Ben Chifley’s Portable Radio
Visitors to Chifley Home are sometimes surprised by the number of radios to be found scattered about the house. Radio news bulletins, along with daily newspapers, kept Chifley in touch with national and international developments when he was at home. We can imagine how he might have kept listening to the radios as he moved about the house from room to room.
The house had a telephone if he needed to be contacted urgently. The Chifley telephone was the first one in the neighbourhood and was always available for the use of neighbours. Bathurst’s obliging telephone operators could be relied upon to interrupt non-essential telephone conversations to ensure the Prime Minister received his call. It is astonishing to think that Ben Chifley managed his ministerial affairs when home with such limited communication resources. But he did and did so well.
The stylish looking portable radio shown here is a P17BX “Personal Receiver” made in England in 1948 by the Gramophone Company Ltd. The “X” indicates it was made for export to Australia. The readily recognised “His Master’s Voice” logo, a trademark of quality, can be seen on the inside of the flip up plastic cover. The compact battery-powered set was marketed as a portable radio. Although it was far from lightweight at just under two kilograms and the size of a book, the “Personal Receiver” radio was cutting edge technology in its day. The radio would have been highly prized by Ben Chifley, who we know appreciated modern well-made technology. It seems likely Ben would have taken his “Personal Receiver” with him on his travels around Australia in the 1949 election. Ben Chifley’s portable radio, with cover raised as if ready to broadcast the latest news bulletin, sits atop a cabinet in the Dining Room.