Supporting Radio Caroline

 

 

 

What we did not want. A museum ship, detained and rusting
in the depths of an English port
. (photo Bob Le Roi May 2013)

It seems to us, a good time to sum-up the main actions performed by France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s in support of Radio Caroline during the 1980’s and 1990’s, as some aspects of our work have been missed voluntarily or involuntarily in recent publications.

France Radio Club grew out of the free radio movements of the late 1960’s, it was originally the French branch of the Free Radio Campaign. In 1974 it became France Radio Club, and started publishing the magazine Offshore Echo’s.

France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s has always supported the offshore stations. It was not financial support - we had neither the possibility nor the means, but our aim was to make these stations known to a more wider audience, the largest possible, and to share the pleasure of listening to radio quite unlike any others.
To this end, as early as the mid-70’s, we participated in various radio and TV programmes, and even worked with the national and regional press. We supported Radio Caroline during the Court Case against the people accused of tendering the Mi Amigo in Boulogne in 1977.

But the most significant action in France, was our participation in the popular FR3 TV show, Thalassa, for a special Radio Caroline report. For the first time, with the help of FRC / OEM, a TV team would go on board the Ross Revenge for three days, do live interviews with the crew, DJ’s and founder Ronan O’Rahilly and report on the life on board a radio ship. The programme, filmed in June 1989, was aired in September 1989, just after the boarding of the Ross Revenge, and largely exposed in Thalassa.

Thalassa presenter Isabelle Moeglin (seated left) watches the erecting of the new rear mast, during TV filming.

The director of NRJ FM network in France, on viewing the programme, and knowing the station had been raided, decided to help and gave a cheque for 10,000 francs to Offshore Echo’s. He says he set-up his station because of Caroline and offered the money to help them in those difficult times.
Offshore Echo’s was then involved in the material support for the return of Radio Caroline. Revox tape recorders, records and equipment was given by OEM members, and taken aboard the Ross Revenge.
With a number of others, the Ross Revenge Support Group was formed. Money was collected and passed to the station. Thanks to the excellent work of engineer Peter Chicago and donations of listeners throughout Europe, Radio Caroline was back on the air, just a month after the raid and the confiscation of its equipment. In the weeks that followed, FRC / OEM, with the generosity of its members across Europe gathered more 34,000 francs (at that time!), in addition to various equipment donations.

France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s financed the printing and publishing of Caroline manager Peter Moore’s book “Butterfly upon the Wheel” - which was written with the sole intention of raising funds for Radio Caroline. The book and a number of tapes and other items, were sold, with all profits going to help the ailing offshore radio station.

But without the financial support of its Dutch partner, Radio Caroline was facing serious financial difficulties and fuel supplies were increasingly proving difficult. Religious programs were not sufficient and the people responsible for the station were not able to cope, as the Dutch operators had. Add to this the pressure of the UK government, trying to get the station to leave the frequency of 558 kHz and voting in a new law, allowing the boarding of the ship, even if in international waters.
Broadcasts quickly became more sporadic, until a final programme in November 1990 - due to lack of fuel.

However France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s continued its support - financial and moral. The station was no longer on the air, but the ship was still at sea. To thwart the plans of the British government, Ronan O'Rahilly was trying to obtain a license from a third world country. Offshore Echo’s decided to help by calling the European Parliament. Its work was recognized and supported by many European MPs. But burocracy was so heavy, it soon appeared that our cause was not a priority there, and rather disturbing!
During all these actions, it was necessary to continually keep a strong awareness of Radio Caroline in the Media. On October 19, 1991 Ronan O'Rahilly went to Calais for a press conference with French TV that was organised by Offshore Echo’s. He was then going to Paris to meet with a representative of a country that could help Caroline. He fully supported FRC / OEM action and gave us carte blanche to represent him in France.

Ronan O'Rahilly and French TV

At the same time, a large batch of records was offered by a French radio station. Equipment, given by the French fans (drills, angle grinders and pumps) was also delivered to the Engineer Mike Dundee who came especially to Calais to collect it all. He would also go back with a large number of bottles of wine for the crew! But on November 20, 1991 the Ross Revenge lost her anchor and was towed to Dover. On the 30th November 1991, at OEM’s initiative, a new press conference was held in Calais in the presence, among others, of Peter Moore – the then Radio Caroline representative. The aim was to sum up the new situation. The objective was how to pay for the rescue costs in the first place, and also pay harbour fees until the ship could leave Dover, and finally to repair the ship to have her back to sea as soon as possible!
On December 1, 1991 through FRC / OEM efforts, Calais station, Radio 6, provided free airtime to Caroline. DJ’s Neil Gates, Chris Frisco and Jerry Wright led a whole evening explaining the situation to the audience. The station was heard on the East coast of England as well. These programmes would continue periodically afterwards for several months.
We continued this action, and Caroline DJ’s could afterwards be heard on various stations such as WIT FM, throughout France. Meanwhile a team of Caroline DJs station was regularly invited to FRC / OEM’s Euroradio convention in Calais giving the station large media coverage.

