"You and you alone created the sound of the Sixties that was BIG LIL"

Mark Roman pays a personal tribute to his mentor Ben Toney

Tom Danaher, Mark and Ben Toney on Walton Pier, Essex August 1997, after coming ashore from Big L '97, the 30th anniversary commemorative broadcast from the Yeoman Rose.
Mark was on board for the entire month-long RSL, which closed on August 14th 1997.
He slept in a caravan in the ship's hold.

Out of interest, I checked what day the 14th was in 1967 and it was a Monday, as it is in 2017. At 3pm London Time on 14th August, it's exactly 50 years since the Big L transmitter went silent.

Although fifty years have passed, the memory of "LIL" is still strong for many. You have probably heard a little about all the special events happening around the date, not only for the Big L Closedown, but the later beginning of the BBC fiasco of their idea of what radio should be.
I guess some people will remember the enterprise of Don Pierson and Tom Danaher and of Phillip Birch and yes, it is true that without them, Radio London would never have existed. However, I suspect that most people will overlook one vital factor in all of this. YOU!

Yes you, Ben Toney! Without your knowledge, experience and talent, Radio London could have been just another run-of-the-mill 'Pirate'.
The arrival of a new kind of radio from the USA revolutionised the air waves. Nothing like it had been heard in the UK before, but it was you who hired and inspired a group of guys who had a talent you recognised and understood. Remember, I am one of them, and I am most grateful to you for changing the direction of my life.

(Left) Ben in the galley of the Yeoman Rose

You and you alone created the sound of the Sixties that was BIG LIL. Often imitated, never duplicated – so true, so very true. You created a movement that is responsible for the creation of thousands of jobs and hundreds of radio stations. Without the success of Radio London and those who followed, the BBC would never have grown into what it now is. (Not that it is very much now.)

Thanks, Ben, for what you did for me, and as I type this I can look up and see a photo of me on Walton Pier with you and Tom. (Photo above) I salute you! Thanks to you, I can feel that my life might have made some difference and I and the rest of the guys, some still with us, are a part of history. But you, sir, you bloody well made history, and oh boy did you make a difference! I hope everyone remembers that.

Again, Ben, my grateful thanks for hiring me. You should be proud of your achievements, and of your lovely granddaughter Maya. A recent picture of her was sent to me by Mary, who pointed out that she was a small toddler in a pushchair when we were together on Walton Pier in August '97.

Ben's Response:

Mark, I just saw your tribute to me with all the photos.  I was just knocked out.  Thank you so much for this great tribute. It does an old man's heart good to know that he has done something good in life. Thanks again my friend.
Ben Toney


What can I say? You, more than any other, shaped the future of my life and indeed that of many others. Looking back over fifty years, I have to tell you, it's been a pretty good life!

Consider this. Had you not done such a good job, there would be no modern radio ( as disappointing as it is today). The clowns at the BBC would never have considered Caroline alone to be a threat, but the advent of Radio London compelled Caroline to shake themselves up, and the 'offshore revolution' began. The BBC were left with no choice but to attempt to imitate their pirate rivals. Had the pirates been allowed to come ashore, as happened in New Zealand with Radio Hauraki, their radio service would have been decimated and their incompetence (so visible today) exposed.

There should be a statue of you somewhere!

Thanks Ben and stay well.

Mark with Tom Danaher
Mark at the mic in the ship's studio
Onstage with Mark at the 'Summer of Love Party', Princes' Theatre, Clacton, Saturday August 16th, 1997.
Keith Skues, Ben Toney, Duncan Johnson, Tommy Vance, Dave Hawkins, Tom Danaher,
John Edward (behind Tom) and Ian Damon
'Summer of Love' Flower Power: Mark introduces tribute band 'The Other Beatles'
Dave Cash encountered a
'flower child'

Mark with Chris Payne, who was behind the camera
for most of the party

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