In 1927 the British government concluded that radio was such a powerful means of mass communication that it needed to be under state control, thus in 1927 they created a monopoly known as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The BBC was given government authority to raise revenue by charging a license fee to every home possessing a radio, and charged with the duty to provide programming. The UK population had no say in the type of programming the BBC was delivering.  By 1930 there were five million radio sets in Britain, all unavoidably tuned to the BBC.

Through the ensuing years the BBC and the British government were increasingly hostile toward any competition to their radio monopoly.  Their programming was limited mainly to programs aimed at boosting the morale of the British population.  This situation continued into the fifties when things began to change when the American Rock & Roll era made its way into the country.

Meanwhile in 1958 the first European "pirate" was Radio Mercur, broadcasting from international waters. Established by a group of Danish businessmen, the station transmitted from a small ship anchored off Copenhagen, Denmark.

Radio Mercur's success led to other European groups starting similar ventures, including Radio Nord in 1960 anchored off Stockholm, Sweden.  Radio Veronica in 1960 began broadcasting in Dutch from an old light ship anchored off the Dutch coast.

Pop music on BBC radio was limited to short presentations of the music on weekends only and with straight laced announcers (no DJs).   Many pop-music-seeking British listeners turned to Radio Luxembourg, (*2) the only cross border broadcaster able to get back on the air after the war.  Radio Luxembourg could only be heard at night in Britain when propagation was good. Despite the inconvenience of long periods of signal fading, Radio Luxembourg was extremely popular.

In the 1960s the BBC initially enjoyed a statutory monopoly on radio in the UK. At that time the BBC broadcast little more than 2 hours per week of recorded popular music, a limit partly determined by the high level of royalties charged by record companies for airplay. From 1964 onwards, a number of pirate radio stations started broadcasting from ships and coastal forts located around the UK, but from outside the 3 mile limit of British territorial waters at that time. These pirate stations were not subject to British law in respect of both broadcasting rights and royalty payments. Most of them broadcast continuous recorded pop music and they funded themselves with advertising and sponsorship revenues. These stations were subsequently branded as "pirates".  The most famous and longest-lasting was Radio Caroline.



Caroline beginning-

Ronan O'Rahilly is usually credited as the founder of British Pirate Radio.  In the early sixties, O'Rahilly, the son of a well-known and wealthy Irish family, came to London hoping to become involved in film making. (In the later 60's O'Rahilly was manager of actor George Lazenby, famous for playing James Bond just once in the movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". It was also O'Rahilly who convinced Lazenby NOT to sign up for a further multi-movie deal to continue playing Bond, insisting Bond was a fad that wouldn't last!  Instead Sean Connery returned to play Bond again).  O'Rahilly got into the music scene managing new young artists. He tried to get one of his clients Georgie Fame recorded, but the few record companies showed no interest. So he produced his own recording which he tried to promote. The BBC wouldn't play it because it wasn't on their preferred EMI or Decca labels.  When he visited the head of Radio Luxembourg with his acetate recording, they showed him their limited air play lists, also dominated by EMI and Decca who had paid Luxembourg to play their records, and were booked up for the next five years.  O'Rahilly decided he'd have to start his own radio station.

The story of how O'Rahilly actually came up with the specifics of how to start an independent radio station is debated.  His story is that it was all his own idea after he learned of stations like the Voice of America operating from ships at sea, gathering information on the operation from the U.S. Embassy, and also visiting Radio Nord and Radio Veronica gathering information regarding offshore operations.

The more likely reality is that O'Rahilly got his specific project ideas from those of an Australian businessman, Allan Crawford, who had years of experience in setting up his own record label and some involvement with Radio Veronica and a short-lived British-language station 'CNBC', which both broadcast from a Dutch radio ship. Crawford had come to his own decision to place a broadcast station in International waters off the UK Coast as a means of independently promoting artists, after experiencing the BBC/Luxembourg/Record Labels monopolies that O'Rahilly also encountered.

O'Rahilly met Crawford in his office in 1962 to discuss Crawford's Project Atlanta, and charmed Crawford into believing O'Rahilly's (actually his father's) port in Greenore, Ireland, would be perfect for adapting his radio ship secretly.  In return for the offer, Crawford revealed all his plan details, covering flags of convenience, banking arrangements, costs, financing and so on, while continuing to think highly of the smooth-talking O'Rahilly despite the latter's hidden agendas.


