ROLAND "BUSTER" PEARSON
Known to his many friends as Buster, he became equally well known as the editor of Monitor magazine, which chronicled offshore radio during the 1970’s and 80’s.
Buster died, aged 57, on Monday 23rd December 1985, following a heart attack at his Benfleet, Essex home. By some irony, Buster's father had died on the same day 45 years earlier.
Buster first found companionship in his radio during years housebound by haemophilia. Later, medical advances allowed him some mobility. He was also an aircraft enthusiast and a radio amateur with the callsign G40WP (the OWP sometimes referred to as “Offshore Wireless Person".
Everyone who met Buster, has stories to tell of his kindness and his courage. A poem written by his aunt, Rita Newman and read at his funeral service, sums this up well:
Buster the brave, Buster the true,
An example to others, is how we see you.
Fight the good fight, is a phrase you know well,
Without that to cling to, your life could be, well!
We are proud of you Buster,
And others are too,
There are lots of nice people,
But only one you.
One thing about Buster is that he was always able to see the positive side of a situation. It is something we can all do, and in doing so, can have an everlasting memory of Buster.
As we were preparing this tribute to Buster Pearson, we heard the sad news that Jeanne Scyra had passed away.
Jeanne was for many years Buster’s carer, devoting much time to looking after him. Known to many as Penelope Page, she was sub-editor of Monitor magazine, and after Busters death took over the running of Monitor.
Anyone who visited Buster’s home in Benfleet Essex will fondly remember Jeanne’s generosity and hospitality. The first thing visitors were given was a pint mug of tea, and if you arrived around lunchtime, probably about the biggest jacket potatoes that could be found.
at Centre airport hotel, London August 1977
Jeanne, who had been suffering a heart condition, passed away in the early hours of Saturday 10th February 2007, following a heart attack, at her home in North Wales.
OEF Poster designed by Jeanne for Flashback 67 stand
Jean was a unique person and will be sadly missed. Our sympathies go to her family and to her close friend Don Scott.
BUSTER PEARSON INTERVIEW
Shortly after Radio Caroline’s return in 1983, Chris Edwards interviewed Buster and asked him when he had first listened to an offshore radio station…
That's easily answered. I saw in our daily paper, which from memory was in 1960, a piece about a 'pirate' radio station that was going to broadcast to England after midnight. This was the "Borkum Riff"; the station was CNBC, which came on in English at midnight, and I think it was only on for about an hour and it was on 192 metres, if I remember rightly. So I tuned around and, lo and behold, up it came! I didn't get it immediately, but I did find it - and that was twenty-three years ago!
The disc jockey was somebody called Doug Stanley, a Canadian, and he was playing records to people in South East England, and he gave a mailing address out in Holland. I can remember I wrote and had a very nice letter back from them, and they played a request for me, which I never heard! That was my first introduction to offshore radio. I think the year was 1960, around November/December-time. I've still got the letter that they wrote back to me, it's one of my most treasured offshore radio possessions.
I listened to that for several weeks; then apparently, the station didn't get a great deal of response from the British audience, and programming was taken over by Veronica and it was in Dutch around-the-clock.
That was the first time I'd ever heard a programme from a boat. Then, of course, Caroline arrived. We had seen tiny little pieces in the paper saying there was a possibility of a pirate ship coming. I can remember I was having a spell in bed at the time - this was Easter Saturday, 1964. I can remember it very clearly it was ten past twelve, I was tuning up and down the band - in those days I was hoping to get some good music, so I was trying to get an AFN station, because occasionally one could be heard during daylight - and I got this very distorted signal down at the 200 metre end of the medium wave band. I heard them announce 'Radio Caroline'
I knew it was coming from a boat - signal was distorted, but they got that corrected within a couple of days. I've been listening to offshore stations, on and off, ever since.
