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The History

RADIO CAROLINE was created by Ronan O'Rahilly and outfitted on a 702 ton ferry, the M.V. Frederica...... and renamed the M.V. Caroline. She began regular broadcasting on Easter Sunday 1964 from an anchorage off the southeast coastline of England

Another radio ship, the Mi Amigo joined her shortly thereafter. It was taken over in July and the radio station was renamed Radio Caroline South. The M.V. CAROLINE sailed to The Irish Sea and anchored 3.5 miles off the coast of Ramsey, Isle Of Man and became RADIO CAROLINE NORTH.

By no means is this a complete history of Radio Caroline North the grand lady of broadcasting. It is only a capsule of events affecting the life of The M.V. Caroline  from its christening in 1964 to the day in 1968 when it was "hijacked" and towed into harbor in Holland.    And like all of this site it is "a work in progress" and is subject to additions, deletions and corrections from time to time. More detailed histories are available from sources listed in the bibliography at the bottom of this page.
1964  
JANUARY
30
The Mi Amigo arrives in Las Palmas, Spain  after nearly sinking en route from Galveston, Texas.
FEBRUARY

6

Postmaster-General, Ernest Bevins, is  questioned in the House of Commons concerning rumors about Radio Caroline. He states that broadcasting commercial radio programs from a ship will  break international rules and  international agreements on sharing of radio frequencies. Hesays that it would  cause serious interference to radio communications in Britain and other countries, and hints that legislation might be introduced to deal with it.

 
13

The M.V. Fredericia, a former Danish 702 ton passenger ferry leaves Rotterdam, Netherlands for Greenore, Erie. Her  hull is specially strengthened to resist ice. She is rented by Planet Productions from the Swiss firm of Alranne.  Plans by young Ronan O'Rahilly are to  convert it to a radio ship called  RADIO CAROLINE.

 
15
The Mi Amigo sails for Greenore, Eire (calling en route at Corunna), to have a new radio mast fitted. Ronan O'Rahilly and Allan Crawford  owner of the Mi Amigo are running neck and neck to be the first to complete conversion of their ship and be the first Commercial Radio Ship in Britian. Crawford has been planning longer, but O'Rahilly's father, a wealthy industrialist also owns his own port in Greenore. Both groups use the facilities there to equip their ships.  Some midnight shenanigans coupled with the   Mi Amigo being  forced out to anchor in the harbor mouth to make way for O'Rahilly senior's freighters created hard feelings.. Rough seas almost scupper the Mi Amigo, saved only by prompt action by her skipper.
MARCH

27

Good Friday 6 p.m. With  strong winds tossing her about the M.V. Caroline drops anchor five miles off Harwich in international waters. At 9 p.m. that night Radio Caroline put out her first test signal on 201 meters (1495 kHz).
 
28
Easter Saturday. 12 noon: The 197 meters on the medium wave (1520 kHz) comes alive with "This is Radio Caroline" and Chris Moore  introduces, as the first record, the Beatles recording of "Can't Buy Me Love".  Britain's first  commercial radio station is on the air.
 
29
Easter Sunday. Simon Dee starts the regular transmissions with: 'Hello everybody. This is Radio Caroline broadcasting on 199, your all day music station.' He announces that Caroline will be broadcasting modern light music, meaning'pop', every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on I99 metres in the medium wave band. For the time being there will be no evening broadcast because of difficult reception, due to increased competition from continental stations after dark. As yet there is little advertising, though O'Rahilly claims that advertisers are 'interested', and are just waiting to see what kind of audience the station secures before committing themselves.
APRIL
3
The General Post Office officially requests the International Telecommunications Union (the body which controls all broadcasting throughout the world by regulating frequencies and powers of transmission) to help in stopping the pirate broadcasters. The ITU reminds Panama of a provision in international radio regulations that the use of broadcasting stations on board ships outside territorial waters was prohibited.
 
7
Postmaster General, Mr. Reginald Bevins informs the House of Commons  that Panama has   withdrawn registration from the vessel Caroline, and that he is considering the possibility of legislation to deal with such broadcasting. He says a number of actions are being contemplated and "jamming" has been considered. Mr. Bevins told the House that leading advertising associations have given an assurance that major advertisers would boycott the station; the gramophone record industry was co-operating.