Crawford intended to buy the MV Mi Amigo, a ship already previously used as a radio ship for Swedish offshore stations including Radio Nord.  The owner was then approached by O'Rahilly, attempting to buy it, but the owner was suspicious of his 'empty talk', and there was no deal.

Crawford nearly got his station on air as early as 1962, when the Mi Amigo was even anchored in the North Sea close to Veronica at one point, but his backers became nervous regarding what the British Government's response might be to the sudden challenge to their authority, and withdrew their funding.  Crawford lost the deal and the Texan-owned Mi Amigo ended up back in Galveston, where its broadcasting equipment was stripped out for conversion to a yacht.

Crawford finally gained funding and bought the Mi Amigo in 1963.  It sailed to various ports in Spain and finally Greenore, Ireland for radio/studio and mast installation.

Meanwhile, O'Rahilly had set out to fund his project.  While in Dallas, Texas to buy transmitters, he was reading an article in Life magazine and was captivated by a photograph showing president John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline playing


in the Oval Office of the White House and disrupting the serious business of government. This was exactly the image he wanted for his station. The name had to be Radio Caroline.

With finance in place, O'Rahilly's business partner Chris Moore went to Rotterdam, Holland and purchased an old Danish ferryboat named "Fredericia", to be renamed "MV Caroline", which sailed to Ronan's father's Greenore port for conversion, arriving just before Crawford's Mi Amigo.  Although there was not so much conversion work required on the Mi Amigo, it was still delayed waiting its turn as priority was given to O'Rahilly's ship.  Mi Amigo was to get a lighter 3-ton 141ft aluminium mast, but its arrival was also delayed.

Radio studios were built on the MV Caroline's upper decks behind the ships bridge.  Power generators were installed in the hold providing power for two 10 KW Continental medium wave (AM) broadcast transmitters.  The 13-ton steel 165ft vertical antenna mast was installed on the deck near the bow of the ship.  They made test transmissions, which interfered with harbor lights and local TV and radio reception.

Crawford and O'Rahilly had reached agreement to avoid competition, whereby Atlanta would broadcast to the southeast of England while Caroline would take up position off the Isle of Man to cover the northwest.  However, when the completed MV Caroline sailed out of port, Atlanta was surprised to learn that Caroline sailed south and east around England to anchor three miles off the coast of Felixstowe, a seaside town north-east of London on the coast of Suffolk, a position close to Mi Amigo's intended anchorage.

On Easter Sunday 28th March 1964 at 12noon, Radio Caroline officially started on air with the announcement "This is Radio Caroline on 199, your all day music station" - Simon Dee was the opening voice heard, announcing the first live show presented by Chris Moore.  Records were played by an engineer 'through the glass' in the other studio. Most programs were recorded on land on reel-to-reel tapes and taken out to the ship to be played as 'live'.

Caroline was on the air, shattering the monopolies of the BBC and Luxembourg, and changing radio forever. Its 10,000watt signal was from a mere 80 miles from London and thus stronger than Luxembourg's.  Broadcasting hours were initially limited from 6am to 6pm daily under the slogan "Your all-day music station" to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg which broadcast in English at 6 pm.

Radio Caroline came as a total surprise to the British authorities. They had been aware of the Atlanta project since 1962, but knew nothing about Caroline.

The original wavelength was announced as "199" meters (1509 kHz), rhyming with "Caroline". In reality the station was on 197.3 meters (1520 kHz) at the low end of the medium wave band. The Dutch offshore station Radio Veronica was on 192 meters (1562 kHz).  A month later, Crawford's "Radio Atlanta" ship Mi Amigo arrived, also anchored in international waters off the coast of Harwich, England and only a mile from Caroline. 

Atlanta had suffered further delays.  When both ships were in Greenore, two pairs of crystals - the component that sets the transmitter's frequency - had been ordered from America, one for each ship, but Caroline kept both sets.  Atlanta had to use temporary replacements that were slightly off-frequency, causing some interference.