At the time I thought the station must have come on at breakfast time, and it wasn't until ten years or more later, when I met Ronan O'Rahilly, he said "No, it came on at twelve noon that day, and you must have been our first listener"! Certainly I think you can claim that I got in at the start of the Free Radio movement in Britain.
Then the stations came thick and fast after that. We had Radio Atlanta, I think the next one was Radio Sutch, which was a great fun station, something that if you heard, you'd never forget! I wish we had something like that today. It wasn't a serious venture at all, but great fun to listen to. Then I think Radio London arrived on the scene.
We lost Atlanta, that merged with Caroline becoming Caroline North, and the Atlanta boat stayed and that was Caroline South, of course. Then Radio Invicta appeared on the scene - they came thick and fast.
In 1967, of course, the Marine Offences Act became law in this country, and the only one to come through was Caroline. I listened right up until the boat was towed in, in early '68.
Then we had quite a long wait without anything and the next one to arrive was RNI. I got in in the very early days of that, I was picking that up when it was test-transmitting on the 49 metre band. It was all in German in those days. Eva Pfister was the woman's voice who we used to hear on the tapes. Then they had one English announcer, Roger Day; then of course the boat switched on its medium wave transmitter, and that gave us three or so years of very pleasant listening. Now we are into 1983, Caroline's come back, and I'm hoping she'll be with us for many years to come.
When did you first get involved in the Free Radio movement?
During the early period of 1967. Most of the stations broadcasting - such as 390, London, Caroline - were all putting out messages from the Free Radio Association, an organisation run by Geoffrey Pearl, at a place called Rayleigh, in Essex, which is only about four or five miles from where I live; where I'm talking from now, in fact. The address was, in those days, 239 Eastwood Road, Rayleigh. They were asking you to send five shillings and join the organisation; and they were going to fight the Marine Offences Act. I sent my five shillings along and became a member, and received several little news-sheets from them; and I phoned them up on a couple of occasions, and had a chat to various people who were helping out there.
We got chatting about tape recordings - I had quite a few in those days, that I had made of some of the earlier stations, and they wanted to come down and hear them. So I got to know people who had similar interests to myself, which up until that moment I hadn't been in touch with. I did all my listening on my own, I didn't know anyone else who was keen on the stations, but once I established contact with others it wasn't long before I met one of the disc jockeys, who as it happened was Andy Archer. He was staying in Rayleigh and I spoke to him on the 'phone and he said "I'm going out to Caroline next week"; I thought "I'm sure he isn't" - I thought it was impossible, an actual disc jockey talking to me, who was going to be on a real radio station. I couldn't believe that at all! I thought "here's somebody that's pulling my leg"! But a week later, I switched on (I should point out that he wasn't calling himself Andy Archer at that time, he was introduced to me as Terry Dawson), and I heard on Caroline - I think it was Robbie Dale who introduced new disc jockeys on his morning programme - ...I've got somebody called Andy Archer here, and Bud Ballou, who is an American DJ. They both came out together." – I recognised Andy's voice!
That was the first disc jockey I had been in contact with. From there, of course, I got to know quite a few of them and eventually I inherited a little newsletter, which was called the 'Southend and District Info Sheet'. Three girls who lived locally had started this, they were losing interest, and they thought it would be a good idea if I took over as Editor. I didn't want the job, because I'm not good at writing. I've always found writing hard work. The post was given to me.
Andy Archer was working in this area, doing disco work, because by this time the boat had been towed in, and there were no offshore stations around 1970 time. I used to chat to him on the 'phone fairly regularly, and I said "I've got the job of bringing out this Free Radio news letter." He said "I'll come round and help you." So he popped round, and in an afternoon I think we managed to fill four of five pages; and when it was finished another friend of mine said "I can print it for you".
He did quite a professional job. When we looked at it, we thought it was no longer an 'info sheet'; it was about six or seven pages. we said "one day, we'll bring another edition out; and we won't call it 'info sheet', we'll call it 'Monitor'," - and that was how "Monitor" was born.
