It was 40 years ago in 2004. As on Easter Friday,1964, the first transmissions went out from the radio ship mvCaroline(Fredericia) off the UK Essex Coast on 1520 kcs, 199 metres. A most decisiveevent in Northern European broadcasting. Almost 4 years later, the originalRadio Caroline had come to a sad end. Here follows a series of material relatedto this incident, to serve as our tribute to The Lady of the airwaves.
1. Introduction adapted from”The final curtain”, an essay by Tim Davies,
TheRadio Caroline South ship (Mi Amigo} in dry dock at the Orange Wharf,Amsterdam, on March 17th, 1968. Picture:Unknown
After the departure of the other offshore stationsafter 14th August, 1967, Radio Caroline found herself alone and uncertain ofher future; Insufficient revenue was pulled in from advertising to run the twoships; the Mi Amigo (Caroline South) and the Fredericia (Caroline North).Between 14th August, 1967, and the close-down on 3rd March, 1968, there wereless than half a dozen paid advertisements. Most of the advertisements heard onthe two Caroline ships were taped from television or from other radio stations,and of course there were
always the old pre-August 14th casettes to rely on.
As far as is known, no very great effort was made toobtain advertising from abroad. Radio Caroline relied on "plugged" recordsto finance the running of the ships. Each ship cost approximately £1,000per week to run and various groups and record companies paid £100 perweek for 30 plays of their nominated record. There was delay in getting moneyout of the country, and large debts began to accumulate in Holland. The biggestdebt was to the Offshore Tender and Supply Company, which was a subsidiary ofWijsmuller, a large Dutch tug firm.
Eventually the tender company refused to let theaccount grow any larger. On Friday afternoon, March 1st, a meeting was held inthe company's office, and it was decided to tow the ships into Amsterdam. Noone in the Caroline organisation from the boss, Philip Solomon, to NanRichardson, who worked in the Amsterdam office, had any prior knowledge thatthe ships would be towed away early in the morning on Sunday 3rd March, 1968.
The Mi Amigo arrived in Amsterdam on March 4th, andthe Fredericia (also known as the MV Caroline) on March 9th. Both ships weredry-docked upon arrival. At time of writing the ships are still in Amsterdam,subject to the decision of a court hearing which started as long ago as 27thFebruary, 1969.
There have been various attempts to re-start RadioCaroline. One such was from the former Radio 270 vessel, Oceaan 7. There havealso been numerous rumours that Caroline would return on such and such a date.My personal opinion is that there is very little chance that Radio Carolinewill ever be heard again.
2. How the Mi Amigo was silenced
by Andy Archer
From Spotlight, Free Radio Association 1970
During the past year, I've read so many different andconflicting stories about the closure of Radio Caroline that I feel it is abouttime you were told the truth. And one of the few people who can tell you thetruth is me, because I was on the Mi Amigo when she was towed away; Honestly; Iwould rather have kept the real truth to myself and to the other fellows whowere on the ship with me, namely Roger Day, Stevi Merike, Johnnie Walker andBud Ballou (Henry Morgan and Carl Mitchell were on shore leave); But probablywe have kept our secret long enough, and I would rather you know the true storythan have lies told you by someone who was not even involved.
On March 3rd 1968, at 2 a.m., I finished the CarlMitchell show and wished the
listeners goodnight, and hoped they would join usagain at 5.30 a.m. for the Roger Day show; Johnnie, Stevi and I then went tothe mess to drink coffee and chat with "Harry the Mouse", ourfavourite character amongst the Dutch crew; We all retired to bed at about 4a.m. Just one hour later the duty engineer. Ray Glennister, switched on thetransmitter; He also switched on the Ampex tape machine to play segway musicuntil Roger arrived at 5:30 a.m. But before this could happen, the tug, Titan,pulled alongside; At 5:19 a.m. the captain of the tug walked into Studio 1, andtold Ray to switch off the music because we were to be towed back to Holland-Ray obeyed, and then woke Johnnie who in Henry Morgan's absence was the seniordisc-jockey; They were given 15 minutes to clear the cassettes and records outof both studios before they were locked up; At approximately 7:30 a.m. westarted to move towards Holland; All the DJs were now up and wondering if thiswas the end. The weather was very bad with visibility no more than 800 yards;We had no hope of getting a signal to England to warn our boss, Philip Solomon.We had nothing to do on the journey except eat, sleep and play cards;Throughout the afternoon we tuned to the BBC and to Radio Veronica, but therewas no mention that we were moving back to Holland nor even that we were offthe air; I do understand that in his show the following morning Tony Blackburnincluded a rather sarcastic comment about the proceedings, namely a welcome tohis new listeners. We arrived in Amsterdam at 5 a;m; on 4th March, and were metby Robbie Dale, his girl friend Stella, and Nan Richardson, the wife of ourchief engineer who looked after the Amsterdam office; Bud Ballou and JohnnieWalker stayed on the Mi Amigo as duty DJs: Roger, Stevi and I went to theoffice and after a hectic cat and mouse gamearound Amsterdam with reporters, weflew to London and went our separate ways;
All the DJs received a cheque and a short note askingus to keep in contact; Nothing further happened, and so ended the life of afantastic station. Radio Caroline: May she never be forgotten; I hope too, thatno one will forget her founder Ronan O'Rahilly.
Well, that's the true story of what happened: The lastrecord ever played by Radio Caroline was "Cinderella Rockefella" byEsther and Abi Ofarim; The station then
closed down with its theme song, "Caroline"by The Fortunes: I have the actual record in my collection, and I wouldn't swopit for anything.
3. From Happy Birthday Radio Caroline 20 years oldEaster 1984.
(Produced by Monitor Magazine, whichwas anunbelievably detailed fanzine produced by Roland “Buster” Pearsonof Benfleet in Essex with loving care until his death. I was proud to subscribeto it.)
Introduction by the late Roland”Buster” Pearson.
A little over six months after the MOA a comment wasmade on Caroline South that the station may be off the air the following day assome work had to take place on the generator. It was an innocent remark, no one on board at the time knewthat Caroline South and North would be off the air for a much more sinisterreason. For the next day wasSunday 3rd March, 1968. At 2 a.m.Andy Archer closed down Caroline South; three hours later the duty engineer,Ray Glennister, began to play a few records in preparation for Roger 'Twiggy'Day's programme. Roger was unableto begin his programme at 5.30 a.m, however; a tug had arrived alongside andbefore anyone knew what was happening the Mi Amigo's anchor chain had been cutand she was under tow. Off theIsle of Man, the Caroline was suffering the same fate. A double act of piracyhad finally silenced Caroline North, and forced Caroline off the air for whatturned out to be four years, six months and twenty-six days.
“The shop with the bell in thewindow”. Caroline North’s Liverpool office in 61 Lord Street wasadvertised this way on “199”.
The following is a transcript of aninterview(transcribed by KIERAN MURRAY) which took place in the RadioCarousel(AM 1386 kcs) Studios in Navan, County Meath, Eire, on Tuesday 11th May1982. The programme presenter wasPauric Welsh, and the guest
DAFFY DON ALLEN
P.W: If there's a distinctly Country flavour to the show tonight, then youwill know why when you meet my guest for the evening. He was born in Canada, of Rumanian parents, he worked inradio in both Canada and the United States. He came over this side of the Atlantic in the mid-Sixties towork on the High Seas as a DJ with Radio Caroline, presenting what they called"The Biggest Country Show This Side of Nashville".