Transmissions were also delayed by Swedish engineer Ove Sjostrom, who was employed by O'Rahilly and got Caroline on the air in Greenore.  He had originally worked on Radio Nord (on the ship 'Bon Jour', later renamed 'Magda Maria', which became 'Mi Amigo') and gave Crawford a lot of advice for his Atlanta project, but was never paid.  So for some revenge, he, with another Swede, approached the Mi Amigo when it anchored near MV Caroline and told them they were working on the ship.  Invited on board, he went to the transmitter room and subtly sabotaged the transmitter without leaving evidence. 

Crawford did hold one ace up his sleeve: unlike O'Rahilly he had done his homework regarding the best position for anchoring his ship, in the 'Wallet Channel' between Frinton-on-Sea, Essex and the Gunfleet Sands, the latter providing some shelter from rough seas and currents.

Atlanta finally got on air on 27th April 1964, initially making test transmissions with announcements in French to disguise themselves.  It officially started as Radio Atlanta on 12th May 1964 - cheekily commencing broadcasting at 6pm just when Caroline went off the air, and on the frequency of 201meters very close to Caroline's 199meters.

Both stations operated independently, though sometimes serviced by the same tender boat from Harwich.  Stories of supplies, records and 'jingles' being stolen from one party by the other abounded.

Two months later the two stations merged.  It came as much as a surprise to the crew and DJ's on the Mi Amigo: they were mostly kept in the dark after non-urgent ship-to-shore communications were stopped by the authorities in reaction to the 'law-breaking' of the pirates.  MV Caroline drew near Mi Amigo and the captain crossed over to explain. DJ's were given the choice of which ship to stay with when MV Caroline, being more seaworthy than the Mi Amigo, then sailed north to an anchorage in the Irish Sea off the coast of the Isle of Man to broadcast to Ireland, Scotland and the North of England as Radio Caroline North.  Radio Atlanta on MV Mi Amigo became Radio Caroline South and remained at anchor off the Essex coast to cover London and the South East.  It chose 201metres (1495 kHz) frequency but still announced itself as "199meters".

As if to confirm the wisdom of Crawford's choice of anchorage off Frinton, Caroline South tried moving nearer to London and the Thames Estuary to improve coverage, but the turbulence caused by the shallower waters and stronger currents made conditions very rough for Mi Amigo, which returned to their original anchorage within a week.

Radio Caroline became prosperous with its popularity, allowing their offices to move into the plush expensive Soho Mayfair area of London.  Their 'Caroline Club' membership grew swiftly, and many pop groups, including big names such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones, owed their popularity to the airplay received from the pirate ships.  The DJs were mobbed like pop stars by teenage fans when they arrived off the ship's tender boat at Harwich Quay, after passing through the obligatory immigration and customs.

However the British government classified both operations as "pirates" even though both were legally operating in international waters.  In 1966 the British Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, introduced a law that proclaimed the so-called "pirate" stations illegal, alleging 'danger to shipping' by the 'unauthorized use of frequencies' by the pirates and subsequent radio interference, as one of several reasons.

Another excuse the government cited was increasing troubles arising from the proliferation of the pirates. One was the "Radio City Affair". Reginald Calvert was 'owner' of an ex-Second-World War fort off Kent, England being used by another pirate, Radio City. In 1965 Caroline began to negotiate a take-over of Radio City. Calvert entered a deal with one of Radio Caroline's directors, Major Oliver Smedley, formerly with the Atlanta project, who provided a transmitter to the fort, which failed, causing Smedley to withdraw from the deal.  In 1966 Smedley boarded the fort with 10 workmen to repossess his unpaid-for transmitter.  Calvert visited Smedley's home to demand the men leave his fort and return some transmitter parts, but in a violent altercation, Calvert was shot dead.

Smedley was later acquitted from manslaughter charges.

The weather often made things difficult for the ships. Even in summer, amidst spells of fine calm weather there could still be a swell, making the playing of records difficult, or rough weather delaying supply tenders.  Listeners became fascinated to share their hardships, hearing the sounds of the ship being ravaged by storms in the background when the microphone was on.  DJ Tony Blackburn however later admitted he sometimes threw things like ashtrays around the studio while on-air, to heighten the drama.
















The DJs and crew were removed from the ship by 'breeches buoy', taken care of by the police, and never charged.  Only when they later saw press photos did they realize their incredible good luck.  The 133ft ship had avoided serious shipwreck by floating over a large concrete breakwater then coming ashore right between two wooden breakwaters, within a larger gap where one breakwater had been removed years before. It was the only gap in over 5 miles of coastline of 120ft-spaced breakwaters.