The GPO cuts off the ship-to-shore radio link, and announces that messages from the Caroline will be handled only in an emergency. Only the supply tender remains for communication with the land, as obviously arrangements about programmes commercials and so on could not be made over the air. When the tender leaves Harwich for international waters H.M. Customs and Excise rule that it is leaving the country and, therefore, those on board have to carry passports, stores are inspected, and the shipping agents have to  go through H.M. Waterguard, H.M. Immigrations and the Special Branch of the CID for each trip. The tenders, supplied by a Dutch salvage and ship delivery firm, travelled to Caroline about three or four times a week with food, fuel, water, relief crew, disc jockeys and, of course, records.
 
8
Two apprentice hairdressers at Wrotham, Wendy Bryce aged 17 and Pat Cunningham aged 19, picket a BBC transmitter at Wrotham in Kent. Both are members of a Radio Caroline Defence League and they carry a placard saying "Hands off Caroline".
 
9
The Post Office warns that Caroline listeners are technically liable to prosecution under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949. A spokesman  admits that it would be difficult to enforce the regulations since no action can be taken against anyone who had tuned in accidentally. A spokesman for the Post Office tells the Daily Mail "They are beyond territorial waters. To stop them we will have to send a torpedo" and added "But that's a bit drastic, isn't it?".
 
20
Gallup Poll  shows that Radio Caroline hasgained nearly seven million listeners in just three weeks of broadcasting. This doesn't include listeners under the age of seventeen, and the total was from a potential audience of only twenty million people.
 
21
12.30am: RADIO ATLANTA is off Lands End sailing for her anchorage when it's radio mast breaks. The 141 foot swaying aerial affects the steering and the Mi Amigo has to enter Falmouth for repairs, she arrives at 3pm.
 
27
Repairs are completed and the Mi Amigo sets sail  and,  drops anchor in her transmitting position. . The two shipsare 14 miles apart and both are broadcasting to the huge  population of the Greater London area.
MAY   Her Majesty's vessel Venturous flying the Blue Ensign, draws close to Caroline on the port side. Permission is asked to board to see  bonded stores. Caroline crews states that this is against the law appertaining to international waters and one man only will be allowed access in a lifeboat. This offer is not accepted and at 12.33 p.m. the Venturous pulls away.

Customs and Excise Officials confirm that their vessel had gone alongside Caroline. They clain the skipper had shouted to the crew through the loud hailer and made routine enquiries about their duty free stores. It denies that anyone made any attempt to board Caroline.
 
1
Radio Caroline broadcasts its first commercial.  It is for the Duke of Bedford's  Woburn Abbey. The Duke reports later that instead of 4,000 people some 4,500 turned up the day following the commercial   in spite of  very wet weather.
 
12
Radio Atlanta begins regular broadcasting.  Australian DJ Col Nicol  introduces the first program. Ronan O'Rahilly, with a typical gesture, sends Allan Crawford a "Good Luck" telegram.

In a written Commons reply  Mr Bevins claims that transmissions from Radio Caroline had caused interference to British and Belgian maritime services during the first few days of broadcasting, though interference since has been 'negligible'.  Mr Bevins says the phonographic industry had been in close touch with the GPO on the subject, and he   also had representations from the Songwriters' Guild of Great Britain, which was anxious that the development of pirate broadcasting stations be stopped as soon as possible.  Mr Bevins meets the Conservative Party's Radio and TV Committee. At this meeting he speaks of his plans for pirate radio and local sound broadcasting in Britain. News leaks  to the effect that he has  put off any action against the pirates.
 
13
National newspapers carry headlines like: 'Pirate radio ship No. 2-onthe air - Bevins beaten.'
JUNE   Mr Bevins commits the Tories to reviewing the whole question of commercial broadcasting, should they be returned to power in the October election. The Labour Party ardently denounces, in the words of one of its M.P.s, the 'greedy money-grabbing lobby agitating for commercial radio'. The Tories, inevitably, become associated with the commercial radio lobby, and the Labour Party with the kill-joys interested in preserving the sanctity of the BBC monopoly.

Barrister Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal Member of Parliament for North Devon, introduces a Bill supported by a small group of M.P.s of all parties. It would force all radio stations which broadcast advertisements to be registered with the Government. He tells Postmaster General, Mr. Reginald Bevins, that he was condoning a series of criminal breaches by not withdrawing the licences of people who listened to Offshore Radio. He points out that with the withdrawing of Panamanian shipping registration the ship had no protection from any warship in the world, was liable to seizure. The Bill had its first reading without opposition but it did not have Government backing an essential if it was to get through to the statute book.
JULY
2
Radio Caroline and Radio Atlanta merge under the Caroline logo. It is agreed that MV Caroline, the larger, heavier and stronger vessel, should go North to a  position off the coast of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
 
3
Caroline sails north. Keeping outside territorial waters, she continues to broadcast all the way around the tip of England to her new position three and a half miles off Ramsey, Isle of Man.
 