Don: Thank's very much indeed Pauric, it's nice to be on the show.
P.W: How did I do for the beginning, is that an accurate description?
Don: Yes, very accurate indeed.
P.W: Now how did it all begin for you?
Don: Well, I always look back at it in retrospect now; there's a song thatGene Stuart - who is a very good Irish singer - came out with, the song wascalled "I'm just Lucky I Guess", and you know, since I heard that song,I sort of look back as the years go by - seventeen in all - I came over for aholiday, and at the same time
before coming over to England for a holiday, I wasworking between radio jobs. I wasworking for a firm known as Canadian National Railways, and coming back fromWinnipeg one time to Vancouver, I picked up this old copy of Weekend Magazine -you know these colour supplements that you get out of newspapers - and therewas a very interesting article about this ship, broadcasting from the High Seas.
Anyway, I had saved a few dollars and decided to seeEurope - Paris, London and places like that. I came over here and consequently pure professionalcuriosity led me to CAROLINE HOUSE.
To cut a long story short - I went up to London oneday and I walked into Caroline House and there was everybody and everybodythere. I walked up and said to thereceptionist ”Good afternoon, I'm a Radio Announcer from Canada, could Isee the set-up?” She said"Are you a Disc Jockey?” I said 'radio announcer'.. We didn't use the term DJ in Canada at thattime, however, we sort of came to a conclusion that a Disc Jockey was anannouncer and an announcer was a Disc Jockey. Next thing I knew, this Programme Director of the South(Caroline) Ship came up to me and said "you work in radio?"
Anyway he interviewed me - I didn't do an audition– and, to cut a long story short again, next day I was on a ship calledthe "Mi Amigo" which was bobbing up and down like a cork in water,off the Frinton-in-Essex coast. Ihad never been to sea in my life and that was the beginning of my radio careeron the sea.
I don't think Caroline had reached its peak yet.
P.W: But did he still tell those inane jokes that he tells now?
Don: No! He got that idea fromvarious Disc Jockeys and blended them all together. He got that from a DJ known as KEITH SKUES, who now
He was a good DJ, but I think he had his good looksand the fact that he was the very first voice in RADIO ONE helped himgreatly. No disrespect to him,though.
I knew Tony when people didn't know Tony... he didn'teven know how to cue up a record when he was on CAROLINE SOUTH .
P.W: Before we got on to Radio Caroline itself, tell us something about SimonDee, because I remember seeing Simon when he had made it very famous ontelevision in England.
Don: As I said about Tony Blackburn, he was young - only in his teens at thetime - and he had his looks going for him. Now Simon Dee had had a gimmick going for him, he wasofficially the first voice to be heard on Caroline. Simon was a very easy goingbloke, I think success got to him too quickly. Like the Beatles, you know? The Beatles were just instantly discovered and suddenlyBOOM! Success overnight and it wastoo much to handle. They tried everything - they went to India, they triedmeditation and all this... well Simon, being the first voice on Caroline hadthat gimmick going for him. Afterhe left Caroline he went on to Radio Luxembourg, then he went on Radio Two andthen he had his own television show. Everything just fell out of the sky for him. Everybody who has been onCaroline has been very fortunate; that I can remember.
P.W: Of course you worked with TONY PRINCE as well?
Don: Tony? Oh I remember Tony inthe old days when he had his Oldham "Eee-ba-Gum" accent, youknow. I've still got some of histapes. Tony sounds very polished now...he's extremely polished... he's been with Radio Luxembourg now for aboutfourteen years. But when Tonyarrived on Caroline in the early days, he was, well, the only thing missing washis welly boots and little flat cap! He was straight out of Oldham. But his heart was in entertainment. It seems small people are always more determined than biggerpeople, and Tony did great. He wasn't accepted entirely at first, buteventually he was accepted. He wassent down to the South Ship to newsread... that was totally out of his depth..this wasn't on. Tony just wasn't anewsreader. He was a DiscJockey. An exhibitionist.
P.W: To put it bluntly. Don, what was it like out on the middle of the sea,playing records?
Don: It’s not the first time that question has been asked. In fact whenCaroline got towed away, I was offered a substantial sum of money by a SundayPaper to disclose the 'gorey' side of Caroline. And I couldn't do it. I didn't even think about it.
The station was very unorganised in some aspects, butI'll give you an amusing instance. In its heyday, Radio Caroline it was just bristling with success, nomatter which way you looked at it. The agencies were clamouring, queueing up, to advertise onCaroline. Caroline House was in avery posh part of London, and there were so many people walking about that onedid not know whether these people were working for Caroline, or whether theywere just browsing through. Now Ican remember one chap called JIM MURPHY-MURPH THE SURF. His wife was sitting inthe foyer, waiting for him in Caroline House. The two directors ALLAN CRAWFORD who owned Radio Atlanta andRonan O'Rahilly who owned Radio Caroline - had a fall out or something, andwhen Allan came down, he was in a foul mood. He actually sacked Jim Murphy's wife, who was waiting forhim in the foyer. She wasn't even employed at the station!
P.W: Well, I wasn't looking for the sordid details, Don; all I was reallylooking for was details about the ship!
Don: Well, put it this way, we were well lookedafter. The food was good.
Life actually on the ship... a lot of people, firstthing they say, was there any women on the ship? There was never any women onthe ship... we lived, breathed, and slept radio. Three years on Radio Caroline was the equivalent to nineyears on any ordinary radio station, because when you take on average, you workone third of the day; the other one third of the day is leisure and the otherone third is sleep. We werespending three thirds of the day on Radio Caroline.
P.W: Well, did you find it boring or... ?
Don: No! Not at all! I don't think I would have been there for three years.
P.W: And of course, you did two weeks on two weeks off?
Don: Well, originally on the South Ship in early '65,it was two weeks on, two weeks off, with pay. The pay was exceptionally good for that particularyear. I spent March, April. May,June. I came off the South Shipand was all set to quit Radio Caroline because of health reasons; I justcouldn't stand the sea. Then I wasoffered this job in Caroline House itself. I took this from June until September or maybe November1965. Then they asked me if I would go on the North Ship just as a temporaryreplacement, because a few of the lads had shifted about.
P.W: It sounds like crisis point!
Don: It didn't seem a crisis point.
I suppose when you have this type of dedication onedoesn't count it as work. Butlet's move on to your own personal life. Say, during Caroline. Youwere in the public eye in Britain or certainly the public ear.
Well, I tried my very hardest not to be in the publiclight when I was off the ship, because later on when I made up my mind that Iwas going to stay on the North Ship, when we got off, I thought to myself thatone week out of three you've got to yourself. And after being on a ship for two weeks... I mean somepeople, like Tony Prince, liked doing gigs. I didn't. Ijust wanted to sit back and relax; go to places and, sort of, not beknown. I love to entertain peoplebehind a microphone, but I think I would have been lost on stage.
P.W: Yes. but you must have got the fan mail?
Don: The fan mail? Oh golly! Infact they had to start a fan club. I found it totally impossible to adequately and accurately answer theletters. One lady in Yorkshireoffered to start a fan club for me and I thought this is a good thing.
The crew on the ship were Dutch.
On the South Ship there tended to be a lot ofmegastars down there. Ones that... sort of... made it... let's put it that way. However, there were people on the North Ship that made ittoo, like Bob Stewart, who is on Luxembourg now. Tony Prince - he's on Luxembourg. That's two.
