, Katarina, Corynne, Elise and William. Dear brother of the late John (Lilian).


Special thanks to the staff at the Ravines Retirement Home for their care and kindness. Friends may call at the Westboro Chapel of Tubman Funeral Homes, 403 Richmond Road (at Roosevelt) on Saturday, March 27, 2010 from 11 a.m. until time of memorial service in the chapel at 1 p.m.


In lieu of flowers, donations to the Palliative Care Outreach Program, the CNIB or the charity of your choice would be appreciated.


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