Voice of the people Reg Moores, inventor and Freemason

Sunday, 01 July 2007

Now living quietly at Brighton in Sussex, Reg Moores has led a varied life – inventor, entertainer, ice skater and theatrical agent in ‘theatreland’ in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. But his main claim to fame is to have invented the radio microphone in 1947

A member of Adur Lodge No. 2187, which meets in Brighton, his Masonic career was constantly interrupted by being on tour in different parts of the world, but he has been in the Craft for 52 years. 

The history of radio microphones predates the Second World War. As Reg, a life-long amateur radio enthusiast, explains: “One of the greatest thrills was with a simple one-valve unit, and high resistance headphones, listening to police cars in New York and Philadelphia, and only using about a three-feet long piece of wire – and indoors at that!” 

It was in his role as entertainer, particularly at charity ice shows and exhibitions that the idea came to him to put ‘voices’ to what were ‘dumb’ shows using wireless microphones – to get the spoken word over to the public announcement system. 

“I then set about designing what were to be super-small transmitters, with what materials and components could be obtained, mostly from ex-government surplus equipment. Many problems presented themselves, such as the frequency to be used, modulation and battery life, remembering that at the time only valves were available, being long before the advent of the transistor.” 

The final model was the ‘frame’ type, with the microphone suspended from the corners of a square metal frame, which can be seen on old films such as Pathé newsreels, but in this case the frame was the actual aerial, with a socket in which could be placed a ‘whip’ for longer range. 

Shortly after the war, Reg contacted the impresario Tom Arnold’s organisation and their producer, Gerald Palmer, who thought that the invention would be a wonderful idea for musicals on ice, but was concerned that skaters might have problems using it. 

Reg redesigned the unit as a belt in a demonstration for Palmer at the Brighton Ice Rink, with television producer Richard Afton present. Each costume had its own microphone attached to a specially designed ‘voice’ funnel sewn into the underside of the costume. A small split was cut into the costume so that the semi-circular funnel could catch the voice and direct it to the microphone. 

The musical which was chosen to try out the new device was Aladdin on Ice, at the Sports Stadium Ice Rink for its Christmas show in 1949, an ideal venue to test out the capabilities and reliability of the system. The microphones worked perfectly during the entire run of the pantomime, with no loss of signals or interference. The radio microphone was born. 

Tom Arnold decided to try out the microphones again, this time on a major production of Rose Marie on Ice, with world skating champion Barbara Anne Scott, Michael Kirby – partner to the legendary skater Sonja Henie – and a large supporting cast and chorus. Reg had to produce and operate at least six radio microphones for this show. 

However could these wonderful skaters put over their voices as required while skating? Tom Arnold decided it was too risky, so the ‘mikes’ were dropped and professional ‘dubbers’ employed, including Shaw Taylor. 

However, Reg was still active in his other roles as a unicyclist, stilt skater, fire eater, barrel jumper and ice comedian – he had already made his appearance as a star in Ice Fantasia for the BBC, the world’s first televised studio ice show on 8 April 1949. 

The radio microphones were presented to the Science Museum, London in 1972. 

These devices are now an accepted part of entertainment as well as serious programmes including interviews. In 1959, Bruce Forsyth adopted one of these devices for his popular London Palladium Sunday night programmes. It is difficult to imagine modern television without them. 

But, indefatigable as ever, Reg went on to the field of molecular spectroscopy, and one of his nuclear quadrupole resonance spectrometers was on continuous working display for many years in the physics section of the Science Museum.

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