Radio Caroline South was aimed at a specific audience,the South of England - London primarily was their target.
I have met since I came over here in January (1982)were teenagers at the time. Theyare now married.
P.W: Honestly, we could stay talking about Caroline all day; I've got so manythings to ask you, Don, we might have to do two or three shows.
Don: I was on board. It was the saddest... I sensed it... I'll try to keep thisas short as possible because this could get very sad. Have you got any Kleenex? Actually; we were not closed downby government legislation. A lotof people seem to think that we were closed down because of the legislationthat was introduced. I will brieflygo into why we were closed down and try to keep it as short as possible.
Radio Caroline North and South were being tendered -looked after - by a Dutch tender company, they sold us food, men to look afterthe ships, and oil to run the ships. After the Bill was passed, Caroline, I believe, was leased out.
After midnight, thirty-first of August, all the survivingships that were on the High Seas ceased to broadcast - apart from CarolineNorth and South. They were thelone survivors. Radio Carolinecontinued to broadcast and it was on the fateful evening of March the first, Ibelieve, that both Carolines were taken away by the Dutch tender company.
The North Ship was broken up for scrap.
The end of Caroline was because of unpaid bills andNOT government legislation. Theday that we first got wind of this, I saw this very powerful tug.
Radio Caroline on March the Eighth, 1965.
P.W: Now, Don, when you were finally let off the ship on March the eighth,where did you go from there?
Don: Well, I was out of work in radio for exactly ayear. In that period, I did, Ithink, one show, which will I remembered by a lot of people.
Being towed away
South Ship by Stevi Merike.
From an interview by BOB RENDLE in Disc and Music Echoalso from Happy Birthday Radio Caroline 20 years old Easter 1984 produced by MonitorMagazine.
Wijsmuller decided that they were going to tow theships in and of course we knew nothing about it which was always the case.
The trip back was very slow; it wasn't a particularlyrough day. It just took the tug a long time to tow us back to Ijmuiden and viathe trans-Nederland canals to Amsterdam harbour; to the wood harbour.
Thanks to Andy Archer the trip was quite hilariousreally; because he camped it up the whole way. I think if he hadn't been there it would have been very;very depressing.
I thought the idea was that eventually whoever wasowed the pennies would get their pennies and we'd get towed back out again; butthe British owners decided 'sod it', you know? Ronan O'Rahilly was just a figurehead;
WhenCaroline went off the air we were all thrown into poverty and obscurity; withthe exception of Robbie Dale who stayed in Holland and went on TROS Radio.
From Happy Birthday Radio Caroline 20 years oldEaster 1984 produced by Monitor Magazine.
SinceRadio 390 had closed down on 28th July 1967 I had done practicallynothing. It was one of theextremely rare times when I had no work at all. I hadn't really considered Caroline as being an option afterAugust 1967; mostly because the station sounded pretty ropey and it was allplug records. But by aboutFebruary 1968 I was getting fairly desperate to do some kind of radio workagain.
A friend and colleague; Alan Clark; was also lookingaround and it was he who had the idea of going along to Carolines office -well; it wasn't really Caroline's office; it was Major Minor records.
Three or four days after seeing this Jim Hoolighanfellow I went off to
Eventually we left to go out to the boat mid-eveningon Tuesday night. It took allnight and most of the following morning to get out to the Caroline Ship, whichwas anchored off the Isle of Man; and it was an extremely rough night. When wefirst went on the tender Ross Brown said ”Let's go on the Bridge”,everybody else seemed to be on the Bridge for some reason; I never did discoverwhy. I didn't want to go on theBridge; I wanted to go to bed; which is what I did:
I found myself a bunk; but I didn’t sleep verymuch. We got to the Caroline aboutmid-day I suppose. It was a grey,nasty day, rough sea, raining, very unpleasant.
The only connection that I had with Caroline at thatstage was the fact that Martin Kayne was there. He had worked for Radio Essex a couple of years previouslyas Michael Kayne; so I knew him; but he was going off on shore leave as Iarrived. I was going out therewith Ross Brown; and coming off the boat were Martin Kayne and JasonWolfe. There apart from Ross Brown(or I should say Fred Bear) and myself, Jimmy Gordon - an Australian guy, he's in Adelaide now. Don Allen; ofcourse; and Lord Charles Brown; more usually known as Lord Charles Brown thanCharlie Brown. People used sillynames on that ship; I don't know why. I was plain old boring Roger Scott - I should say the first plainold boring Roger Scott -at that time. I can't remember much about the engineers. The cook was a Dutch guy, so we had the usual Dutch food,which was Wonderloaf and pickles and soup. The food was quite good actually, as far as Wonderloaf andpickles and soup goes, it was only the-best type.
Jim Gordon promotional card. A gift from the late“Daffy” Don Allen.
The initial impression of the Caroline boat wasdelapidation basically, although inside it was a different story-it was fairlywell appointed. The mosteye-catching part of the boat, in a rather poetic way, was the staircase! Ithad been a ferry in Scandinavia, so the ordinary passengers wouldn't climb upand down ladders, they had to have a stairway; and it was a sweeping stairway,the sort of thing you have in Capital Radio. I had the cabin at the bottom stairs, which was the DeLuxeSuite actually, built-in sanitary facilities en suite.
The most noticeable thing about Caroline North from myown personal point of view was the fact that it was the least friendly stationI worked on. It was fairlysoulless, a bit disappointing actually. Had I worked there longer perhaps I would have got to know peoplebetter; but it was a station very much of individuals.
Initially I was given news to do, which came from ManxRadio. So I was doing news duringthe day Wednesday afternoon; Thursday and Friday, then Saturday I did my firstand only programme. I did six tilleight in the evening I believe. Had it been a weekday my voice would have been the very last to be heardon Caroline North. However, that distinction evaded me because being SaturdayDon Allen did his Country and Western Jamboree, so he closed at ten- and that,as is well known, was that.
The following day the boarding party, the people who hadcome to take us away, arrived early in the morning. I hadn't detected anythingbeing in the offing, during those few days I had been there I never heardanybody talk about the possibility of it happening. Yes, things were a bit decrepit, but people had been paid ontime; the
records were there so we presumed the record companieswere paying for their plug records. Things seemed to be carrying on in; for offshore radio, a fairly normalway.
I missed them actually coming on board.
We left the anchorage on Sunday evening and of courseall the people on board at the time stayed on board until the boat reachedAmsterdam. We didn't feel likehostages or anything like that. Itwas all very amicable. They linedin with the cardgames and the drinking and the eating; it was just a largercrew than usual, that was the onlyacceptable difference. One of thecrazy things about offshore radio is you tended not to worry about things thatI would do normally. Even in theroughest conditions I don't think any of us ever worried about personal danger.I basically went there for a bit of adventure so whatever happened that wasadventurous was a bit of a bonus.
It sounds kind of romantic sailing from the Isle ofMan round the country by way of the Lleyn Peninsula, Cardigan Bay, Lands End,English Channel to Amsterdam, but there really wasn't anything spicy about it,it was more boring. It was a weekof quite rough seas, not very much happened; most of the time I remember lyingin my bunk looking at the porthole getting soaked and occasionally some waterwould come in. It was not aparticularly exciting time. I think it was noticeable there were no hoards ofweeping girls waving their knickers at us. This had been the case, we hadheard, on Radio London when the Marine Offences Act came in, but we went in themouth of the canal that leads to Amsterdam and there were hoards of totallyindifferent Dutch people fishing and wondering what this strange ship was.