The Mi Amigo was pulled off the beach on high tide two days later, and towed to Holland for a refit, gaining a generator, more-powerful transmitters and an antenna mast extension.

Meanwhile Caroline took up an offer from 'Swedish Pirate Queen' Mrs. Britt Wadner, owner of pirate Radio Syd (South), to rent her ship Cheetah II.  Mrs. Wadner had herself experienced legal wrangles with the authorities, Sweden having passed legislation to outlaw pirate stations in 1962. She had been jailed a number of times. Since by Swedish law prisoners can continue their profession while in jail, she had still been allowed to record programs in her Hinseberg prison cell!  Now, it was said she had been advised the ship ought not broadcast off Sweden because of the dangers from pack ice, so the ship retreated south to warmer waters offshore Holland.  But it's likely she also feared the tightening of Sweden's broadcasting laws.

Cheetah II's FM transmitters were not suitable for Britain so an AM transmitter, along with a generator, were brought back from Mi Amigo and installed on the ship, albeit running at lower than normal power, but enough to maintain their advertising income.  Caroline was back on air after one month's absence, though it did have a lot of problems, frequently going off-air, and conditions on board the otherwise spacious ship were harsh. 

Mi Amigo returned 3 months later, but had technical problems trying to get back on air. There was a short circuit at the top of the mast, no engineers on board, and gales preventing one coming to the ship.  The bored DJs decided to take action themselves, and one by one tried then succeeded in climbing the mast, without safety harness (its clip-on latches wouldn't fit the new upper mast section's rings), to clear the rogue wire. The hero was DJ Tony Blackburn, who never did get the $75 promised by Ronan O'Rahilly for doing the deed.  They also had to replace some insulators that were breaking down due to the new transmitter's higher power.

Caroline now had TWO Caroline South's, Cheetah II on the original 199 meters, and Mi Amigo now on '259' (actually 252) meters, 1169 kHz, close to neighbor pirate Radio London on 266 (1133kHz) and BBC's 'Light Program on 247 (1214kHz).  Gradually '199' persuaded its loyal listeners to move over to 259, after which Cheetah II's services were no longer required.

Cheetah II remained in the area for awhile but got caught up in various problems, including drifting, impoundment, writs, disputes over ownership and attempts at sale.  After more than a year the ship finally got free to resume its original intended voyage to Gambia, Africa from where it broadcast offshore, then became a restaurant, shop, and discotheque in the harbor, finally sinking there in the 70's after a storm. Britt Wadner also operated a hotel there.

Meanwhile, Radio Caroline, with its improved power began to claw back audiences from its main rival 'Big L', Radio London.  It had further competition from another ship "Swinging Radio England" which also used slicker American-style jingles produced by the famous PAMS in Dallas, Texas.  DJ's on Caroline sneakily recorded England's jingles to use for themselves, edited with "Radio Caroline" dubbed over the original station name where appropriate.  O'Rahilly enjoyed the audacity for a couple of days then told his guys to stop, to avoid legal action.

While marooned on the radio ships, crew and DJs missed the mainland especially on days when the coastline was clear and illuminated at night.  One Caroline DJ, Johnnie Walker, took over the 9-midnight show. His intimate personal style was hugely popular and his 'Kiss in the Car', 'Frinton Flashing' and 'Ten O'Clock Turn On' features broke new ground on British radio.  Motorists listening to Caroline would park their cars on the seafront along the coast with headlights directed at the radio ship. Johnnie would ask them to flash their headlights responding to various questions. By a process of elimination, they'd whittle down to an individual car.  Johnnie could conduct a 'conversation' to the point of establishing a name, home town and so on, and even set up 'blind date' meetings between cars with males, and cars with females.


The infamous British "MOA" - "Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act", became law on August 14, 1967.  While the Act could not legally stop the broadcasts themselves from within international waters, it went after the main source of the station's income... advertisers.... by making it a criminal offence to supply or assist in any way such stations by persons subject to UK laws. 

Several other pirate stations that had appeared around the country's coast by this time - some on ships, others on ex-war forts - complied with the new law and closed down.  Caroline listeners stayed tuned, anxious to find out what Caroline would do.

