Letter to the editor -
I read your column on Cyril Gillingham of Noggin Cove with interest. Its little tidbit stories like this that shows the true culture of Newfoundland and Labradorians, caring people seeing what they can do to enlighten the life of neighbours. Newfoundland and Labradoreans know their neighbours, unlike many big city places on "the mainland". Wayne Chaulk's Saltwater Joys lyrics reflect that.
I just want to clarify your labelling Mr. Gillingham as an "amateur radio enthusiast," and referring to him as a "ham" in your article. By definition, Mr. Gillingham is not an amateur radio operator or ham. I guess the confusion centers around the word "amateur," which is somewhat of a misnomer. There are approximately 1,000 hams across Newfoundland and Labrador. You can recognize their homes by the towers in the backyards holding atop either wire or beam antennas, or you will also notice the VO license plates on their vehicles.
Any person wishing to become a ham will have to study a demanding curriculum and pass an examination with at least a 70% grade. Upon completion, the ham has to apply to Industry Canada for either a VO1 callsign for Newfoundland or a VO2 callsign for Labrador. At present, there is a one-time fee for this callsign.
And what do hams do? They enjoy a great hobby talking to other hams worldwide on the HF bands using SSB, digital modes or CW (Morse Code, yes it's still alive and well) or on the UHF and VHF bands, mostly locally, using a series of repeaters built and serviced by themselves. There are contests and special time-limited callsign promotions in remote and special circumstances that add to the fun. There will be hams adding to the total experience of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
And there is a serious side of the hobby, making themselves available to municipal, provincial and federal organizations in the event of situations requiring backup emergency communications. When normal home telephone and cellular communications go down, hams are included in the disaster plans of most communities within the province. Hams practice these situations on a regular basis; it is a part of the ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) component of RAC.
What Mr. Gillingham is doing in Noggin Cove is a great service for community. He's the type of fellow who would add much to the amateur radio community in NL, and I'm sure he would enjoy the fellowship of others in the hobby. If he's interested in becoming a ham, he should contact any of the hams in and around Gander or me directly.
Keep up the good work. It is articles like yours and stories like those on CBC's Land and Sea that show Newfoundland and Labradorians as they are; stories that warm hearts.
Newfoundland and Labrador Section
of Radio Amateurs of Canada