We were paid off on the quayside and we were told thatwe'd be kept informed as to what was happening. Of course we were not. I think it was generally acceptedthat as far as Caroline was concerned that was it, there wasn't any future init. So very rapidly everybody wenttheir own way. I came back on aflight with the Caroline representative whose job it was to pay people.
ADDENDUM: THE CARL THOMSON STORY
From Happy Birthday Radio Caroline 20 years oldEaster 1984 produced by Monitor Magazine.
Iwas working in the test department of Marconi Marine when one day a guy by thename of Stan Fisher came down to me and said "Do you want another job? Someone'slooking for engineers for the radio station." It was Radio Atlanta, then.So on the way home one night I called in on this guy at Billericay - he was aradio amateur who's since gone to New Zealand - and had an interview. He fixedup another interview for me with the Chief Engineer at the agents which wasdown at Parkestone Quay. So I drove to Harwich to see Mr Gillman, an ex-BBCengineer who came from Devon. He said he'd employ me so I left Marconi Marine.
It must have been around the beginning of 1965 thefirst morning I reported to Parkestone Quay. There were Patrick Starling;Richard, a courier from London, and myself going out on Offshore II that day;the forecast was force six or seven; but the Offshore II was going to sail. Soout of Harwich harbour we go - and ten minutes later I'm sick over the side andwondering what the devil I'm doing going out to this ship. It was a slow boat,took about an hour and a half to get us there, and after an hour I was sick, Iwas green, and I was wet because there was no shelter - you had to stay in theair all the time. if you went down below the smell of Dutch tobacco used tomake you retch.
Finally we got on board. I was greeted by two otherengineers, an ex-Navy man who was on the point of leaving, and Trevor. At thattime the actual Chief Engineer was Ted Walters. He comes from Averly. Under himwas George Saunders, under George was Trevor Grantham, and then I joined. Inthose days there were always two engineers on board. The guy I was relievingwas going to stay overnight to show me the ropes; they said "Have a laydown for a couple of hours then we'll show you what's going to happen." Wewere on 10 kW at that time and they were trying to get us onto 20kW through acombiner.
Starting at the bow there was the actual fo'c'sle headwhich was just a paint store. Then you had the mast and the transmitterlead-in, which was through the hold. There was a doorway entrance that wentdown into the transmitter room in the hold. Next along was the studio whichused Gates turntables and desk. Then they had another small editing studiobecause at that time they used to produce a lot of their commercials on board.Then we had the dining room-cum- television room-cum - general sitting andchatting room, then an area where there were some toilets and a stairwell thatwent down to some cabins. Just after the toilets was the galley, there was abit of space which was the engine room fanlight, and then there was the crewquarters aft. We used to live in the centre section and leave the crew aloneaft. If you went downstairs you hit your head against the bottom as you wentdown; you had to remember to duck your head. As soon as you got to the bottomof the stairs, you had to turn back and come for'ard. The first cabin on theport side was Tony Visscher's, the Chief Engineer for the diesels. He came fromAmsterdam. Along on the port side was a two-berth cabin where the jocks were,and a two-berth cabin for the cook. On the right-hand side there was another two-berthcabin which was the Chief Radio Engineer's. I found out that it suffered from adisadvantage that if you got a heavy-footed jock coming down the stairs whenyou'd been on watch all night he used to wake you up; so we used to have a goat a lot of jocks in those days! There was another two-berth cab in, then youwent into a room which was our library cum a place where you could meet. Therewas a round table in there, there were the records, and there was atranscription deck so we could play any records we wanted; and we had ourfridge in there where we used to keep our drinks. We used to get twelve beersand twenty-four soft drinks a week, and we were allowed I think a hundredcigarettes free of charge - after that you could buy more. Alongside that therewas a four-berth cabin and that was where I was assigned for the first time. Isoon had enough of bunking in that four-berth cabin! Between that room and theforward transmitter room were the big water tanks, so there was a bit ofseparation between the noise of the air from the transmitters and the sleepingaccomodation. The ship was originally a sailing bulk carrier made of iron andwhen Radio Nord in Sweden took it over they cut it in half and put in a centresection of steel. An electrolytic reaction was literally rotting the steel; theold iron that they built in 1921 wasn't going to go, but the steel was going.That was the Mi Amigo and that was home for me until I left in May 1967.
We had just one companion there, the Galaxy. TheOffshore I used to go to the Galaxy first and then to us, or to us firstdepending on who had the crew change. But they always used to eat over at ourplace because we had the better cook! The cooks varied; they were on six weeksand about two weeks off. One of the Wijsmullers ran a company called Redwings,they would do anything to do with the sea, and they supplied the crew, as wellas the fuel and all the bits and pieces; we drew all our stores from Holland.Redwings put one Captain on board the Galaxy, Radio London, with a relief, andthey kept the same Captain, but with Caroline they used to alternate theirCaptains on a rota basis and we would see maybe the one Captain for about sixweeks and then we'd see another one; you may pick the same one up after sixweeks or you may go three months and then he'd come back. Some of the Captainson the South Ship were also Captains on the North Ship. They used to rotatethem, and they'd go off and do other work.
The Captain was responsible for the safety of everyoneon board and as such he would allocate where you were, to know how many peoplehe had on board. It was very hard to have people come out. If they came onboard it had to be official through Harwich; that was really strictlycontrolled. Other than those people we rescued, there was never anybodyunofficial on board, that was absolutely forbidden. The Captain would evenallocate your cabin. There was a story - and it is hearsay - that when SimonDee walked on board and said "I'm Simon Dee, I'm the Disc Jockey”the Captain said "Oh yeah? Your cabin's for'ard." Well there was onecabin in the fo'c'sle down by the chainlocker and it was terrible - and hestayed there for about four months before the Old Man moved him from that bunk.The one thing I remember about Captain de Vrie was he was the one who lovedcurry powder. He was getting on for sixty at the time, he was an old Captainwho'd sailed around Indonesia and he had curry powder with everything!
The Captain was responsible right up to the end, butthere was a lot of emphasis put on the Chief Jock and the Chief Radio Engineer.The Chief Jock looked after the jocks but he always had to look to the ChiefRadio Engineer for, shall we say, disciplinary matters, if he had any problems.If the Radio Engineer said somebody had to get off then he had to get off andthat was that. He had the authority from Chesterfield Gardens to do that; theybelieved the Radio Engineer was a little bit more sensible.The actual programmecontent, though, was always the Chief Jock's responsibility entirely.
