Sunday, 11 February 2018


In 1964, like modern day successors to the 16th century French, Dutch and English privateers off the Spanish Main, suddenly a flurry of radio pirates popped up along the British Main, being the Essex coast and the Thames Estuary; often described as pirate alley. Un­like their Caribbean predecessors, who went after Spain’s sil­ver bullion, the pop pirates had set their sights on London’s adver­tising dollar in an attempt to break the monopoly of the BBC and the large record com­­panies. The pioneer in the race to lay claim to the lucrative London market was Radio Caroline, financed by Irishman Ronan O’Rahilly, who hoped to emulate Veronica’s success. A former Danish passenger ferry Frederica was bought, renamed Caroline and fitted out as a radio ship in the Irish port of Greenore, owned by Ronan’s family. After two days of tests off Felixstowe Britain’s first off­shore station opened officially on Easter Sunday, March 29th 1964. Ronan had been egging on everyone connected with the organisation in order to be able to inaugurate the station on that day. 

In fact, at the time, I only heard about Caroline going on the air on Easter Monday, as I was spending my school holidays in the small Belgian village of Beerzel (near Malines) where my maternal grandparents lived. My immediate problem was that Caroline’s broadcast on the announced 199m (in fact 1520 kHz) was too close to Belgian regional radio in Antwerp. But as luck would have it my niece Maria Goris, who had just married, was in possession of a large Phillips portable radio, which could be turned away from most of the splutter involuntarily caused by the Antwerp station on the adjacent channel. After a few minutes’ tuning and turning the sound of Caroline’s bell rang through the small house. It would change my life forever. Over the years the start of Caroline has also become a very important date to me personally. More than half a century later I still use it as an all important benchmark. In my life BC means ‘Before Caroline’.

More of AJ's radio- and other anecdotes.

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