Obit­u­ary: Robin Banks - Scot­tish tele­vi­sion pi­o­neer 1925-2017

Campbeltown Courier - - NEWS -

THE TELE­VI­SION en­gi­neer who made sure the 1952 funeral of Ge­orge VI could be viewed in Scot­land has died aged 92.

Robin Banks BSc, As­so­ciate of the Royal Col­lege of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (ARCST) was one of Camp­bel­town Gram­mar school’s most il­lus­tri­ous alumni.

Robert, al­ways know as Robin, was the son of Alex Banks, an English teacher at the school and his wife Mary, of Lochend, Camp­bel­town.

Af­ter leav­ing the school as Dux in 1943 Robin trained in elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­gi­neer­ing at the Royal Col­lege in Glas­gow af­ter which, in­stead of Na­tional Ser­vice, he was trans­ferred to clas­si­fied elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions work in the Mar­coni re­search lab­o­ra­to­ries in Chelms­ford, Es­sex.

Here he gained an out­stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion for his abil­ity to ap­ply elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions to real time long dis­tance sig­nal trans­mis­sion prob­lems.

Tele­vi­sion was in its in­fancy and Mar­coni’s re­search lab­o­ra­to­ries were world lead­ers in trans­mis­sion.

By the late 1940s there was pres­sure to en­able tele­vi­sion to be re­ceived much more widely than London and the Home Coun­ties.

How­ever, Scot­land with its moun­tains and long dis­tances be­tween pop­u­la­tions, pre­sented dif­fi­cul­ties.

Even­tu­ally it was agreed that the op­ti­mum site for a trans­mit­ter to reach most of the cen­tral belt would be at Kirk o’ Shotts in La­nark­shire.

The task of specifi- cation, over­sight and com­mis­sion­ing was given to 28-year-old Robin Banks and the trans­mit­ter opened in March 1952, just in time to broad­cast the funeral of King Ge­orge VI.

His par­ents were in­vited to the of­fi­cial open­ing by the BBC, but his fa­ther could not at­tend as his pupils were sit­ting their ex­am­i­na­tions. So a proud Mary Banks took her place with her son among the great and the good.

She was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested that the first item to be broad­cast from the new trans­mit­ter was the Royal Scot­tish Coun­try Dance So­ci­ety danc­ing the reel Duke of Ed­in­burgh and that it was in­tro­duced by an­nouncer Mary Mal­colm of Poltal­loch, Lochgilp­head.

Robin had of course en­sured that the sig­nal would be re­ceived in Camp­bel­town as its most dis­tant tar­get.

Thus, the rel­a­tively small num­ber of house­holds in the town which had ac­quired a 14-inch black and white screen from A&P McGrory’s shop and in­stalled a high aerial had an ex­cel­lent grand­stand for BBC Tele­vi­sion’s first ma­jor out­side broad­cast: the Coro­na­tion of Queen El­iz­a­beth on June 2 1953.

Mar­coni merged with GEC and Robin moved to Stafford where GEC had its main re­search fa­cil­i­ties.

Here he spe­cialised in high volt­age DC cur­rent trans­mis­sion for elec­tric trains such as the Eurostar and the French TGV.

GEC-Mar­coni was run by the Lord We­in­stock, who ap­pointed Robin as di­rec­tor of re­search lab­o­ra­to­ries.

He had to re­port per­son­ally to Lord We­in­stock ev­ery week, some­thing most staff feared but which to Robin was an op­por­tu­nity to trade logic with a mind he greatly ad­mired.

Robin was a keen mo­tor-cy­clist and mo­torist, and with his wife Jean, who pre­de­ceased him, of­ten re­turned to Camp­bel­town.

They en­joyed Scot­tish coun­try danc­ing and Jean, as an artist, was the per­fect foil for the highly math­e­mat­i­cal en­gi­neer.

They had one daugh­ter, Fiona, and greatly en­joyed their in­volve­ment with their three grand­chil­dren.

Robin Banks in his Camp­bel­town youth.

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