The Merger had taken place when I joined but theAtlanta crew was still there. The merger was for commercial reasons. Ainsleyand his backers still ran Radio Atlanta, called Caroline South, and Ronan ranthe North ship. I got into the routine of going out for two weeks on and twoweeks off and got used to the job. Not much really happened, it was sort ofmaintenance; the only problem we used to get was the jocks letting go of theirCoke into the machines, that George Saunders, who was out there when I joined,left soon after we beached. He was a technical writer for Marconi’s-TedWalters was very good. He used to build model steam engines. He used to spendhis spare time offshore using the lathe in the engine room for turning hub castings.On the North Ship was Manfred Sommers, the Austrian. He was on all the time. hedidn’t seem to want to go home. Barry Wright was a guy who designedtriggers for nuclear things! Phil Perkins is a radio amateur. Bill Glendeningis dead now. He designed the suitcase transmitters for the agents during thewar. Pearsons didn’t stay with us very long. He was a young kid; aboutsixteen. Trevor Grantham was there when I joined. He stayed; and worked on.There were some more that came on-and-off. Barry Goldborn was one; another wasUllamayer, he was a Hungarian, sort of thing. We were still trying to get thecombiner to work; we finally did get it going but it was a long job. Wecouldn't get it to perform properly because the aerial resistance was lowerthan anticipated. And then the Merger suddenly became complete. The people thatowned Atlanta dropped out and the Caroline staff came more onto the scene. Wesuddenly-found we were on two weeks and off one; which was a little bittighter, but the money was put up a little bit so we didn't mind that too much.I started off at £25 per week and when I left in sixty-seven I was on£80 per week(when I left Marconi's I was on £10 a week). We wereclassed as self-employed and I went on to self-employed tax which was a lotbetter than PAYE. I paid an accountant six guineas and that was the best sixguineas I ever spent; he looked after my affairs all the time I was out there.
I was on board the night we came up on the beach.Having switched off the transmitter at the end of programmes for the day ateight o'clock, I'd been doing a bit of maintenance on the galley stove and themotion felt funny. I'd been on there just less than a year and the motion wasdifferent to what we used to get. Normally when we were in a gale the bow usedto dip down, she used to come up and then there used to be a 'wallop' as shepulled the chain, then she used to stop, and you used to start diving againimmediately. At about eight-thirty that night she came up, there was a crack,and she kept going.
The old Captain came forward and had a look, and thechain looked alright. We had a good mile of heavy duty chain down and it lookedOK, He took a few bearings over half an hour and apparently we weren't moving.Then the tide turned.
At about nine o'clock, the TV picture kept needingadjusting. There was a rotator to keep the TV aerial pointing to the TVstation, and the jocks had to keep getting up to adjust the position of theaerial. Then the Old Man took some more bearings and suddenly we noticed weweren't really in position. Then the devil broke loose. Everybody started torun around; we were looking at the chain and it looked taut, but we weren't inthe position we were supposed to be. The Old Man came in to me and said "Ithink you'd better get everybody up." Then we drifted up towards Clacton,and we came back down towards Walton, and the coast was getting rather close.
We were nearly on the beach when they started the engines,and they wouldn't hold. There was too much rubbish around the propellers atthat time; she'd been laying there and they hadn't cleaned the weed from thepropellers. So they got the engines started but it wasn't any good, it couldn'thold us. We started to come up on the beach rather fast. Suddenly the beach wasthere; we came up and the seas were breaking over.
If you ever go down to Holland-on Sea and walk alongthe sea-wall to have a look, you'll find that all the way along there aregroynes that act as breakwaters. The Mi Amigo's length is about one hundred and eighty-seven feet, am thegroynes were going out at one hundred and fifty feet spacing - except for oneplace where they had a cement structure that was an old war-time jetty. Therethere was two hundred and something feet, and we beached her up there. Justparked it nicely. Nobody had anything to do with it at all; Someone was lookingafter us that night.
We came up, then Tony Visscher said "getdown" because they started firing the rocket-gun for the rescue lines tocome over. One of them hit the side structure, another one hit us close to awindow, but finally one of them got a line over and they put the breeches buoyon board. We all went up aft just underneath the bridge and we started to getthe jocks off.
The Senior Radio Engineer on board was in charge ofthe whole of the English crew, the jocks and the radio engineer. At that timeGeorge Saunders was the Chief Engineer on that particular shift, although hewas a lot younger than I was. While they were being got off I suddenlyremembered the closing theme which was by Jimmy McGriff. I believed that therewas only one copy of that; it was scratched but it was the only one we had onboard and I thought we couldn't get another one from London. So I tucked it inmy shirt. I'd already been down earlier and got some warm clothing, and takenthe crystals out of the transmitter.
In the rush, George and myself had forgotten to putthe covers over the top of the air vents to stop the seas from going down intothe top of the transmitters. Later, when we spoke to Ted Walters, the firstquestion he asked was about the covers. The answer didn't half make himunhappy! Its the only time I ever got a rollicking from him.
I told the Old Man that all the English personnel wereoff and he said "You must go ashore", and then I went ashore in thebreeches buoy. I'd only got my slippers on. By the time I landed on the beachmy trousers were soaking, I'd lost my slippers and I'd lost my socks. As I waswalking up the beach I thought "We must be famous, they've even laid thered carpet out, I can't feel the stones". It wasn't until I'd scrambled upto the top and looked down with the headlights of the ambulances, I saw it wasso soft because I'd been walking on six inches of snow! Carl's toes turnedblue, and I actually got frostbite that night.
Radio Caroline”Countdown of Sound” never played on the South ship because the MiAmigo went aground. From Carl Thomson’s collection. From HappyBirthday Radio Caroline 20 years old Easter 1984 produced by Monitor Magazine.
We came up to the nearest place in Frinton; I think itwas the Golf Club. First person to greet us: British Customs! "Anything todeclare?" So I took my cigarettes that were all wet and soggy, "Yes!",straight into his hand-said "Oh, thank you very much, sir!" and threwthem down. The Customs were only there for a minute, then the Lifeboatsecretary and the Coastguard staff took over and did all the arrangements, andthey got a hotel opened up. First of all they took us round to a store. As wewere distressed seamen we could get some dry clothes out of this store and Igot shirt, a pair of jeans, a woollen jumper, some socks and some plimsoles.The jeans I wore for about fifteen years! They were blooming good quality thatwe got free of charge that night. I've still got the jumper somewhere too!
They took us to a hotel, and that hotel room was cold.The manageress who was running the place said "I'll make you a nice cup oftea" but we said "We're residents here, aren't we? Open the bar!Someone will pay in the morning", and we had double Scotch, and brandy,all round, and that made the pain go away. By the time we went to bed my toeswere really aching but in the morning they transferred us to Harwich where theyhad a look at them, and they were alright.
I got mentioned in the press that day! I think thiswas from the old "Express": "Ashore, cold and soaked, came DutchSteward Thys Spyker, nineteen, radio engineer Carl Thomson, twenty-three, chiefradio engineer George Saunders twenty-four, audio technician Patrick Starlingand disc jockeys David Travers, twenty, Thomas Lodge, twenty-five, Graham Webb,twenty-nine. Tony Blackburn, twenty-three and Norman St.John. Lifeboatman JohnHall said after the rescue: 'The disc jockeys were laughing and waving picturesof girls when they reached the beach. They seemed cheerful." Tom Lodge wasthe first one that came ashore. That cabin boy was wrecked twice in one week!We reckon he was the Jonah! Only a few days before, the "Galaxy" hadgone adrift. They didn't beach, they were lucky in that there was a tug around.We'd laughed at her because she went right into the Limits, she was nearly upin West Mersey. When they towed her back we were all laughing and generallyjoking. Thys was on Radio London then, and he transferred over to us because wewere short-staffed. He didn't come back after that.
I went back on board the Mi Amigo the following day atlow water and hung around when they got her off. We discovered the reason whythe chain was straight - it was broken at the anchor and we still had all thechain down. was so rough that it needed that final grip to hold it. That wasthe reason we were moving about so slowly we never realised we were going.