At midnight, Johnny Walker famously addressed an estimated 20million listeners, passionately announcing "Radio Caroline would like to thank Mr. Harold Wilson and his Labour government for at last recognizing this station's right to exist, its right to be here and its right to provide you with entertainment, because we belong to you and we love you. Caroline continues." followed by playing the protest song "We Shall Overcome".  By continuing, the three Englishmen, DJs Walker, Robbie Dale and newsreader Ross Brown, now each faced up to two years in prison and a $600 fine if they ever returned to Britain.

On land, Caroline House in London had already closed earlier and the station's operational headquarters transferred to Amsterdam. Ronan O'Rahilly, an Irish citizen, continued to operate quietly from the former Radio Atlanta office headquarters in Dean Street, London using the cover of a company 'Mid Atlantic Films'.  O'Rahilly claimed only to be involved in the film production business. Although this was partially true, the company also acted as a secret base for recruiting Caroline staff and obtaining supplies and records.

One of the first problems created by the new law was that the supply tender boat that formerly came out of Harwich with food, mail and other supplies, could no longer legally supply the station.   Radio Caroline made arrangement to bring in supplies from Holland, which could take 24 hours. Often the ship would run short of water.  In reality, Caroline South was often illegally supplied by 'locals' sailing in small boats from the nearest ports, although only when good weather allowed, meaning it often suffered shortages during bad and winter weather.  DJ's could be 'stranded' on the ship without relief for weeks.

Station operators thought they could get around the law if they were staffed, supplied and funded by non-British citizens, but this proved impractical.  Their funds began drying up through lack of British advertising.

Following the loss of the Pirates from the Marine Offences Act, the BBC rearranged its organization, renaming existing channels as Radios One, Two, Three and Four.  Radio One claimed to cater for the needs of pop-music-seeking pirate fans, and began on 30th September 1967.  It employed several ex-pirate DJ's, including Simon Dee who had presented Caroline's first show. The first to be heard on Radio One was Tony Blackburn, the DJ who had climbed the mast to help get Caroline's Mi Amigo back on air just over a year before.  Radio One initially proved too restricted, mostly unpopular and unsuccessful as a replacement for the energetic and much-missed pirates.

Caroline suffered from its isolation, and difficulty in obtaining lucrative advertising. The station confused the authorities who continually monitored their broadcasts, by airing unpaid-for 'dummy' adverts amidst the few that were genuine and brought in some funds, and those for which long-term contracts were still valid and had to be honored. They played old adverts for Beechams, Nestle, Bulova watches and Du Maurier and Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, those companies then frequently having to explain to Home Office authorities that the ads were not authorized and no longer paid for.

Caroline also heavily 'plugged' (promoted) selected artists, including David McWilliams, Roberto Mann Singers and Raymond LeFevre and His Orchestra amongst others, all on the Major Minor record label.  It limited DJs' freedom and frustrated DJs and listeners alike, and was ironic considering Pirate Radio had been trying to overcome the monopoly of select chosen record labels by the BBC and Luxembourg, but it was supposedly of financially necessary.  Major Minor's creator, Phil Solomon, was also a co-director of Caroline, a position earned as gratitude for his financial help to the station earlier.  But it has been suggested that much of the revenue from the frequent plugs didn't even make it back to Caroline…


In March 1968, it was ironic that it was not The Law that brought an end to Radio Caroline, but simple Commercialism. Unable to pay their bills, particularly those of the company providing provisions, Radio Caroline went off the air when two Dutch tugs representing the supply company appeared unexpectedly at both North and South ships, cut their anchor chains, and towed the vessels away to a Dutch port to satisfy debts.  Ended by true Piracy?!

But - this was not to be the end of Radio Caroline!

(Continued in Part Two…)


The pirates genuinely suffered in bad weather in early 1966.  Radio London, another pirate radio ship close by Caroline South and popular due to its 'American format', dragged its anchor in a gale and drifted into British territorial waters. It stayed off the air until towed back to its usual anchorage. 

Then just one week later Caroline's Mi Amigo suffered a similar fate.  They realized too late that they'd drifted inside British waters, and the engineers removed transmitter crystals to hide in a drawer, lest they be confiscated by authorities. Engines were started but failed to halt the drift. They feared for their lives, but the ship eventually got swept up onto the snow-covered beach near Frinton On Sea with a loud bump.

