Big L '97 – The Walton Time-warp

A knee-jerking account by Mary Payne

Part 5 – in which Mary banks the DTI pound, and spends the night flashing on the Yeoman Rose with six men

Wednesday, August 13th

Chris Elliot accompanied me on the Walkperson for today's early-morning run. Like Mark, he didn't feel the benefit of it either.

On the tender, I presented Ray with his pirate money-box, and explained John's brilliant plan for the banking of The DTI Pound. It was decided that the ceremony of the pottery pirate taking custody of The Pound was to be performed during the Coffee Break spot.

I confess that, rather than behaving like a guest, I kind of hijacked a segment of Ray's show - for which I hope he's forgiven me. First, I wanted to share with Lil's audience the incredible 'high' I was on. (Who needs pills when you're a listener of Lil's?) I didn't find it easy to put it into words, but Colin Lees and others on the pier told me later that I had expressed perfectly how they felt about the thrill of the occasion, and everything that had been achieved during the RSL. Perhaps it was at this point that I decided maybe I might just be on the right wavelength to qualify as The Big L Listener.

Exceedingly unenjoyable for everyone, for which I apologise, must have been the ordeal of having to suffer the racket of me singing the Spanish Jingle a cappella. No doubt, dogs in Walton are still howling over it.

Next, I had something important to read out - some 'nitty rhymes' which I'd written in 1965 for a Kenny/Cash competition. Here's one of them:

There once was a nurdle called Mary Rose
Who wore Big L eyelashes over her nose.
When asked why she did this peculiar thing,
She said, 'It looks better than on my knees, Jim!'

Yes, this was a tribute to one of the more bizarre items of Big L merchandising available in 1965 - Radio London eyelashes! I didn't win the Kenny/Cash contest, but if the person who DID is reading this, I'd love to hear YOUR rhyme.

Finally, came the crucial moment when I related to the world the newly-born broadcasting legend of The DTI Pound and presented Ray with the pirate money-box. Performing the ultimate off-shore banking transaction, Ray placed The Pound in the pirate and the next RSLil was on its way. A chap called Mark was visiting the ship at the time. He was part of the current Radio Caroline team who had just started their own RSL from the Ross Revenge off the Kent coast. Mark captured this momentous event on videotape, and then generously added his own pound to the one donated by the DTI. Two pounds towards the next broadcast already!

(Picture: The DTI Pound becomes legend)

How do you follow that? By spending the night on the Yeoman Rose, of course! I went ashore for the rest of the day, but made a point of getting Caroline to put my name down IMMEDIATELY on the booking sheet for the last tender back to the ship. There was no way I was going to be left behind.

Chris was autographing more books today, and surprisingly, so was I. By now, I was getting to know quite a few of the Anorak regulars on the pier. It was thrilling for everyone involved in Big L '97 to receive so many appreciative comments from our listeners. I don't believe we heard anything even approaching a negative sentiment. Our station's authentic re-creation of Big L 1967 was praised to the skies by all. All the effort incurred was shown to be worthwhile, and everyone involved was made to feel ten feet tall - or at least as tall as Duncan Johnson!

One chap came and asked me how physically difficult it was to get on board the Yeoman Rose from the tender. I told him it involved a short climb up a rope ladder, and that I didn't think it was too daunting. He explained that he had served as an engineer on board one of the former pirate stations. The ship concerned had ridden very high in the water, so it had been a fair climb for anyone aspiring to reach her deck from the tender, and had proved something of a challenge. Today, this guy had brought a friend with him, a young man who had unfortunately lost an arm. He had told this young fellow, "You have to come with me this week; it may be your last chance ever to see for yourself what offshore radio was all about. This will probably never happen again."

What he wanted to know was, what was the likelihood of his disabled friend being able to get aboard the Yeoman Rose. After I had described the Jacob's ladder, the three or four steps of it to be negotiated, and the number of people who would be on-hand to offer assistance, the two guys decided to give it a try. If the young man found he couldn't make it on to the ship, at least he could take the trip out there. I'm delighted to report that he did make it aboard. My main regret is that for some reason, I missed seeing the two men concerned when they returned, and I did not get their names. Hopefully, they may read this, or someone who met them aboard the Yeoman Rose will be able to fill in the gap for me.

(Picture: The last tender of the day approaches the Yeoman Rose)

When Chris and I returned to the ship on the last tender, we found the mood on board a little melancholy. Naturally, everyone was sad it was to be our last night, and we also had to contend with the disappointing news that neither Pete Brady nor Dave Cash was going to be able to join us for our final day of broadcasting as had been planned. We were, however, delighted to hear that Ben Toney and Tom Danaher had arrived from Texas, and would coming on board for Ray's Coffee Break Spot. Ben was Lil's original Programme Director, and Tom was a financial backer, and a man who had remained unfazed at the prospect of having to assemble Lil's massive aerial, treating it as if it were some giant and very challenging puzzle


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