Weismullers tug Titan came over from Holland and put aline on board. He had two miles of line on to get a tow because he couldn'tcome in over the sands. They used a small boat to bring the line from the Titanto the Mi Amigo fixed it to the bow. If you look on a chart, the only wreck formiles is that of a fishing boat. On the first pull, they got tangled in thatwreck and the line broke. The next night they ran the line in again and got heroff. We actually wrecked our engines getting off the beach - our main engines,not the generators. We had a small generator a big one. When we came up on thebeach we shut down the generators; but they worked off the small generator thatonly gave emergency lighting and compressed air. When they started to tow; TonyVisscher started the engines and they wopped it at "ahead". For aboutfour minutes they gave just that extra impetus to get the Mi Amigo off thebeach; but she took in so much sand that it just wrecked all the liners on thepistons. The sand blocked up all the cooling water; too; and everythingoverheated and she seized. But; they got her off; and she went out and anchoredin the Gunfleet.
I and Patrick Starling, who was a studio tech employedto look after the studios, said we'd go with her to look after the engineeringside. So; we were going to Holland with her; and off we went. The Offshore IItook us to the Mi Amigo; and the Titan towed the Mi Amigo to Holland. Both theOffshores I and II remained in Harwich.
We couldn't do much except help the cook. On the firstday; however; I used the opportunity to give the transmitters and thetransmitter room a good clean out. Patrick cleaned and checked the studio, WhenI got up the next morning there was grease and oil all over the cleantransmitter room and some of the pumps were running: we'd sprung a leakunderneath the water tanks. It was the steel section of the hull. The iron wasalright but the modern steel had gone and we were making water in there. Sothey had the pumps running all the time from then on; until we got intoHolland.
We went into Ijmuiden; and Ijmuiden is one of the highpoints in Holland.Theres a hill up on the starboard side as you go in throughthe lock. Well; it had been announced that Caroline was coming in on RadioHilversum - and I've never seen so many people in all my life. That hill wasblack with people when we came into Holland. It was about five o'clock at nightwhen we finally made the harbour entrance and all over the hill it was just asea of bodies like ants. They'd come from all over Holland to see us. We wentin the locks and up toZaandam where we stayed for a good while.
That's when we hired the Cheetah for a period of time,
The Dutch Authorities were; shall we say,"nervous" about having transmitters on the ship in Holland. When Icame back the next time (we were still on our two weeks on / two weeks offperiod) they'd already lifted off the transmitters and they were in bond. TheCheetah, from Radio Syd, was FM only, so what we did was to load one of our
transmitters onto the Offshore I; take it over, andlift it on board the Cheetah and fit it out in one of the holds. We used a wireaerial which was nothing fancy; it was just a piece of wire up to the highestpoint on the mast and then back to a stay. I suppose we were getting 6kW intothe thing; if we got 10kW we used to arc over like the Devil. But at least itbrought Caroline's name back onto the air. We used the original studio of theCheetah.
The 201 metre crystals stayed with me right up to thetime we brought Cheetah on the air; I actually put them back in. They werelarge; glass crystals in valve sockets; so they were wrapped up in cotton wool.They were in my soap bag; in my shaving kit; the whole time; and were neverfound. The Jimmy McGriff record had been handed over to the office in London;it went out to the Cheetah and was transferred back again to the Mi Amigo.
We were broadcasting from the Cheetah within aboutfour days of getting the transmitter in. All of the jocks came out; they justpicked up their rota and continued. On the engineering staff; Ted Walters,Trevor Grantham and Patrick Starling all came out at some time. We all came out on the tender just as on anormal shift.
One night when I was at home I suddenly got a call tosay that the Cheetah was going to Lowestoft! What had happened was, one of thedirty water dischargers for the toilets was so old it'd broken, and as it wasbelow the water-line it was letting in scawater. They managed to get somebodyto seal it off from the outside, then she had to come to Lowestoft, where theyrepaired this outflow at Richards Yards. I sailed on her from Lowestoft downthe coast to the anchorage, then we started rebroadcasting.
I got on well with the tugboat crews. The tug thathelped her up from Lowestoft came from Harwich on a Sunday, and I passed acrate of beer over to the tug for their lunch. Ever afterwards, if theycouldn't get a tender and this tug came out in place of the Offshore I, they alwaysremembered me and I always got a cup of tea from them!
So the Cheetah went on, and slowly people began toleave. Trevor went to pastures new for a time, George left; and that left Ted;myself and some new ones. Then Ted left and I came up into the Chief Engineer'sposition on the Southern Ship.
I wasn't on the Mi Amigo on the day she sailed backfrom Holland because it was my shift off. The engineer on there was Paul Dale.The new 50kW transmitter came on board in boxes in Holland and it was fitted onthe tow. The new layout; as you came down the stairs, was the Ten directlyopposite to you and on the right was the Fifty in four
cabinets with all its meters and dials. At the bottomof the stairs we had a little cabinet with all the monitoring in, themodulation meter; the compressor, the monitor 'scope and the patch-panel. So asyou came down the stairs you could check the modulation as you went in. It wasthe spare Ten that was over in Holland that went on board the Mi Amigo; the Tenthat was on the Cheetah went, I think; to the North Ship as a spare.
The Ten was a Devil of a job to get on. We'd lost theconnection diagram and were trying to work out the phasing of the 'delta'. TheHT transformer was three separate transformers with three windings and you hadto phase them up; on the actual 'delta' winding you had to get the phasingright all the way round. There were six connections so you'd got all thepermutations of any six with any six and it took us ages to work it all out howthey went. We'd bring the generator on; switch on; and "Bang!" offwould go the 200 Amp mains fuse. We went through fuse after fuse but we got itright in the end.
When we came back with the high power I think weliterally took Radio London to the cleaners. It all settled down into a periodwhen the Southern Ship was making number one in popularity charts all the time.Bill Hearne was a Canadian who became programme director. He was the one whobrought us Caroline Cash Casino and that was a winner; that paid for the 50kWtransmitter.
We had transmitter serial number Fourteen fromContinental Electronics. We were due to get number Twelve; but it was at thetime of the Rhodesian UDI and the U.K. Government set up a station in Botswana tobroadcast into Rhodesia. So they bought numbers Twelve and Thirteen and we hadnumber Fourteen. It was a very good transmitter, very reliable. They wanted totry and improve the aerial system and they had erected some sort of wireaerial. Every time they started to fire up they had sparking off this wire. Iwas looking after Cheetah's transmitter and went over to look at Caroline withTony Blackburn and everybody else. That's the time Tony went up the mast; butthat's another story. We then brought the 50kW on and ran it for forty-eighthours - and suddenly all the lights went dim as the big new generator coughed;spluttered and slowed. We went into the transmitter hall and it was full ofblack; acrid smoke. So I slid down the stairs to the transmitter and hit the'off' button on the HT - and I blew every light-bulb that was on at the time onthe Mi Amigo. They just went bright and went out. This was because when we lostthe full load; the generator just raced away, the volts went up, and none ofthe stabilizers could take care of it because the generator was too quick forthem. The HT transformer was faulty from new. We'd lost that and had to sendback to the States for a new one. When we got a new one back we were OK.
On the Cheetah we were only running eighteen hours aday so there was a period in the middle of the night when we were testing on259. Then we took the transmissions from the Mi Amigo. There was a portablereceiver over on the Cheetah; something with a very small; directional aerial;it was put in a position by a window behind a metal panel and that kept themain transmitter virtually out. We took an output off the audio stage; matchedit into one of the mixer ports in the studio on the Cheetah; and that was fedinto the transmitter. We fed into a mixer panel so that the Cheetah could fadeout the portable and take over its own broadcasts at any time; but it was neverneeded.