The DJs and crew were removed from the ship by 'breeches buoy', taken care of by the police, and never charged.  Only when they later saw press photos did they realize their incredible good luck.  The 133ft ship had avoided serious shipwreck by floating over a large concrete breakwater then coming ashore right between two wooden breakwaters, within a larger gap where one breakwater had been removed years before. It was the only gap in over 5 miles of coastline of 120ft-spaced breakwaters.
The Mi Amigo was pulled off the beach on high tide two days later, and towed to Holland for a refit, gaining a generator, more-powerful transmitters and an antenna mast extension.

Meanwhile Caroline took up an offer from 'Swedish Pirate Queen' Mrs. Britt Wadner, owner of pirate Radio Syd (South), to rent her ship Cheetah II.  Mrs. Wadner had herself experienced legal wrangles with the authorities, Sweden having passed legislation to outlaw pirate stations in 1962. She had been jailed a number of times. Since by Swedish law prisoners can continue their profession while in jail, she had still been allowed to record programs in her Hinseberg prison cell!  Now, it was said she had been advised the ship ought not broadcast off Sweden because of the dangers from pack ice, so the ship retreated south to warmer waters offshore Holland.  But it's likely she also feared the tightening of Sweden's broadcasting laws.

Cheetah II's FM transmitters were not suitable for Britain so an AM transmitter, along with a generator, were brought back from Mi Amigo and installed on the ship, albeit running at lower than normal power, but enough to maintain their advertising income.  Caroline was back on air after one month's absence, though it did have a lot of problems, frequently going off-air, and conditions on board the otherwise spacious ship were harsh. 

Mi Amigo returned 3 months later, but had technical problems trying to get back on air. There was a short circuit at the top of the mast, no engineers on board, and gales preventing one coming to the ship.  The bored DJs decided to take action themselves, and one by one tried then succeeded in climbing the mast, without safety harness (its clip-on latches wouldn't fit the new upper mast section's rings), to clear the rogue wire. The hero was DJ Tony Blackburn, who never did get the $75 promised by Ronan O'Rahilly for doing the deed.  They also had to replace some insulators that were breaking down due to the new transmitter's higher power.

Caroline now had TWO Caroline South's, Cheetah II on the original 199 meters, and Mi Amigo now on '259' (actually 252) meters, 1169 kHz, close to neighbor pirate Radio London on 266 (1133kHz) and BBC's 'Light Program on 247 (1214kHz).  Gradually '199' persuaded its loyal listeners to move over to 259, after which Cheetah II's services were no longer required.

Cheetah II remained in the area for awhile but got caught up in various problems, including drifting, impoundment, writs, disputes over ownership and attempts at sale.  After more than a year the ship finally got free to resume its original intended voyage to Gambia, Africa from where it broadcast offshore, then became a restaurant, shop, and discotheque in the harbor, finally sinking there in the 70's after a storm. Britt Wadner also operated a hotel there.

Meanwhile, Radio Caroline, with its improved power began to claw back audiences from its main rival 'Big L', Radio London.  It had further competition from another ship "Swinging Radio England" which also used slicker American-style jingles produced by the famous PAMS in Dallas, Texas.  DJ's on Caroline sneakily recorded England's jingles to use for themselves, edited with "Radio Caroline" dubbed over the original station name where appropriate.  O'Rahilly enjoyed the audacity for a couple of days then told his guys to stop, to avoid legal action.

While marooned on the radio ships, crew and DJs missed the mainland especially on days when the coastline was clear and illuminated at night.  One Caroline DJ, Johnnie Walker, took over the 9-midnight show. His intimate personal style was hugely popular and his 'Kiss in the Car', 'Frinton Flashing' and 'Ten O'Clock Turn On' features broke new ground on British radio.  Motorists listening to Caroline would park their cars on the seafront along the coast with headlights directed at the radio ship. Johnnie would ask them to flash their headlights responding to various questions. By a process of elimination, they'd whittle down to an individual car.  Johnnie could conduct a 'conversation' to the point of establishing a name, home town and so on, and even set up 'blind date' meetings between cars with males, and cars with females.

