by Lee Mathews – Manawatu Standard
Seventy years on, he still taps it out
ZL2PX – aka Mervyn Taylor – has made a good fist of it.
The 92-year-old amateur radio operator was back in Palmerston North at the weekend, celebrating more than 70 years on the morse key and microphone. He returned for the amateur radio operators’ annual symposium at Queen’s Birthday Weekend, and he’s believed to be the oldest operator in the country.
“Ham”, or hobby amateur radio, first fascinated Mr Taylor when he was a youngster living in Shannon, and all because of the local bootmaker.
The bootmaker, a Mr Grey, was thought a bit crazy by the locals, as he “heard voices” from Wellington.
The voices were, of course, other amateur radio operators or hams, talking across the country and, eventually, as radio sets became more powerful, around the world.
New Zealand in the 1930s was a world of expensive, difficult-to- make toll calls.
It had only three radio stations, which broadcast from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and only between 3pm and 10pm. Other voices out of the ether were a novelty.
Mr Taylor got his first ham licence in 1935, at age 21.
World War II broke out, and Mr Taylor went into the Army as a signaller. He put in hours of anxious shore watch in the Solomons, helping the Americans at Guadalcanal and in New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.
The radio skills were also essential for his after-war role, still in the Army, in the amateur radio emergency corps. He was living in Waiouru at the time of the Tangiwai rail disaster in 1953, and his radio skills were important in the rescue work.
He stayed at his set for 24 hours.
One important message that had to be relayed was informing the then-Governor General, Lord Norrie, who was travelling New Zealand with the Queen on her coronation tour.
No cellphones in those days – amateur radio operators got the message through.
Mr Taylor now lives in Paeroa, with his wife Murial.