Sunday, April 26, 2009

Radio Caroline

I started this post in early February, prompted by listening to a radio interview on ABC Radio with Ernie Sigley being the guest. Sigley had just retired from radio 3AW. I tried to listen to Ernie on the radio one afternoon and found he was a terrible radio broadcaster. Between his manner and ads for funeral parlours and retirement villages, I quickly switched off. I thought he was not so bad when he was on tv.

But during the interview on ABC Melbourne, I heard him talking about when he worked for one of the pirate radio stations broadcasting into England in the nineteen sixties. I was surprised to hear this and tuned in with more interest.

Now when R was growing up in England, he was an avid listener to pirate radio, always with his tranny in bed with him. (C'mon, you get bored with me if I did not give you such good lines) (Kiddies, it was called a transistor radio, transistor for short, or tranny for even shorter. Taking your valve radio to bed was impractical and possibly dangerous to your private parts because the valves glowed red hot) Anyway, I thought it might make an interesting post, pirate radio, Sigley and a bit of the personal thrown in.

I knew little about pirate radio except the name Radio Luxembourg and that was the title of this blog post when I started to write it. I did a bit of research for the post but got thoroughly confused by it all and that is why I left it alone for a while.

Then in a total co-incidence, out came the movie The Boat That Rocked, a movie about English pirate radio.

This morning after a leisurely breakfast at home of pancakes, mine, half lemon and sugar, the other half maple syrup, we headed off to drop a dozen bottles of mail order clean skin wine into our dyke friends and after coffee and cheese with them, on to the George Cinema in St Kilda. As we left the car park, down came the rain and along came the bitingly cold wind. Although it was twenty to one, and the movie started at one, the cinema wasn't open, so we went into a second hand bookshop. Of course in St Kilda, even second hand books are expensive but I bought a copy of Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing for $7, to add to the pile of unread books. I would have liked to have bought the book on the Boyd family and another on John and Sunday Reed and their respective families, but at $30 each, nah. I am sure they will be in the public libraries. Dina, a post on both families, if you please. They are both interesting. You Aussies out there will learn a lot about Australia by reading Dina's blog, coming from an American in Houston, Texas in the mighty US of A.

By this time we were frozen and the thought of the warm movie theatre dragged us back to its front door and it had just opened. It wasn't warm, but as it just opened, I thought maybe the heating has just being switched on. No, we froze through the whole movie. I am still aching from from hugging myself tightly for a couple of hours to stay warm. Bad form The George.

The movie was ok, acting excellent, scripts a bit wanting. In case you are totally unfamiliar with pirate radio, the sole radio station operator was the BBC and they broadcast very little popular music such as rock and roll, and so the pirate radio stations came into being, broadcasting into England from international waters.

As we were driving home afterwards, R started to poke some holes in the movie. We concluded it was a story, not a documentary. He did pre-empt one of my comments by saying the Minister was just as they were back in those days and the protrayal was realistic. I was going to say the protrayal was a bit over the top and absurd.

But why has R never mentioned before to me that it was Radio Caroline he used to listen to, the biggest offshore pirate radio station and probably the one with the super powerful transmitters. He just blurted it out as we were driving home.

In the movie, the boat sank. I wondered if it was based on a true story. Me google mate helped me with this. There may well have been a pirate radio ship that went down, but it wasn't Radio Caroline Ah, better add in here that I haven't finished reading the history. The last bit I got to was that it was in Dutch waters and the Dutch had impounded it for non payment of the tenders that serviced it.

Amazingly, Radio Caroline still broadcasts, and over the net. When I tuned in, it was about Sunday 05.30 UK time and there was a quirky religious program on. Radio Caroline and its comprehensive history tab can be found here at I am going to take a better read of its history.

While Lord Hughes may not be quite old enough to have experienced pirate radio, might his parents, the first Lord and Lady Hughes have tuned in? Might the PYE valve radio in Hughes Castle have been tuned to Radio Caroline?


  1. Did you like the music?

    Ann oDyne reviewed it a while back.
    she went silly for it. old bat.

  2. Don't talk to me about that old cow Ann! The opening track worked really well, brill, except I can't recall what it was. As I said to Ann at the time she saw it, I liked Bowie's version of Friday on My Mind better. The rest of the music was stuff I heard when I was young and I have continued to hear ever since. Ann was positive about the music, as was Dame M's Boarder. Even the ever so young Reuben thought the sixties music was good.

    So yes, the music was good and timeless, but....but........I don't actually like music anymore. It irritates me. Whoa, there had got to be a blog post there.

  3. Thanks : )

    Hey, I prefer to center on an individual so which person from the families?

  4. That is an awesome story! I will have to see this flick.
    Re Ernie..I think he is also an ill mannered person at times..yet, when people pick his brain, he is so full of knowledge it is un believable what he knows. Also, once, my mum donated to the Royal Children's Hospital appeal back in the 1970's and I remember her having the most awesome conversation with him on the phone at the telethon rooms. He was ever the gentleman to her. Well, I guess ya just can't pick em some times.

    Addit: The Lady of the Swamp was mentioned on night time radio 3aw ..was about 11pm Saturday my ears pricked up :)

  5. Ernie was a shocker to listen to as a presenter but he'd be fab as a guest for interviews - as Cazzie said he's an untapped font of treasure!

    NZ had it's own pirate radio ship, too, Radio Hauraki

  6. Dina, how about Martin Boyd and Sunday Reed? I think you will find them interesting.

    Yeah Cazzie. I don't disrespect Ernie, but just that he was lousy on radio. Interesting about Lady of the Swamp.

    Very interesting bloke Jayne. Will check Radio Hauraki later.

  7. Anonymous4:58 pm

    Don't leave 'The Grass is Singing' on your to read pile! It's a great book and deserves to be read post haste! Vik.

  8. "Might the PYE valve radio in Hughes Castle have been tuned to Radio Caroline?"

    Nope. My mater and pater were (and still are) classically trained musicians believe it or not. They both studied at the Royal Acadamy. The only time I ever heard any 'popular' music being played in my house when I was a kid was when my sister bought a Pink Floyd record and played it for them. It was greeted with the predictable response of, "What are you listening to that crap for?"

    Oddly enough I agree with them.

    Having said that, my Mum did like the soundtrack for Grease because she could practise her aerobics to it.

  9. Anonymous8:18 pm

    Pirate Radio\;

    I learned from my elder brother that Radio London and Caroline (there was a North ship and a South ship) but my own discovery was Radio NorthSea International.

    Those amazing older teen years!

    Johnnie Walker's just been doing a series on BBC RAdio 2 about radio pirates. He was one, of course.

  10. Vik, it is a very small book, and so easy to carry around, so I guess it will get priority.

    Sorry Brian, I am not sure how to deal with a serious comment from you.

    Hiya Micky and welcome. Ok, my partner R mentioned something about two ships. I understand now. I would guess that I can get the Radio 2 archive via the net.

  11. I do agree with you re Ernie lousy on radio..and sometimes when he was rude to Denise on the telly..I remember that too!
    I will lsiten out for the Lady of the Swamp story on 3aw.. they plan to interview..someone (Sorry I cannot remember the name of the person )

  12. My youngest told me how bloody cold it has been down your way of late...carry a blankie wherever you wander and things will be okay....

  13. Cazzie, do let me know if you anything of interest about Lady of the Swamp.

    MC, I had to put on a jacket the last few days, and then take it off when the sun came out. I am still not recovered from the summer.