Simon Dee (Cyril Nicholas Henty-Dodd) 28th July 1935 – 29th August 2009
pioneering Radio Caroline broadcaster between 1964 and 1965
Simon, who died suddenly, only a short time after receiving a diagnosis of bone cancer, is a huge loss to the offshore radio family.
Many obituaries have been written, but we felt the best tribute we could pay Simon would be to quote his personal recollection of his feelings on March 28th 1964 at noon, when he made that first live announcement on Caroline. The interview is taken from 'The Simon Dee Book' (published by Purnell, 1968).
"Commercial radio in Britain, apart from Luxembourg, was unheard of. Then there was the government – I had visions of a destroyer drawing alongside before the day was out. Added to that, my stomach was heaving in time to the heavy swell of the boat. Talk about false gaiety! Most of the time I was keeping fairly close company with a bucket. I think the feeling of being a pioneer helped me through - you know, your actual 'first-man-on-the-moon' sort of stuff. Anyway, I got through the broadcast wondering whether anyone ashore had heard any of it.
It was all fine and dandy for the listeners, cosy in their bungalows in Barnet and Southend, but it wasn't quite as swinging for us, plugging away at discs three miles out on the briny. Not that I would have swopped it for anything - the experience was tremendous."
Any doubts about the station's success vanished with the arrival of the first tender, bearing no less than nine sacks of mail and gifts from listeners. Those aboard the Fredericia were astounded.
"We clustered around the rail and could hardly believe our eyes. We had expected some letters, but this was ridiculous. First one sack was hauled up and then another and everything poured out – jerseys, chocolates, ski hats, coffee, cigarettes...! Right then, everyone knew there was no turning back. We had proved without a doubt that this was what the public wanted. In its first three weeks, Caroline's audience was over seven million listeners and growing."
Forty years later: photos by Chris Payne from Roger Day's Caroline Reunion, March 2004.
Above, left, Simon with Caroline friends George Hare, David Williams and Nick Bailey.
Right, with his old friend from the Studio 61 Theatre Workshop, Caroline founder, Ronan O'Rahilly.
It was only when I looked at Simon's biography that I realised we had much more in common than I had previously appreciated. We were both educated at public schools in Shropshire (he was at Shrewsbury, me at Ellesmere). We both joined the RAF and we both worked as photographers in the Air Force. I last met Simon five years ago at the Caroline fortieth reunion which was held at the Red Lion behind Caroline House. Despite his problems, he was in good spirits and appeared without rancour.
Simon's demise from the BBC was a sad day, but we all knew his problem and much of it was to do with power and control, but also money. Compare the relatively small amount of money he was in dispute about to the obscene salaries paid to the current ‘star’ performers - let alone the management.
I owe my introduction to Caroline through meeting Simon when he was doing a road show organised by Olive Burgess. I got in touch with Graham Webb and the rest is history. Sadly tempus fugit and slowly our numbers are being depleted all the time.
Unfortunately, living in Belgium, I will be unable to travel to the UK for his funeral, but I know others from Caroline are hoping to go.
David Williams, Caroline North
Above and below, photos by Dezo Hoffman from 'The Simon Dee Book'
Above: A rehearsal for Dee Time. Guest line-up (seated l to r): Massed Alberts, Vanessa Redgrave, Val Doonican, Miriam Karlin, Peter Noble.
Right: Dee Time interview with Scott Walker.
Below: Simon with his son, aged six. The DJ was known to friends and family as Nicky, but he borrowed his on-air name from his son Simon, who was just a toddler in 1964, when Caroline took to the airwaves and his dad was becoming a celebrity.
I was lucky enough to hear that first broadcast from Radio Caroline. It changed not only my life but millions of others'. For the first time we had a radio station that played our music all day long. He was the inspiration for me to follow the dream. What a pity he never got the support he deserved from the industry he kick-started.
Roger Twiggy Day, Radio England, Caroline South
The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame Tribute Page naturally focusses more on Simon's offshore career than most obituaries and features several audio clips, including Simon's Caroline launch announcement at noon, on March 28th 1964. The excellent PRHoF tribute also dispels the two much-repeated myths that Simon was born in Canada and that his first name was Carl.
The Telegraph; Daily Mail; BBC News;
Paul Rusling tribute