In September 1961, Brian Cockell (later licensed as G8BJK) delivered the following letter to dozens of local radio enthusiasts in the St Albans area:
An inaugural meeting has been arranged to take place at the Red Lion Hotel, St. Albans at 8pm on the 4th October, 1961 with the object of forming an Amateur Radio Club. Attempts have been made in the past to get a successful club running, and the idea of this meeting is to ascertain if enough support will be forth coming to make it worthwhile opening a club in this area.
Trusting you may be interested enough to attend the above meeting,
Prior to sending out the letter, Brian rode around St Albans on his bike visiting other licensed amateurs. Derek Purchese G3LXP, who was Brain’s right hand man, also approached potential members. As a result of their efforts plus the letter one hundred and twenty people turned up and thus the Verulam Amateur Radio club was formed.
The Red Lion Hotel was at the junction of the High Street and Verulam Road. For many years the building was the Forum china and kitchenware shop and from June 2006, a Zizzi restaurant. The restaurant is next to the town’s Clock Tower which seems most appropriate as the Clock Tower was used as a semaphore signal station in the Napoleonic Wars.
Some of the founder members were Brian Cockell (G8BJK), “Pop” Thomas (G3EKU), Derek Purchese (G3LXP), Dick Wells (G8BNR), George Slaughter (G3PAO), Graham Bird (G2AIA), Phil Connelly (G3OFH), Philipa McQuade (G8AKP) and Bernard Mapley (G3ACO).
The first club chairman was “Pop” Thomas. Phil Connelly was the treasurer and the first Secretary was Brian Cockell.
For the first few years, meetings were held in the staff canteen at the Marconi Instruments service building in Hedley Road. Since then, several other locations in and around St Albans, including the Market Hall (now demolished) and even the Town Hall, were used. The club eventually found a long-term home in the Royal Airforce Association (RAFA) premises in New Kent Road. RAFA moved out of the site in December 2005 and the Club moved to its present location at Aboyne Lodge School. Membership was often well over 100 with “standing room only” at some meetings.
Callsigns and Contests
The first club call sign (G3STA) was issued around 1964 with the current call signs (G3VER and G8VER) being issued about 1966. In 1980 G3STA was abandoned as it sounded too much like G3VA in Morse. Over the years, the club has taken part in many contests, with the National Field Day ( NFD ) and the VHF NFD being regular events, with at times, over 30 members participating! – VARC won the NFD on at least two occasions.
In the early Seventies, VARC started the Clubs Call contest (then known as the “Verulam Contest”) – it became so popular that the RSGB took it on as a national event.
For several years, in each December, the VARC “Christmas Rally” was a popular event. Many people remember the event being held in the Alban Arena and then at the Woodside Leisure Centre but the very first VARC rally was actually held on the 17th June 1972 at Salisbury Hall, just south of St Albans.
Brian’s Original Letter