The infamous British "MOA" - "Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act", became law on August 14, 1967.  While the Act could not legally stop the broadcasts themselves from within international waters, it went after the main source of the station's income... advertisers.... by making it a criminal offence to supply or assist in any way such stations by persons subject to UK laws. 

Several other pirate stations that had appeared around the country's coast by this time - some on ships, others on ex-war forts - complied with the new law and closed down.  Caroline listeners stayed tuned, anxious to find out what Caroline would do.

At midnight, Johnny Walker famously addressed an estimated 20million listeners, passionately announcing "Radio Caroline would like to thank Mr. Harold Wilson and his Labour government for at last recognizing this station's right to exist, its right to be here and its right to provide you with entertainment, because we belong to you and we love you. Caroline continues." followed by playing the protest song "We Shall Overcome".  By continuing, the three Englishmen, DJs Walker, Robbie Dale and newsreader Ross Brown, now each faced up to two years in prison and a $600 fine if they ever returned to Britain.

On land, Caroline House in London had already closed earlier and the station's operational headquarters transferred to Amsterdam. Ronan O'Rahilly, an Irish citizen, continued to operate quietly from the former Radio Atlanta office headquarters in Dean Street, London using the cover of a company 'Mid Atlantic Films'.  O'Rahilly claimed only to be involved in the film production business. Although this was partially true, the company also acted as a secret base for recruiting Caroline staff and obtaining supplies and records.

One of the first problems created by the new law was that the supply tender boat that formerly came out of Harwich with food, mail and other supplies, could no longer legally supply the station.   Radio Caroline made arrangement to bring in supplies from Holland, which could take 24 hours. Often the ship would run short of water.  In reality, Caroline South was often illegally supplied by 'locals' sailing in small boats from the nearest ports, although only when good weather allowed, meaning it often suffered shortages during bad and winter weather.  DJ's could be 'stranded' on the ship without relief for weeks.

Station operators thought they could get around the law if they were staffed, supplied and funded by non-British citizens, but this proved impractical.  Their funds began drying up through lack of British advertising.

Following the loss of the Pirates from the Marine Offences Act, the BBC rearranged its organization, renaming existing channels as Radios One, Two, Three and Four.  Radio One claimed to cater for the needs of pop-music-seeking pirate fans, and began on 30th September 1967.  It employed several ex-pirate DJ's, including Simon Dee who had presented Caroline's first show. The first to be heard on Radio One was Tony Blackburn, the DJ who had climbed the mast to help get Caroline's Mi Amigo back on air just over a year before.  Radio One initially proved too restricted, mostly unpopular and unsuccessful as a replacement for the energetic and much-missed pirates.

Caroline suffered from its isolation, and difficulty in obtaining lucrative advertising. The station confused the authorities who continually monitored their broadcasts, by airing unpaid-for 'dummy' adverts amidst the few that were genuine and brought in some funds, and those for which long-term contracts were still valid and had to be honored. They played old adverts for Beechams, Nestle, Bulova watches and Du Maurier and Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes, those companies then frequently having to explain to Home Office authorities that the ads were not authorized and no longer paid for.

Caroline also heavily 'plugged' (promoted) selected artists, including David McWilliams, Roberto Mann Singers and Raymond LeFevre and His Orchestra amongst others, all on the Major Minor record label.  It limited DJs' freedom and frustrated DJs and listeners alike, and was ironic considering Pirate Radio had been trying to overcome the monopoly of select chosen record labels by the BBC and Luxembourg, but it was supposedly of financially necessary.  Major Minor's creator, Phil Solomon, was also a co-director of Caroline, a position earned as gratitude for his financial help to the station earlier.  But it has been suggested that much of the revenue from the frequent plugs didn't even make it back to Caroline…

In March 1968, it was ironic that it was not The Law that brought an end to Radio Caroline, but simple Commercialism. Unable to pay their bills, particularly those of the company providing provisions, Radio Caroline went off the air when two Dutch tugs representing the supply company appeared unexpectedly at both North and South ships, cut their anchor chains, and towed the vessels away to a Dutch port to satisfy debts.  Ended by true Piracy?!

But - this was not to be the end of Radio Caroline!

(Continued in Part Two…)


Radio Caroline & The British "Pirates"
Part 1
1958-1970  (First Phase)
Editorial assistance from Dave Reid