When we started to run the 50kW transmitter we had aproblem because of the mast. It was quite a good mast; designed and built inCowes by Harry Spence . But the insulators on the mast weren't designed for50kW and were arcing over. They seemed to arc and discharge into the sky. I wasout there by myself; one day when there weren't two engineers at the time; I'dworked the morning shift and been up doing maintenance since about threeo’clock. After lunch; at about one o'clock; I thought I'd go down to mycabin and get my head down. At one o'clock they'd change over; DLT went outwith his theme music "A Touch of Brass" - a nice quiet song - andRosko came on with his theme; a thumping "Memphis" sound. So justbefore I left the transmitter I thought "Rosko's on in a minute; I'll giveit a couple of dB's more on the compressor" and set it up.
I'd just taken my trousers off to lie down to have myafternoon nap when Crash! Bang! Thump; thump; thump down the stairs;"Carl! Carl! where's the engineer?" I came out and on the stairs isTony Prince. He'd been sunbathing; and before this he was bronze - today he waswhite from head to foot; with fright! "The Mast's alight!" Up thestairs I go; out onto the deck; look up into the mast - and from everyinsulator from the very top to the very bottom in tune with "Memphis"there were sparks going out into the atmosphere! So I went down; pressed thebutton; switched it off; put a few more dBs in and brought Rosko back in at alittle bit lower power. Then we sent an urgent message ashore and"C&S" came out and put bigger insulators on the mast. When theytook down some of the stays; which were multistrand wires about an inch and ahalf in diameter; the RF had actually eaten through a lot of them and they wereholding on by one or two strands. We only just caught it; it was the only timeit happened but we didn't need it to happen!
The riggers came out in a gale and went up that mastchanging the stays in wellie boots and sou'westers. The Chief; who went rightup to the very top to direct it; was sixty-five and they'd called him back fromretirement. He was showing the young kids how to walk across the mast - he hadno safety harness and she was rolling. We had to go off the air when they werechanging the stays; I asked "How long will you be?" He said"Once we're over that insulator you can switch back on again;" andthey were quite OK; no problem. They used the same bits of the mast; and justmodified it to fit where they put the new insulators.
The original aerial was a folded dipole which hadnulls going out into France; and up the country (the North ship was supposed tocover that area); when we were laying with the tidal stream. It was a veryshallow null; not as deep as people thought; but if the tide was turning thesignal used to drop; and you could lose it up in London. Then we had somecomplaints from the advertisers;but we used to turn in twenty minutes so it wasn't for long. At the same timeas fitting the 50kW we went over from a folded dipole to a base-loaded antenna.At the point in the sky where you see it cut off they put an insulator in andthe rest of the mast sat on top of that. That was the piece that was actuallyradiating; less than a quarter-wave; vertical. There was a loading coil upthere which worked pretty well. It was a good aerial; but I personally wouldhave liked to have tried the folded dipole with the 50kW.
The only fault that we found on the 50kW was that; tostart off with; we couldn't load it to full power; she went unstable; and welost a lot of screen grid decoupling capacitors trying to solve this problem.The screen grid decoupling capacitor was a Teflon ring between the valve baseand the chassis; the ceramic valve sat down in this ring. We doubled up on ourTeflon rings to get a bit more protection because we used to get a salt-waterbuild-up over the edge of the ring and then that was it; gone. Then RadioEngland came on the scene. The Yanks came over to teach us how to do it; andthey had no end of trouble. They had about one ohm impedance at the base of theaerial and they just couldn't hold the thing. They had to bring over the guyfrom Continental Electronics; Joseph B. Sainton; an interesting character whohad survived the Boeing 707 that caught fire and smashed up at Rome airport inthe early Sixties. He was on the tender and just happened to step aboard ourship. He traced the problem and added some more screening decouplers on theP.A. valves; we could then load the full fifty without all the problems we'dbeen getting.
We used to get occasional flash-overs. I remember onenight. We didn't move about a lot normally but this night we were in a galesituation. We were moving around quite a bit and as the mast swung with themotion of the Mi Amigo the impedance would change; the VSWR would go up; thenthe H.T. would lock out. We had a lockout relay; with four positions; it wouldswitch the H.T. off; come back on again; if the fault was still there switchthe H.T. off again; take four tries and if on the fourth try the fault wasstill there then the relay would drop out completely; deactivate a solenoid andswitch the H.T. off. There was also a safety rod that would go over so that ifthere was any charge on the H.T. capacitors it would "crowbar" anddischarge the capacitors. That used to go off with a wallop.
The stairs came down the side of the transmitter hall;and our little watch-keeping room was under the stairs. About two o'clock inthe morning you could put your feet up and doze there nicely. So Carl is in hischair and he didn't hear the first one; couldn't have done; I swear to this dayI counted three. We used to count the clicks and if it got to the third one youused to go and hit the H.T.and bring it off normally. The first one must havehappened while I was dozing. The fault didn't clear; I heard "Click...Click..." and I thought the third one was coming; but then there was a hellof a "Bang!" as the thing went off; and I fell out of my chair! Thisbang used to wake you up; it was 16kV at four amps; there was a hell of a lotof charge in those capacitors. Coming out of sleep I wondered what the devilhad happened.
What had happened was that in the gale thephosphor-bronze lead-in at the bottom of the aerial had worked loose and brokenadrift. It was actually swinging around in the gale. We modified it and wereback on the air within about half an hour. Then I spent the night out with arclights re-routing the damn thing to take the strain off it so that it couldn'thappen again.
All of our maintenance was done during the night. Weused to work a six hour period; come off for six hours; go back on duty for sixhours. If we were running twenty-four hours we'd do the maintenance work aboutthree or four in the morning. There were always two men on watch from abouteleven o'clock Sunday night until five o'clock Monday morning; and that's whenwe had all our studio maintenance; we had a six-hour period when we werecompletely off the air and that's when we used to do all the work and anymodifications we wanted to do. On Mondays it was engineers crew change. The guywho was leaving the ship would be the one who was going on nights; and the guywho was going onto nights would have to work part of the afternoon and theSunday night through to Monday morning. He'd hold the fort until the guy coningon started his watch; then he'd go to bed ready for his night-shift. The guycoming on board would start off on days and the next week would go onto nights.The weeks I was off I had to call into Chesterfield Gardens;
I suppose I went up twice a week; once when I came offand again before I went back. The ships were virtually autonomous as far as therunning of the technical side. If we were off the air; which was veryinfrequently; then they would want to know the reason why. They used to havespeakers up in Chesterfied Gardens and the minute it went off in the daytime -not in the middle of the night! - Ronan used to ring Bill Scaddon and a messagewould come out the next day calling for an explanation.
Before the full merger there were two chief engineers;both in London; and a sort of foreman out on each ship. When it became Carolineoverall; once Mr. Gilmer had gone - he was past retiring age anyway - Paul Daletook over in London. His function really was an administrator and to adviseRonan who was always in the office running the show. After a time I got the jobof looking after both of the ships; I was a sort of travelling chief; workingso much on the South ship and then I would go up and have a look at the Northship. Manfred Sommers was the chief engineer up there so I had to go and takehis reports and do bits and pieces with him. We were flying up to Ramsey in theIsle of Man by Cambrian Airways at the time. We used to fly Heathrow, sometimesdirect, sometimes via Liverpool, stay overnight in Ramsey then go out on thetender to the ship.
