Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Can anyone enlighten us on Helensburgh born inventor Charles Johnson?


I never cease to be amazed by some of the gems that come to light as regards Scottish invention, and our friends at Helensburgh Heritage have come up with yet another.

The original piece is short, and in the form of an appeal, so I’ll quote it in full…

MYSTERY surrounds a Helensburgh man who is credited with having invented the electric gramophone pickup.

Burgh-born Charles Johnson sold the patent for the pickup to record giants HMV in 1929.

He moved to London in the 1900s and worked for Kelvin Bottomley and Baird in 1908, joining Dent clockmakers in 1911 the year before they moved to Linwood in Renfrewshire.

As well as producing record players, Dent and Company were engineers and makers of scientific instruments until they closed in 1960.

The building they used was demolished in 1966 as it was considered radioactive from making compasses and luminous dials for military and civilian use.

Charles died in hospital in Paisley in 1945, when a local paper described him as a well-known local inventor.

The Heritage Trust would be delighted to hear from anyone with information about the inventor and the company.

Details of inventor wanted

All I could come up with was confirmation of the factory and business, and that they made a compass which seems to have been used in World War I military boats.

While I wasn’t able to come up with any of their audio products, I did find a number of their compasses have appeared in auctions, and can be found for sale online.

As for Charles Johnson, nothing seen, not even in some of the more obscure industrial history sites I dig around in. The company name of ‘Dent and Co and Johnson’ is referred to, as is its location of Linwood, Paisley, but it is only referred to as a maker of scientific instruments, and”The Linwood” (Johnson’s Patent) Compass.

For what it’s worth, I had a look at some sources claiming to tell the history of the record, or gramophone, pickup.

While they did provide some reasonable technical background on the evolution of this device, and its variations (electromagnetic and crystal), they all failed to give any reference to the inventors behind them, and concentrated mainly on the principles involved, and the mechanical aspects of the needles used (seems they used the same needles as mechanical pickups), and their development from steel towards more wear resistant (and less damaging to the record surface) materials.

Those early devices had a hard life, as records generally went around at 78 rpm then, and could wear out a steel needle in as few as three plays.

So, does anybody know anything?

Please let us know in the Comment area below, or contact the trust.

‘The Linwood’ label courtesy of Helensburgh Heritage.

02/08/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Lost | , , , , | Leave a comment

Western Isles should be planning Esrange style rocket shelters

The Esrange Space Center, operated by the SSC (Swedish Space Corporation), lies in the most northerly part of Sweden. The area is virtually uninhabited, and used for launching small ‘sounding rockets’.

Sounding rockets, or research rockets, are launched into space in an elliptic trajectory where they experience a few minutes of microgravity, or weightlessness, which is useful for scientific experiments that might be influenced by gravity.

I can’t recall the grumbling objectors to a Scottish spaceport in a similarly isolated area suggesting death and destruction sweeping across the land as launch vehicles and random debris fall to Earth, but I can’t imagine they won’t be making that claim at some point, and tacking it onto their list of complaints.

Perhaps the local council, or the project managers/ backers should be arranging a fact-finding mission to Sweden, to visit the Esrange Rocket Shelters, and including a few of them in the Western Isles, just in case 😉

These little retreats are provided for the odd hiker or wanderer who might be in the area at launch time, although that shouldn’t really happen as the area is closed at such times, and the launches are announced in advance.

But the shelters are there, just in case, Described as small and spartan, they are equipped with a heater for winter, and a radio to receive any messages broadcast by Esrange.

See more details here: Esrange Rocket Shelters

It might not even take that much to provide this service initially – if there are any bothies in the area, and they haven’t enjoyed the attention of our dedicated and conscientious teams of travelling vandals, then conversion would be relatively simple.

Esrange Rocket Shelter

Esrange Rocket Shelter

Image via Wikipedia by CC SA 3.0

02/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Watch out! Dark chocoloate could be set to see ANOTHER price hike

You may recall I alerted you to the price rise associated with the breaking news story of dark chocolate having potential health benefits.

Looks like it may be time to get ready for the next rise of opportunist profiteering, and lay on stocks of your favourite dark chocolate treat now, before the price of dark options goes up AGAIN.

Bournville dark fans rejoice – people who eat dark chocolate are less likely to be depressed, according to the first study of its kind.

Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, finds a new UCL-led study looking at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders. The study, published in Depression and Anxiety, is the first to examine the association with depression according to the type of chocolate consumed.

More than 13,000 US adults were asked about their chocolate consumption, which was compared with their scores on a questionnaire that assesses depressive symptoms. Other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also taken into account to ensure the study only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.

After adjusting for these factors, it was found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all.

The 25 per cent of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate – of any kind, not just dark – were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not eat chocolate at all. However researchers found no significant link between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms.

Dark chocolate fans are less likely to be depressed, according to a new study

I suggest Poundland be your next stop, and the second one down be your purchase of choice.

Poundland Twin Peaks Chocolate updated

Poundland Twin Peaks Chocolate updated

Together with all the rest! It really all is very tasty – and needs to be approached with care.

If you saw my original post about this delicacy, you may have noticed that the original FOUR varieties at the top have been joined by two new options at the bottom, to become SIX!

Will there be more?

My apologies and commiserations to those who don’t share my genes and stack on the fat if they overindulge or binge on this stuff. I’m sorry – I don’t.

02/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Subway entrances. Which do you prefer?

Glasgow has a few dedicated subway entrances, such as the one pictured below, in St Enoch Square.

These glass structures cover the stairs leading to the underground station and platforms (and provide a controllable entrance of course), and probably look a little better than conventional ‘square’ enclosures.

St Enoch Subway Entrance

St Enoch Subway Entrance

But, if you lived in Frankfurt, you’d be looking at something a little bit different.

Something like this…

Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station Entrance

Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station Entrance

Image Jcornelius/cc by-sa 3.0

Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station Entrance

Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station Entrance

Station Image: Kiefer CC by SA 2.0

The Bockenheimer Warte subway station is an important interchange station to the west of Frankfurt’s city center. It’s easy to spot from above ground because the entrance looks like a tram car half buried in the concrete sidewalk.

The station entrance was the idea of the architect Zbigniew Peter Pininski. At the time, locals were concerned about the expansion of the city’s transport network, and any new construction was being fiercely debated and frequently opposed. Pininski, therefore, decided to design something that might bring a smile to the faces of the frowning Frankfurters.

Inspired by the work of the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, Pininski designed a subway entrance that looked like an old tram car rammed into the sidewalk. Local authorities gave the green light to his whimsical (and, arguably, slightly dark) design, and it was completed in 1986 along with the B and C levels of the subway station.

Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station Entrance

I can already hear the ‘Angry Scottish Cycling Activists’ (and some others I can think of) whining about the broken and uneven paving around the perimeter of that entrance, demanding that the council “Repair it immediately!” 😉

02/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment


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