It all started in the summer of '97 at Walton when I made a tender
trip to the Yeoman Rose followed by several visits to the pier during the 28-day
RSL. I met some really wonderful people and felt as though I had known most
of them all my life. Amongst some of the DJs I met was Mark Roman. I used to
do my college homework to his six-to-nine evening programme from the Galaxy
and I swear it was only Mark and Radio London that got me through those dreadful
exams, little realising that thirty years later I would have the chance to thank
Feeling that nothing could top that summer experience, I was delighted to learn that there was to be another RSL, this time from the Ocean Defender moored at St. Katharine's Dock in London spanning the Christmas and New Year 1998 period. Having paid a visit just before Christmas, my next visit was early in the New Year when my friend and I decided to have a girls' day aboard the Ocean Defender. We were made extremely welcome by Chris Elliot and Ray Anderson and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. The music was as brilliant as ever, everyone was in good spirits and the Earthkind crew obviously took a pride in their vessel. It was during that visit that we learned that Ray was short of staff in the shop down below in the hold, and so we immediately offered our services. That was also the day we met new DJ Steve Garlick, whom we discovered was one of the original kids on Keith West's "Excerpt from a Teenage Opera". (Don't mention it to him ever again...)
We had a wonderful time keeping shop for several days between then and the closedown, and again met some really super people. It was so good to be able to chat at great length about the original Radio London and swap memories with others who had similar feelings to myself, I'm sure the Ocean Defender almost sank in a sea of nostalgia at times!
It was during our shopkeeping that we first met up with Mary (Knees) Payne, a memorable event, and she had some interesting stories to tell. Meeting John Ross-Barnard was also a memorable event. He has such a wonderful sense of humour combined with his ties and his news broadcasts kept us amused for hours.
I remember the day Ed Stewart came aboard as Ray's Coffee Break guest and then came down to the shop for a bit of a chat and a kiss from each of us - a true ladies' man but we weren't complaining. It was wonderful (there's that word again) to chat with him about his days aboard the Galaxy and hear about the times they all had together.
Another unforgettable time was the day that Dave Cash visited. The poor soul had just done his back in and so wasn't able to participate in the broadcast as he was in so much pain, but full marks to him for managing to actually get aboard in that condition. Also visiting at the same time was Mitch Philistin, the original steward from the Galaxy, who turned out to be quite a character. Dave and Mitch hadn't met up for thirty-odd years and it was fantastic to see them together again.
The last day of the broadcast was a day of mixed emotions, to say the least, but the closedown party was good. It was a bit of a squeeze at times, loads of people turned up for it and I completely lost track of who was who, there were so many people I hadn't met before, but one person who does stick in my memory of course was Tommy Vance who has the dubious distinction of being the last DJ to be signed up by Radio London. Ray Anderson interviewed him on air and his story of how and why he came to join the station was certainly an interesting one.
As closedowns go we all felt quite sad that it had to happen, of course, but generally it was a fun atmosphere until midnight and beyond. The on-air antics of Russell Thompson and Garry Williams for the first hour of the party, the crew of the Ocean Defender singing their own version of 'Return to Sender', Charlie (the ship's Engineer) doing his uncannily soundalike Kenny Everett jingle and John Ross-Barnard's spoof news at half-past eleven all made for a great time until twelve o'clock and the last strains of Big Lil died away. Big Lil always brings me out in goosebumps but never more so than at the closedown.
Being a part of it all was certainly an experience I shall never forget. I feel it was quite a privilege being able to play such a supportive role in the recreation of what always was and always will be my favourite radio station. Also the many enduring and treasured friendships I have made through the two recreations of Big L makes me feel very humble; we are all very different people but all with a shared and worthwhile interest, a real Family. Who knows whether another Big L broadcast will ever happen, but if it does I shall certainly be there.
In the meantime, keep it Smooth Sailing...
© Pauline Miller 1999