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Radio Caroline revisited

Radio Caroline Window Sticker 2

Its amazing what turns up when you are dumping nearly 50 years of junk. I unearthed my first all steel blue metallic toolbox and low and behold it still had my Radio Caroline window sticker on its battered lid. I bought it back  it in 1967 with money I earned maintaining the garden next door and used until one of its cantilevers struts broke off in 1974. It was too good to throw out so kept it  in my workshop as a storage box for my old 50s and 60s electronic bits and pieces.

Radio Caroline ruled the air waves and the beaches on the east coast of Ireland from the mid 60s until 1968. Families used to wrap their transistor radios in polythene bags and bring them to the seaside.  Everybody was tuned to Caroline and early in the morning the signal used to fade in and out like waves washing up against the beach. Radio Caroline North transmitted from the M V Caroline, formerly the M V Frederica, anchored off Ramsey Bay on the Isle of Man.  Atmospherics affected the daytime signal but it was crystal clear in the winter evenings. I vividly remember listening to the station as it defied the new British Marine Offences Act by playing its first illegally transmitted record at midnight on August 14th 1967 – I think!. It was a Monday as far as I can remember. My family was on holiday in Skerries in north County Dublin and reception was excellent on my little Panasonic transistor radio. I am sure they played “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. Every teenager was talking about it after Mass the next morning.  (August 15th was and still is a holyday of obligation in the Catholic Church – the Feast of the Assumption, so everyone had to attend Mass.)

Caroline had no competition in the afternoon as Raidio Éireann (Radio Ireland) used to close down after the sponsored programmes at dinner hour.  Pop music was a rarity on the air waves in those days and was mainly confined to the English language service of Radio Luxembourg in the night time. Unfortunately Radio Caroline used to close down at teatime just as we were waiting for the Number 3 bus to head back into the city centre from Sandymount Strand. It was a great excuse for my mother to order us to turn off the radio and save the battery – an EveryReady PP9 if I remember correctly.

Years later  I received a present of membership of  the Radio Caroline Club as a birthday present in the early 70s. The package consisted of a welcoming letter, large wall poster of the Mi Amigo, two paper window stickers for my non-existent car, a numbered membership club card and a fan magazine. Later that year I also received a surprise self-adhesive round sticker and a QSL card  following  a reception report I sent in during the winter months. The window stickers arrived with new fangled double sided tape so the fan could decide whether to put it in the car window facing outwards or place the tape on the reverse side to decorate his/her private shrine to Radio Caroline. It is worth noting that it was illegal in Northern Ireland to display the stickers in public.

I stuck one of mine with Bostik glue to the lid of the toolbox  as I didn’t own a car at the time. Needless to say the same sorry specimen I rescued today is full of holes and rusted through in spots. It is also peeling at the edges so I will try to remove it in a day or two.

Hopefully it will come off in one piece and I will laminate or frame it.

4 comments to Radio Caroline revisited

  • MrM MrM

    I have replaced the original image of the 4/8/2015 with this laminated version. Unfortunately, in my efforts to flatten the crease in the middle of the sticker I have accidently darkened the overall image as the melting adhesive has interacted with the ink.

  • Richard Kirby

    I remember sailing to the Isle of Man in 1964 when I was 10 years old. We went on one of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s boats. It left from the North Wall in Dublin. We had travelled by bus to Dublin and we were told that it was a 10 minute walk from Bus Aras (central bus station) to the boarding place. We lugged our cases for a half an hour all the way to the dock and arrived just in time to board.

    Though my father was a sailor in World War 2 we didn’t know that the boats used to be nick named the Isle of Man Sick Bucket Company steamers because the boats had no stabilisers or if they did they were useless.

    Anyway we set out and ran into rough weather off the Isle of Man and had to wait to dock out at sea. People were throwing up everywhere. My father pointed out the Radio Caroline ship as we bobbed up and down. It was a good bit up the coast but I could see the mast clearly and the boat looked very chunky. The height of the mast amazed me and I was convinced it would topple over. My father told me that the boat was probably filled with pig-iron to balance it.- a phrase I never forgot. We were waiting so long the captain played Radio Caroline through the ships tannoy.
    When I got home after the holiday I searched for Radio Caroline on the dial but we couldn’t receive the signal in Limerick – what a shame.

    As far as I know a County Louth man was behind the venture.

    • MrM MrM

      Nice One Richard.
      I had experience of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s vessels in the late 70s and early 80s when I organised school tours to the island. As you so accurately recalled the sailing was rough even on a mild day. Record shops in Douglas were still selling Radio Caroline memorabilia in the 70s. The ship had 40 tons of concrete in its hold to stabilise the mast but that may have been the last boat, the Ross Revenge. The M V Caroline was out fitted in Greenore, County Louth. It originally was a ferry called the M V Fredericia.

  • MrM MrM

    I researched Radio Caroline online for several hours last night. YouTube has a lot of interesting historical material.

    I stand corrected on my last comment – it was the Ross Revenge that had the 40 tons of concrete in the hold.

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