6
8 a.m:  Caroline, under Capt. Hangerfelt, is off Anglesea and playing requests for listeners in the area. The ship then moves  off Dublin to play further requests for Irish listeners. Later they head for the Isle of Man.  Late in the afternoon of Tynwald Day the ship takes up her position off Ramsey and Radio Caroline North is born.   DJs Jerry Leighton, Tom Lodge and Alan Turner were making friends with a whole new area of fans.
OCTOBER

Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn becomes Postmaster-General.
DECEMBER   Radio Caroline asks the BBC for a recording of the Queen's Christmas Day message. It's refused on the grounds that the ship is not an authorised broadcasting station. Ronan O'Rahilly seeks a description of the word "authorised" and a list of the stations which had received copies but he doesn't push the point.
1965  
JANUARY

13
&
14

Severe gales wrench off the starboard anchor from CAROLINE and she begins to drift. Within days a new 1 1/2 ton anchor is fitted and 4 1/2 tons of cable. The Isle of Man tourist board is given free advertising and the ship becomes a local attraction.
 
22
Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg and Sweden sign a Council of Europe Agreement to ban pirate radio broadcasts 'on board ships, aircraft or any other floating or airborne objects'. The agreement bans not only the broadcasts themselves but also bans anyone from providing the stations with supplies, equipment or broadcasting material.

 

FEBRUARY   The success of CAROLINE,and others prompts The National Broadcasting Development Committee headed by Sir Harmar Nicholls MP, (and including Lords Mancroft, and Grantchester and the historian A.J.P. Taylor on its committee) to press for Government action to start commercial radio. RADIO CAROLINE: present advertisement revenue runs at 15,000 weekly according to a spokesman.
MARCH   The Postmaster General  repeats in Parliament his allegations against the Offshore Radio stations and Sir Knox Cunningham, the Conservative Member for South Antrim, asks for evidence. Mr. Ian Gilmour, Conservative Member for Central Norfolk, amid Tory cheers, says "The continued success of Radio Caroline has provided abundant evidence of public demand for radio services independent of the B.B.C." He contends that any delay in granting licences for such a station would be both retrograde and dogmatic. Another East Anglian Member of Parliament, Mr. Eldon Griffiths, Conservative, Bury St. Edmunds, tells a Conference of the Radio and T.V. Retailers Association at Brighton,"The pirate stations are providing a service the B.B.C. has lamentably failed to provide. Millions of people, the large majority under 30, now listen regularly to these stations. Let us not have outright banning of a service which gives pleasure". Mr. Griffiths suggests  the B.B.C. should "stop crying about pirate radio and start competing for audiences.
APRIL
18

Easter Sunday: Radio Caroline celebrates first birthday.  Ronan O'Rahilly introduced four "Bell" the Caroline insignia awards. He presents one personally to The Animals at London Airport just before they leave for New York. The award is for their "House of the Rising Sun" the best group record of the Year. Pet Clark flew in from France to receive her award for ''Down Town", the best female vocal recording, from Simon Dee. Simon also travels to Twickenham Film Studios to present the Beatles with their award as the best and most consistent artists. The best male vocal record of the year was "It's Not Unusual" and the award is presented by Burt Bacharach to Tom Jones.    Recorded birthday greetings from  individual artists and groups   are included in the day's broadcasting schedule. The messages were from Band of Angels, Cliff Richard, The Temptations, The Shadows, The Four Pennies, Roy Orbison, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Donovan, The Honeycombs, The Supremes, Little Stevie Wonder, Dusty Springfield, Martha and the Vandellas, The Miracles, The Drifters, Bobby Vee, Peter and Gordon, Frankie Vaughan, Tom Jones and Eden Kane.

OCTOBER
21
One hundred forty four people died when a coal mine slag hill collasped the local school in Aberfan, Wales.  One hundred sixteen were school children.  Labour Member Mrs. B. Braddock (Liverpool Exchange) launched an appeal in her name over Caroline, for the Aberfan Disaster Appeal. As a result she was able to present a cheque for 8,100 to Mr. Cledwyn Hughes, Secretary of State for Wales
DECEMBER   Planet Productions acquires the assets of Project Atlanta and Mr. Allan Crawford resigns from his direct interest in the company. Barry Ainley, who had been General Manager for several months, becomes joint managing director with main responsibilities on the administrative and financial side of Caroline. Ronan O'Rahilly continues to take responsibility for programming and sales. Educated at the Sorbonne and Madrid Universities and with a B.Sc. (Econ.) at the London School of Economics, Barry Ainley had been a Merchant Banker prior to joining Caroline, .