November 10th, 1991, a direct link with Neil Gates aboard the Ross Revenge and Radio 6 in Calais

To help maintain global media awareness, we were able to get special Radio Caroline programmes aired on international shortwave station Radio NewYork International. Station owner Allan Weiner had worked for Caroline, and had briefly operated his own offshore station, a few years earlier. As well as Radio NewYork, the Caroline programmes were also aired over Radio for Peace International. operating from South America.

Back in Europe, FRC/ OEM managed to persuade the Chamber of Commerce of Calais to support Radio Caroline, and accept the Ross Revenge in Calais harbour for free.

Everyone on Radio Caroline’s side seemed to agree by then, but unfortunately this proposal remained unanswered. The ship seemed stuck in port because the steering equipment didn’t work.
For us, it seemed that this was the first work to be done, which would lift the detention order that forced the ship to stay in port.
For all the fans the ultimate goal, was to bring the ship back to sea as soon as possible, and in the best possible condition. For doing this we had to continue and find more money.

In April 1992 the first RSL was broadcast with the Ross Revenge still in Dover. FRC / OEM had helped the whole process by finding French advertisers to pay the RSL fees. Gradually, with the various help, the costs of rescue were reimbursed. It now became imperative to find a new location for the ship because Dover was too much expensive!
1994 would be an important milestone in the evolution of FRC / OEM support for the station.

That year, a global event was to be held in Rouen - Normandy. The Armada Festival is a major shipping event, with ships visiting from all over the world, and attracting millions of visitors to the quaysides of Rouen, along the banks of the River Seine. The organisers had hoped that the Ross Revenge could participate, and were ready to pay all the costs of the operation.
The ship would have sailed between Le Havre - millions of people were expected on the banks of the river - and Rouen, where the Ross Revenge would have housed a radio station covering the event!
To lift the detention order, work on the steering equipment would have been paid by the organisers of the Armada; the ship would then have been towed to Rouen. Then she could have regained her place in the open sea after a possible stay in Calais for an overhaul.
But for some reason, the offer was refused by the managers of the Ross Revenge.

Now for FRC / OEM, who had doubts in the recent months, it was confirmed and it seemed clear that if Radio Caroline would one day return to the open sea, it would never be from the Ross Revenge again, but from another ship. Our support was therefore immediately withdrawn. Our goal was not to finance a museum, but a real free radio station at sea
France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s, did still try one last time. In 1997, Ronan O'Rahilly came to Calais, with Johnnie Walker for Euroradio 1997. Ronan explained that money was still needed to pay the lawyers in charge of the case against the perpetrators of the raid of 1989. We later contributed £2000 towards these legal costs.

The Dutch eventually gave back the equipment seized in 1989 raid, but with the Ross Revenge being locked forever in the UK, it would be now impossible for Ronan O'Rahilly to find a license from a third world country, and that was it!

In this article, we simply wanted to present the facts, so as not to forget some of the things that France Radio Club / Offshore Echo’s has done for Radio Caroline during those difficult times

 

 

French tender in 1977

 

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Dutch boarders "carefully removed" what they seized illegally on board the Ross Revenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

The British authorities forced Spectrum radio to broadcast on Radio Caroline’s frequency to create a deliberate confrontation.

 

 

November 1990. The Ross Revenge is silent, buts remains at sea.   

 

Europe approves the boarding of Radio Caroline, but at the same time finances Radio Brod. a political offshore radio station.   

 

 

Ronan O'Rahilly message to the press is clear:  Caroline continues

 

 

 

 

Radio Caroline DJs at Euroradio 1990

 

Radio Caroline DJs at Euroradio 1991

 

Radio Caroline DJs at Euroradio 1992.

 

 

 

Ronan O'Rahilly back in Calais for Euroradio 97 with Johnnie Walker

 

 

 

 

© OEM/FRC 2013