Radio engineering legend retires

Van Richards-Smith retired from his job as Chief Engineer at RadioTAB last month and was sent off warmly by the many who have worked with him over the past decades.

His achievements were recognised in speeches at his retirement dinner, which General Manager RadioTAB Graham Kemp has allowed us to share with radioinfo readers.


Van studied at Brisbane Grammar School and it was here that he first met Graham Kemp. Over the course of time Van and Graham (General Manager of the RadioTAB Australia  network) worked together at 4BH, 4IP and of late 4TAB.

1963 While still completing senior examinations  at Brisbane Grammar  started at 4BH in the control room as a Trainee Tech where he helped build the new “Stand up “ Studio consoles. He had a head start in the job as had also started his technical studies while still at High School. Having completed studies at the Central Technical college he was recruited by O’Donnell Griffin Television in 1966. Just after joining ODG he gained his Broadcast Operators Certificate of Proficiency which was required to work on broadcast transmitters.

He married Dianne in1966 , Dianne worked in the record library at 4BH.

In mid 1969 fate intervened – while having his only day off from ODGriffin with the flu, he saw an ad in the paper for a position as Chief Engineer of 4LM Mt.Isa – On calling the number he found it was 4IP and they were conducting  interview  that day. By 4pm that afternoon he had the job.

The time in Mt Isa was exciting having remodeled their existing studios and then designed and built the new studios in West St. At the same time he was consultant to Barkley TV rental and Kent Ford (4IP companies), as well as starting a business with Dianne called “Smiths Hobby and Electronics.“

While on holiday on the Gold Coast in 1974 down came the rain – 4IP was struggling to get back on air, so he volunteered to stay in Brisbane and help out.

1975 – After completing the new studios at 4LM he was asked to come back to Brisbane as Chief Engineer of 4IP. His old Boss from 4BH, Ainsley Judge, was to be promoted to network Chief engineer to expand the network and install new transmission facilities at 4WK and St Helena Island.

Fate again intervened with the untimely death of “Juddy”  before the St Helena project could start. Van was made Network Chief engineer of the Color Radio Network (4IP,4WK,4VL,4LG,4LM)

1978 – When 4IP was sold to the 2SM group Van reverted to Chief Engineer 4IP under the new ownership.

1989 – Ownership changed again, with the group headed by Allen Brandt and Van retained his position. With the ultimate sale of the station to the Queensland Tab the network started to grow, not only in Queensland but through acquisitions in SA, NT & Tasmania to become Australia’s second largest Radio network.

Van (centre) with colleagues at his farewell dinner.

Back Row. Dan Mansfield RadioTAB Engineer / Graham Turner RadioTAB Engineer / Ross Ginn Retired 4IP and RadioTAB Engineer.  Front Row. Craig Wright RadioTAB Engineer / Van / Andrew Bullock / Terry Stewart retired 4LM, 4IP, RadioTAB Engineer.



Introducing Van’s replacement, Andrew Bullock, Graham Kemp said:

With a Grandfather, and Godfather being Amateur Radio operators, and a father with a keen interest in radio (later to get his amateur radio licence), Andrew’s love of all things radio was embedded in him at an early age.

Andrew spent his early years actively involved in amateur radio activities. Between volunteering for WICEN activities during natural disasters, or spending time on the sales floor selling resistors and TV antenna plugs at Tandy and Dick Smith Electronics, other opportunities arose and he then spent several years in fast food, automotive manufacturing and the IT Industry.

By building repeaters for several amateur radio clubs and setting up internet radio linking nodes in Southeast Queensland, along with WIA news rebroadcasting, Andrew’s skills in RF duplexing, LINUX and audio engineering were further developed.

After 5 years in Electronics Design and manufacture, and (a couple of) knock backs from a large Commercial Radio Network, he spent some time working for a large whitegoods manufacturer. With the Radio bug still burning, a role was secured repairing and servicing electronic surveying equipment and GPS receivers.

Shortly thereafter a Broadcast Engineer position was advertised by RadioTAB. When the HR people rang him and told him that he wasn’t successful in the role, however the Chief Engineer, and General manager wanted to “have a chat” with him, little did he realise what was about to be put on the table. The opportunity to be the “understudy” to the current chief engineer of a very large radio network.

With Van’s retirement, Andrew is now in an office with a view, multiple alarm screens and a team of dedicated radio engineers, with big shoes to fill replacing Van.


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