(Following on from How it all began)
All good things come to an end, and my days with 27 MHz were over the day I got busted. At the time this was the worst thing that could have happened to me, but with hindsight, it was the best. The inspector who ordered me to hand over my equipment was a kindly old chap, who told me that he’d been monitoring me for a while and that it seemed I had potential and should study to get my amateur licence. I didn’t see much option, so I knuckled down, and with the help of the Stirling amateur radio society, a lot of evening classes and what to me was a tough exam at Falkirk technical college, I got my pass in both papers and sent off for my licence. In November 1988 I received my GM7CXM callsign and before long scraped up enough cash for an FT290 2 metre rig and a collinear which I perched on the chimney in my tenement flat in Edinburgh.
2 years later and 2m while fun, wasn’t enough. I saw my friend Andy Cunningham got his A class call (GM0NWI) and when I went to his house, saw him working DX and got the bug again. I bought a Datong Morse tutor and sat through endless train journeys from Edinburgh to Dunblane and back listening to the dots and dashes. I might not have ever gotten round to taking the exam, so foxed was I with morse code, but John McGowan (GM0FSV) insisted that I go with him to the Scottish Amateur Radio Convention in Irvine and take the test. Steve had given me his father in law’s key, which I took with me, and I sat the test. After taking the second test, sending, the examiner asked me who had taught me how to send code. I replied I was self taught, to which he commented, “it shows”. To me that was obvious, I’d failed, but miraculously, a week or so later, I got my pass certificate and shortly thereafter, my brand new GM0OBX callsign.
Next stop then was an HF rig. After asking around, I found that GM5VG had a second hand Kenwood TS140S for sale. I drove a long way to his house, where I tried the rig and completed the transaction (not an easy task for a 19 year old in his first job). It was only after closing the deal that he let me use the Icom 781 on his desk. He said that if he’d let me use the 781 before trying the TS140, I wouldn’t have bought it! That night I heard him on 80m working a station in Hong Kong. I vaguely remembered seeing some masts in a field and him talking about a thing called a four-square. Yes, I still had a lot to learn!
My first antenna was a good idea but badly executed, this was a 160m doublet held between a mast and two tall pine trees. I didn’t know that the 75 ohm twin lead I had bought was not the best impedance for the job, nor the care that I should have taken to route it, away from other metal. But I managed to make contacts with it and was pretty happy. However once again fate was to dictate that it wouldn’t last forever and in 1991, I moved to Spain.
For the next year, I used the callsign EA5/GM0OBX. We started off living in a flat in Valencia, where I was only able to use a 10m dipole hung from the curtain rail of my second floor city centre flat. Even so, I was able to work Albania when amateur radio was restored after 40 years of inactivity, and I kept in touch with my friend Paul GM0OPK.
We then bought a house in La Eliana, in the suburbs of Valencia, and it wasn't long before I applied for a permanent call and was issued EA5GQI.
After a couple of years of keeping up both calls, and seeing that on my occasional visits back home I could use GM/my spanish call, I dropped GM0OBX.
In march 2002 and in a meeting at the head office in Geneva of the company I work for, our general manager Capt. Formisano decided it would be a good idea if we were all to meet our USA counterparts at their general meeting, usually held in Freeport, Bahamas. I wasn't really too bothered about the meeting, but like any good ham, the first thing that occurred to me was that this would be a nice option to do a mini DX-pedition. I applied to the licensing authorities there, who told me that there was no reciprocal agreement with Spain, but if I could prove that I had previously held a british licence (they had a reciprocal agreement with the UK) then they would agree to give me a licence. I faxed them of a copy of my original GM7CXM licence which was what I found first, and they said they would fax me a copy of my Bahamas licence upon arrival.
They did. And when I read that I had been assigned the callsign GM7CXM/C6A, I didnt know what to do. At that time, GM7 calls were still B class in the UK and I might be had for a pirate. But I was there, with a valid HF licence in hand, so I went ahead anyway. And so on my return, when I discovered that the UK would be converting all B licences into A, after the agreement to drop the morse code requirement for HF operation, I went ahead and re-applied for a UK licence as GM7CXM.
It's an ugly call, but I don't use it very often. I get back home once a year on average and radio is not top of my agenda. But if I can, I do like to go up to the duck pond at my parents house and look for friends like Jim GM4VGR on 2m, or stick a wire out the window of my dad's paint store and work a bit of HF using the old TS50S I keep there.