Ronan, tries without success, to arrange a summit meeting with the Postmaster General Mr. Ted Short, on board Caroline North.

 
21
Radio Caroline Club Ball  at the New Brighton Tower Ballroom. It is  a major event . Top line artists, including the Searchers, the Yardbirds, the Four Pennies, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Paul and Barry Ryan, the Honeycombs and Twinkle, are booked to appear and it is a complete sell out.
1966  
JULY
2
The Government publishes The Marine etc., Broadcasting (Offences) Bill, under which broadcasts from ships and marine structures will be unlawful. It will be unlawful to instigate, finance, provide goods or in any way aid a pirate radio. The maximum penalties are to be two years imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
 
3
The BBC announces that it has made a proposal to the Post Office 'on the question of providing a continuous entertainment programme', probably to be carried on the Light Programme medium wavelength (247 meters).
SEPTEMBER
21
Radio Caroline North DJ Mick Luvzit and Janet Terrett (Sister of DJ "Ugly" Ray Terrett are married on board the M.V. Caroline by the ship's captain and the Panamanian consul.
OCTOBER
31
After normal close down at 8.30pm RADIO CAROLINE NORTH comes back on air at 10.30 pm to test transmit on 257 meters (1169 kHz). These tests continued every night until November 24. Day time output remains on 197 meters (1520 kHz).
DECEMBER
12
The Government publishes its  White Paper on the future of broadcasting.
 
18
All future transmissions from RADIO CAROLINE NORTH are issued on 257 meters (1169 kHz)
1967  
MARCH
16

The Government moves the second reading of the Marine etc., Broadcasting (offences) Bill to become know as the MOA.  Mr. Short the Postmaster General announces the Government plans to provide more choice for listeners, by another popular music programme by the end of the year. There were also plans to provide further choice in nine selected areas, as a prelude to setting-up of a national system of local radio.

JULY
13
The BBC announces that their first local radio station will begin operations from Leicester on Nov. 8
AUGUST
15
The CAROLINE organization opens an office in Holland at Singe 160, Amsterdam. CAROLINE broadcasts continue despite M.O.A.
 
21

The Manx Parliament, The House of Keys, reluctantly ratifies the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act at 8.30 pm bringing it into line with the mainland. It becomes effective from midnight. At Midnight DJ Don Allan announces 'This is the Northern Voice of RADIO CAROLINE INTERNATIONAL on 259 meters, the continuing voice of free radio for the British isles.'

1968  
MARCH
2
A heavy Dutch tug anchors a mile away from CAROLINE NORTH and refuses any form of communication.
10 pm:  Don Allen's show ends with Jim Reeves and after watching TV most of the crew turn in.
 
3
2am: Dutch seamen from the tug invade the CAROLINE NORTH and hold everyone on board prisoner. The leader reads a message to the senior staff from the tender firm of Wijsmuller instructing a complete close down of the station. To avoid violence the staff comply.

5.20 am: The tug Titan pulls up alongside RADIO CAROLINE SOUTH. Half way through their hours warm up the station goes off air.. Crew from the tug representing the Wijsmuller Brothers, seize and tow the Mi Amigo into Amsterdam.

6pm: The tug, the Utrecht, takes The Fredericia under tow for Amsterdam. On arrival the staff are paid and given 'plane tickets for England.  It was the last they were to hear from the station bosses.

Murph Note: The free wheeling sound of Radio Caroline North was never matched by other stations.  The disc-jockeys working onboard were all friends interested in having a good time and helping their loyal listener to enjoy themselves.

Bibliography   Selling the Sixties by Robert Chapman, published 1992 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London, EC4P 4EE and in USA by Routledge ISBN 0-415-07817-2 hard back ISBN 0-415-07970-5 paperback  (Murph's note:   I believe this is the best study of not only the pirate stations but also the   commercialism of British Culture in the 60's)

When Pirates Ruled the Waves........PAUL A. HARRIS
(Murph's note:  Excellent study of the pirate stations)

Radio Caroline.....
JOHN VENMORE-ROWLAND, THE LANDMARK PRESS LAVENHAM SUFFOLK 1967  (Murph's note: This is the Blue Book.  It was the first one and has most disc-jockeys' photos)

NOTE TO US RESIDENTS:  All three the above books are available through your local library and interlibrary loan.  Unfortunately none are in print.