Front and back of Radio Caroline’s second QSLcard signed by Paul Dale.
The SS Frederica, renamed Caroline, could stand up tosome seas; she was well protected from the North Westerlies but if the windcame round from the South East it had the whole track of the Irish Sea to buildup from Liverpool, and that could get very, very rough. The Mi Amigo was themore friendly of the two ships; technically I feel the Mi Amigo was the bettership; but the Northern ship was much more spacious and she was nice inside aswell. Because it was more spacious people had room to go and find a quiet placeby themselves, to 'hide away' shall we say; whereas on the South ship we wereliving together a lot closer and there was much more of a cameraderie on theSouth ship.
The North ship had the same sort of aerial as theSouthern, a folded dipole. It was designed by the same BBC engineers. There wasa slightly different situation on the North ship as the aerial mast was upforward. In the big, spacious lounge there was a shed-type arrangement in onecorner where the coils and condensers for matching the aerial were, in astraight 'L' network. Then we had an overhead feeder that used to go down aftto the transmitter room. The studios used to be on the next deck up.
The North ship was very good at shedding its aerial.In a gale, and in the Irish Sea those gales used to blow, the engineersposition wasn't down with his transmitters, he used to have to watch thataerial all the time, the minute that aerial broke it put a high VSWR on thefeeder from the 'L' network down to the transmitters and the feeder would startto melt! So the inside of the feeder used to start to come down - you could seethe black starting to go off the stuff - and you used to race down and knockthe HT off the transmitter. It became a race between the engineers and thefeeder to see who would win. The worst one was the engineer that didn't getdown there fast enough; he had fifteen feet of the damn stuff to replace. But alot of us became a lot faster than that, we only had two or three feet toreplace and put a connector in.
About three of us went up there and worked two nightsand converted the North ship to ' 259'. The transmitters would cover thebroadcast band without any tuning. All you had to do was to put the crystal into get the frequency that you wanted, disconnect the PA anodes, put the RFbridge onto that point and adjust the impedance out until you got two thousandohms at the anode, adjust the taps and bring her in. Interpolating from thecharts you could tell roughly where you should be anyway, then you used thefine tune on the bridge, and away you'd go. We'd leave one transmitter runningall the time.
We increased the power to 20kW by combining. Weactually got the combiner to work on the North ship. It was never usedsuccessfully on the South ship, we were always getting problems, sometimes withthe transmitter and sometimes with the combiner itself. But funnily enough, onthe Northern Ship, once it got working it was much better.
I think the combiner came over after the two lOkWs.You used one exciter stage, fed a signal from the oscillator across to theother oscillator, there was a special switch inside the transmitter that youcould switch out and turn that into a buffer, then you used to come up into abridge circuit. You fed in the transmitters on two ports on either side of thecircuit of the bridge. The bottom part went through a 50 ohm load to Earth andthe top port was the aerial. Provided the thing was in balance the bottom partnever had anything out, all the power would go out the top, about 18kW. We lostabout 2kW across the combiner. If you lost a transmitter then half of theremaining transmitter power would go, you'd go down to 5kW; 5kW would go intothe aerial, 5kW would go down into the load as you went into an unbalancedstate. During the conversion from lOkW to 20kW, we should have been up thefirst night but we got the phasing wrong. We had the wrong transmitter drivingand we were putting a lot of power into the load and nothing out of the spout.We realized that we were getting a bit tired and not thinking straight, but thenext night we came to it right away.
When on the South ship we had to combine thetransmitters we used two generators. We had to shed the load for the galley andthe load for the lighting onto a small generator and then we could run thetransmitters at 20kw. You had to be careful what circuits you pluggedelectrical appliances into when we were running the full 20kW because certainof the lighting and heating sockets on board couldn't be transferred to thesmall genny. It was literally that you could plug the coffee pot into somesockets, switch it on and the large generator would go off because the load wastoo great- and that would happen.
I left in the May of '67 before the Act came in. Iwould do it all again now if it wasn't illegal. It was great fun. Towards theend it became a job of work; you'd got the same problem as you've now got onthe oil rigs. They're alright while you're constructing them but once you getinto the maintenance stage it gets pretty monotonous and
boring. All you do is eat, sleep and watch transmitterdials. It could be a very boring existence if it wasn't for the ideals. A lotof us went out there with the idea that we could get commercial radio into thiscountry. But at that time our idea of commercial radio was to bring the shipinto the Thames and we'd broadcast nationally.
Addenda: Caroline Frequencies 1964-1968
Mv Fredericia, formerly of Kolding, Denmark, leavesRotterdam harbour for the port of Greenore, Co Louth, in the Irish Republic tobe fitted out as floating radio station.
The Caroline ship leaves Ireland and arrives at heranchorage four miles off the
Felixstowe Suffolk coast.
On the now-famous Easter weekend, Caroline'sbroadcasts began on 1520 kcs, 197 metres. First transmission from RadioCaroline starts at 12:00 noon. Simon Dee made the first
A second ship Mv Mi Amigo housing Radio Atlanta dropsanchor off Frinton, broadcasting first on 1520 kcs after Caroline has left theair, but settles on 1493 kcs, 201 metres.
After an agreement between Ronan O'Rahilly andAustralian Allan Crawford to merge both stations, it is decided to keep Mv MiAmigo off the Essex coast and place mv Caroline off the coast of the I.O.M. MvCaroline goes south and rounds the southern tip of England heading for theIrish sea broadcasting as she sails. Radio Caroline North retained 1520 kcs;Caroline South took over the Radio Atlanta frequency, 1493 kcs. Both Carolinesannounced their wavelength as; "199 metres".
Mrs Britt Wadner loans Ronan the Mv Cheeta II while MiAmigo goes to Zaandam
for repair after it broke anchor chain on Jan 20th andwas beached at Holland on Sea. From the Cheetah II Caroline broadcast on herusual frequency of 1493 kcs.
The Mi Amigo returns to her anchorage off Frinton withnew transmitter of
50kw anchored alongside the Cheetah II. A four-hourtest on 1169 kcs, 256.6 metres is made. Further broadcasts do not take placeuntil 25th April.
Mi Amigo test on 1169 kcs.
The frequency of the Mi Amigo was changed thefollowing day to 1187 Kcs, 252.7 metres. Cheetah II has Tony Prince and GrahamWebb on air: ”We shouldn’t be here at all you know.” ID asRadio Caroline 3.
April 27th 66
From 27th April Cheetah II relayed programmes from theMi Amigo.
Cheetah continued to broadcast until 1st of May on1493 kcs. So, for five days, Radio Caroline South could be heard on twodifferent frequencies.
Caroline North changed frequency to 1169 kcs on 31st Octoberat 10:30pm to carry out test transmissions, by 6am they resumed normalprogramming on 1520kcs 197m, testing on 1169 in the weeks to come. At that timeone of her 10 kW transmitters was still tuned to 1520 kcs for normal daytimeprogrammes and the other was retuned to 1169 kcs for tests at night. Eventuallyboth transmitters operated together on 1169 kcs. By Sunday December 18th
Both Carolines now announced their wavelength as"259 metres". These frequencies were used until both stations wereput off the air on 3rd March 1968.
6 CHESTERFIELD GARDENS
LONDON. W.I. ENGLAND
P.O. BOX 3
RAMSEY, ISLE OF MAN
Dj Spangles Muldoon wrote out this QSL for areception of Radio Caroline International.