Radio Caroline 60th Anniversary Report

Duke Anthony and Paul Rowley were in Harwich for the celebrations

Duke Anthony

Is it really 60 years since the start of Radio Caroline? Time seems to go a lot quicker when you're older. I'd thought the 2017 50th anniversary of the offshore stations' enforced closure would see the end of commemorations in Harwich. Needless to say, I was delighted to read Mary's detailed itinerary of events scheduled for the 28th March and the whole Easter weekend, and was looking forward to going.

February's devastating fire on the LV18 has been well documented in the press. It was estimated that temperatures reached 1000 degrees C below deck, which caused some deformation of the upper deck and melted portholes. I was keen to offer what help I could to Tony and Heather O'Neill, as they worked to get the ship ready for the Caroline celebrations. Smoke had deposited sticky soot over most of the vessel, some of which had already been cleaned. The hull and main passageway had been repainted.

The aft cabins of the ship were completely gutted, but fortuitously, some of the treasured artefacts that were normally stored there in the ship's museum had, by chance, been moved forward and were largely undamaged. Most of the internal wiring had to be replaced and power to the galley and studio, together with new lighting, was installed on Thursday 28th. The studio was put back into action with various bits of equipment. I arrived that day and was happy to help with the cleaning and clearing up task. However, working on the ship all day meant that I couldn't go to the museum opening in Felixstowe, or Ray Clark's talk at the Electric Palace Theatre.

Duke on air, wearing his treasured Dave Cash 'Back to the Boozer', teeshirt. Just visible above the mixer is the 'cardboard presenters' list ' with Cardbaord Shoes's name on it

Roger Twiggy Day came on board to present his excellent Boom Radio afternoon show from the studio. He was in good spirits, despite the weather being significantly less clement than in his home in Spain, and he signed my copy of his book. The other contributors to Boom Radio's day of Diamond celebrations, John Peters, Tom Edwards, Nick Bailey and Rosko were broadcast from remote locations.

Having helped build the studio on the bridge of the LV18 I was asked if I'd like to present a show on Radio Mi Amigo, which was going live from Friday morning for the weekend. I did my show midday to 2pm on Friday and it seemed to go well. Keith Skues arrived on the ship in the afternoon and it was great to have a chat to him before he got busy preparing his show for the next day. After a visit to a local hostelry with Keith, Tony and Heather and others, we returned to the ship and discovered there was no presenter for the midnight to 3am slot so I volunteered to do 1am to 3am. A certain tranquility descends on the harbour at night, with the sea calm and the lights of Felixstowe glinting across the water. Looking out of the portholes at the scene and playing classic sixties music on Radio Mi Amigo gave me a taste of what it must have been like on the Mi Amigo itself back in the day, and it was a special moment.

On Saturday, Keith Skues presented an excellent show at midday and I was privileged to follow him at 2pm, with a rather contrived link, 'following in the footsteps of Cardboard Shoes' which he was gracious enough to approve. Shortly after I finished at 4pm, Steve Scruton arrived on board as part of a superb, four hour BBC Radio Essex celebration of 20 years of Pirate BBC Essex. Steve interviewed Tony O'Neill and then me, and I explained that I was wearing my treasured 'Back to the Boozer' teeshirt, which had belonged to the greatly-missed Dave Cash. Dave's widow Sara gave it to me on the occasion of the scattering of Dave's ashes. A little later, Sara herself was interviewed on Ian and Steve's programme to talk about dear Dave and that poignant occasion.

Family commitments meant that I had to go home before the end of the weekend, so I can't report on the Monday talk by Steve Scruton and others at the Electric Palace.

Twiggy Day preparing his Boom Radio afternoon show

Keith Skues presented his Radio Mi Amigo show in his best sweater

Ian Wyatt (left) and Steve Scruton celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Pirate BBC Essex

She may be a little smoke-damaged, but amazingly, Daphne survived the blaze!
Devastation below deck caused by the conflagration

Paul Rowley

I had a productive day at Harwich on March 28, Radio Caroline's 60th birthday.

Arriving at lunchtime, I went on board the LV18. As a result of the fire it wasn't open to the public but the gate to the ship wasn't closed so I clambered up the gangway (if that's the right terminology). Tony and Heather O'Neil were on deck, working hard to tidy things up. I hadn't met them before, but we had a good chat. For understandable reasons they could only give me a limited ships's tour, but I was impressed by how good she was looking, considering the fire damage.

(Left) After the blaze, LV18 was refurbished with a new paint job

My timing was perfect. Roger Day was aboard already, putting together his links for his Boom Radio show. Then we were joined by Duke Anthony, as he is regally known, fully kitted out in overalls and helping to make things shipshape. Next, Steve Scruton and Ian Wyatt of Pirate BBC Essex arrived and we all had a good natter. After Twiggy had done his stuff, we went over to the Pier Hotel for a cuppa.There were a few pirate radio fans already in the hotel including a number who'd been involved in land-based pirates such as Radio Free London, who seemed real characters.

I did a report from the Ha'penny Pier for Radio Sheffield (which because of BBC Local Radio cuts, is also broadcast on Radio Leeds and Radio York).

Next, I went over to the Electric Palace for Ray Clark's sold out talk. Several of the current Caroline DJs were in the audience, some of whom had come over from Felixstowe where they'd attended the opening of the Felixstowe Museum.

BBC Look East waited until Easter Monday to show an item filmed aboard the Ross Revenge, where Ray Clark features prominently. This was later played on the BBC News Channel. The presenter, Nicky Schiller, is a good radio man.

Anglia news feature filmed in Felixstowe

ITN news feature filmed in Felixstowe

Oddly neither the Anglia not the BBC Look East items mentions that Caroline can be heard on medium wave in their region. Thankfully, Nicky back-announced it, and even gave the wavelength.

A palace appearance for Ray

Back home, I managed to listen to part of Keith Skues' Radio Mi Amigo programme from the LV18 on Easter Saturday, and he sounded good. I also enjoyed the Pirate BBC Essex 20th anniversary programme that afternoon, which included Mary, Duke, Twiggy (recorded at the Pier on Thursday), Tatty Tom Edwards, Norman St John, Johnnie Walker and Sara Cash.

(Left) Paul reporting from The Pier Hotel, during the 2007 Pirate BBC Essex broadcast

Listeners related some great stories, including a farmer called Roy from Roxwell, who was milking his cows when Caroline came on air and named three of his herd after the station. Roger, who worked in the marine business in Thorpe Bay, said he supplied Caroline in the 1980s. However, I was surprised when he said a friend of his was given a two-year prison sentence for providing diesel to the station. I was unaware of that. I also noticed that Johnnie mentioned attending the 2017 Offshore 50 event at the Tattershall Castle.

I was pleased that Boom Radio devoted a good chunk of programming to the anniversary and I also liked 'Walker on Walker' on Radio 2.

Paul Rowley, Radio Caroline Newsbeat, Harwich

Many thanks to Duke and Paul for the photos

Ray's Third Edition

The third edition of Ray Clark's book 'Radio Caroline – the True Story of the Boat that Rocked' has an additional 60 pages, with several more interviews and facts and an update to the photos.

It's available from Ray's website.

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