Mary Payne's photo tribute page to
Photo circa 1967, photographer unknown
I can't explore the entire extraordinary career of JR-B, both in and outside of radio and TV broadcasting, but I propose to share a few personal photographs from many events we attended with John over the years.
John's Watery Wireless career began in 1964, on the Thames fort-based Radio Invicta. Broadcast staff aboard the Thames estuary Red Sands fort, included Peter Barraclough, Larry Pannell and Pete Ross, but in reality, all of them were John! Invicta and a subsequent station, King Radio, failed, but in 1965, the fort became home to the successful Radio 390, with John broadcasting under his own name.
In 1966, John joined Radio London Texan founder, Don Pierson's new ship-borne Britain Radio and also read news bulletins on her sister station Radio England. Both broadcast from aboard the mv Olga Patricia, renamed Laissez Faire, where he was known to his shipmates as John Boss-Farmyard.
John with former Laissez Faire shipmate, Johnnie Walker, at Grey Pierson's Radio England Reunion at The Red Lion, Mayfair, May 2006
Chris Payne interviews Roger Twiggy Day with John in the grounds of the former Radio England offices, 32 Curzon Street
Descending the steps in the grounds of 32 Curzon Street with shipmate Phil Martin
Chris and I first met John during the two Radio London recreations in 1997/98. Nobody could forget John's infamous 'rogue' news bulletins. This applies especially to Keith Skues, who had a few problems with firing the 'blips' cart at the right moments during a subsequent Big L broadcast from Clacton pier (See links below this tribute).
We encountered John at numerous offshore radio-related events over the years and he was always terrific company.
He was a great admirer of Big L founders Don Pierson and Tom Danaher and their endeavours to bring US-style commercial radio to the UK.
"Like others," he said, "I owe Tom and Don much gratitude for my career in broadcasting." John and his wife Connie attended the Fort Worth premiere of the Grey Pierson (Don's son) documentary Swinging Radio England - a tale of Pirates, Texans and Teenagers, in April 2008.
With SRE 'Boss Jocks' Ron O'Quinn (left) and Rick Randell at the Fort Worth premiere
|Having a laugh with Ron O'Quinn (left) and the head of JAM jingles, Jon Wolfert (far left).
After Tom Danaher died, John wrote:
"We met Tom in Dallas with you in 2008 and earlier at Don's home and we could have sat at his feet for hours just listening to his modest recall of WW11 and his shared sadness for the British involvement which he declared was impossible for the UK government to avoid. He firmly believed that the US government was remiss in failing to join the war effort in 1940. Quoting Churchill, he believed that Jaw Jaw was always better than War War and if the US government had used its influence in Germany, millions of lives would have been saved and altered the course of what might never have been a war at all.
Thank you for compiling a splendid memorial to Tom's great life. Many of us owe him and Don enduring thanks for our careers in broadcasting."
In 1996, John had voiced the introduction to Tony Currie's orchestral compilation, Test Card Classics. After an enjoyable week at the 2015 Radio Mi Amigo broadcast from the LV18 in Harwich, where Tony was the Programme Director, John wrote to all participants:
"Sisteren and brethren of the LV18
Great days, great company, great weather, great programmes, great commitment, great comradeship, astonishing hours from Tony Currie - splendid off-air crew... all combined to make a wonderful week's experience. Even better than the old days!
Bless your hearts and do come and stay with us at Chesters413 B and B, if you are passing through the heart of England in Coventry
Thank you, thank you, thank you - and for Neon Nancy thank y'all, y'awl come back now."
John and Connie fly the Jolly Roger from the deck of LV18
during Radio Mi Amigo in Harwich
During the pandemic lockdown of 2020, John wrote to the offshore community, "Who would have thought in 1966 that we would still be talking offshore matters? With all the Cunard and other cruise ships anchored in international waters off the Isle of Wight I am advocating they become 2020 Radio Carolines and Radio Londons."
A brilliant suggestion. What a shame it didn't happen.
Images from the Amsterdam Radio Day, 2014, the Britain Radio Panel and John's banner
Meeting old pal Cardboard Shoes
John was always grateful to us for any assistance we were able to give him in keeping in touch with pals from the offshore radio community.
"It was lovely to chat to Keith Skues yesterday," he wrote. "Thankyou both for being such 'pirates' catalysts.
The last time Chris and I saw John was during a Zoom pirate gathering, in September 2021. (Screen shot above)
We send our deepest sympathy to Connie and all of John's family on their great loss.
We shall miss you very much, John.
During a Radio London recreation from a PortaKabin on Clacton pier, John read the news on the Keith Skues show.
Fortunately, Ben Meijering was visiting from the Netherlands to record it for posterity.
|We are also fortunate to have a clip of John's hilarious final bulletin for Big L 97 News, 13th January 1998, from the Ocean Defender moored in St Katharine's Dock near the Tower of London:
John Ross-Barnard on Big L 97
An item that we thought would be nice to link to, is from 1982. John, while Head of Home Video at the BBC, penned a feature called So You Want to Buy a Home Video Recorder, for a special edition of the Beeb's in-house publication, Ariel, offering his advice about acquiring one of the new home machines. The special edition was because in that year, the Corporation was celebrating a mere 60 years of existence.
"If you work for the BBC all your friends expect you to be a mine of information, answerable to all their criticisms, and an authority on just about everything from Terry Wogan's sock size to (and this is where we come in) whether or not to buy a video recorder, and if so, which sort." He continues, "If you'll take my advice, never give advice on video recorders! Let someone else do it for you — the person we in BBC Video call 'The Dealer'."
A page is now available for posting tributes, condolences to John's family and making donations in his memory.
The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame Tribute Page
All photos © Radio London unless otherwise stated