TV broadcasting began in New Zealand in 1961 but didn’t arrive at the Head of the Lake until 1966.

Archie Torrance, who was the local postmaster, was the first to get a TV set in Glenorchy and devoted a lot of time and energy to trying to get reception. He had a huge aerial, but reception from Hedgehope was very patchy. A group of keen young locals got together to see if they could enlist broadcasting help to find the best spot for a TV translator. Key members of the committee were Bob Key of Mt. Creighton, Graeme Scott of Rees Valley, Russell Reid from Riverside, Archie Torrance and Pat Gollop.

With generous seed money from Lakeside Football Club and local subscriptions, the proposal was taken seriously and the TV Society got expert broadcasting advice and help. Mt. Alfred proved to be the ideal location. It didn’t receive a direct signal from Hedgehope, but it picked up the bounce from another lakeside translator.

The photos show the big day in 1966 when the equipment was flown up to Mt. Alfred and installed thanks to the permission of Tommy and Reta Thomson. Pat Gollop recalls that Archie Torrance was just rapt with the reception on the first day, a great improvement over the usual snowy picture.

Those early days were fraught with technical difficulties. A wind turbine installed to generate power self destructed very quickly in the violent nor’westers. The group was lucky to have sourced long life batteries which were a by-product of the Space Race in the 1960s. Recharging them required running a generator and starting the generator required carrying up petrol and then the long walk up Mt. Alfred every time. Iris Scott remembers that every time someone walked back down the ridge it sounded like the generator had stopped, so many people hiked back up the hill just to double check, only to find it was usually still running!

Pat Gollop remembers watching TV at the pub and slowly the image would fade and the sound would sputter and stop meaning it was someone’s turn to head up the hill again and start the generator.

Later on improved batteries were installed which meant the translator could go for 2 years without needing changing. This was a huge improvement and coincided with the arrival of more helicopters in the district doing deer culling so access became much simpler.

Today with the ease of streaming Netflix and television easily from the internet, we forget how challenging it was in the early days to get to watch the few hours of television that were on every evening. But thanks for the foresight of very early technology adopters in the district that there’s been mostly uninterrupted television at the Head of the Lake ever since.

Many thanks to Geoffrey and Diana Thomson for the photo from the Mt. Earnslaw Station archives, Pat Gollop for his additional photos and recollections, and Iris Scott for her recollections.

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