That was twelve years ago, I believe, that that happened, and it's been coming out periodically ever since then. Whenever there is enough news to fill a copy, then I bring one out - I think that's how we can say "Monitor" comes out. I never commit myself to producing a particular number per year; also I never take money in advance, because then I'm under an obligation to produce something, and as you probably know I am an invalid and I don't want the additional worry of subscribers pestering me for magazines that I may not be well enough to produce. So they are sold on condition that there will be another copy when I'm well enough to produce one. It has worked reasonably well up to now.
The mailing list, at the present time, is going up quite appreciably each day now, with the new boat off the Essex coast. We are just over a thousand on the mailing list at the moment and that's a nice number, really, because it's not too many to cope with; but if it got very much bigger than that, I think then it would become quite hard work. I've got a band of assistants that I can call upon to help me with collating and stapling and putting into envelopes and it's running very smoothly. At the moment I'm in the middle of producing "Monitor" number 25. I do all the typing myself; I type it all with the index finger of my left hand. I'm not able to use my right arm properly, so it all has to be typed with one finger, and that's the left hand. It takes a long time for me to do it, but typing it that way, we get fewer mistakes.
When did you first come into contact with Offshore Echos?
You came out a couple of years after me; I think you must have heard of "Monitor", because right from the outset you used to send me complimentary copies. It was a duplicated one, like "Monitor" was, in the early days, and I was really impressed by the sheer size of it!
Unfortunately I don't read any French, but I could work out quite a lot for myself about what you'd been reporting, and I thought what a wonderful job you were doing, getting a magazine out of that size. Then, of course, you changed the format to A5 size and included photographs -I think that probably spurred me on to produce "Monitor" in a similar style some years later.
You certainly led the way, and I've always been impressed by the amount of work, and the good artwork, you have with the magazine. An excellent effort!
How do you envisage the future of offshore radio now?
I think it's going to grow in strength. I think we shall be seeing another boat quite soon; I don't think there will be any stopping it then! Interest is 'on the up and up'; I can tell that by my own mailbag, and by reading the international newspapers reporting the return of Caroline on the "Ross Revenge". I think there is an immense amount of interest in this country still; in fact, in all of Europe there's an enormous amount of goodwill to anyone who starts a venture on the High Seas like that. I see no reason at all why, in the forseeable future, we shouldn't have one or more boats broadcasting. I would say the future is very bright indeed.
How about the various off-shore magazines?
Well with boats broadcasting it means there are plenty of news items for us to report - the comings and goings of disc jockeys, recent incidents, storm damage to the aerials and, things like that. We shall have plenty to write about. With boat trips going out with fans on, taking photos, interest is higher now than it's' been for a long time. I think we are going to get many, many new people coming into the movement who were too young to remember the stations in the Sixties and Seventies, and who are really going to inject a lot of new enthusiasm and ideas into the offshore radio publications.
So I think the future, again, is very good for the magazines. There could be some new ones coming along; a little bit of competition, of course, won't hurt any of us.
Finally, what is your most memorable event over the years in the field of offshore radio?
I think - that has to be the flight I did last August, when we weren't sure whether the new radio ship had arrived in the Thames.Estuary. I went out in an aircraft from Southend airport to see if we could see a radio ship there. We had heard all these stories about it, but no eye- witness reports, and I didn't know if they were true or not. Anyway, we flew out there and after a very bumpy flight I saw the new radio ship the "Ross Revenge" ahead of us, with this enormous mast. I think that was the greatest thrill, the most memorable event I've had in connection with off-shore radio. It has to be. A wonderful sight - and one I feel I'll remember all my life, just the sheer size of the mast! It was breathtaking to see such a wonderful boat, and we circled it for about twenty minutes taking photographs, and people came up on deck and waved to us. I came home very, very impressed with the set-up, assured that Caroline was going to be with us for many, many years - baring some catastrophe! So that has to be my most exciting experience, I think in radio.