by Ray Clark

YOU could see them, just by taking a stroll along the seafront from Jaywick to Walton-on-the-Naze, there they were.

You could hear them too, in every shop, café, taxi, car radio and on the beach, transistor radios were tuned to “the Pirates” with all the action taking place on-board rusting ships, anchored just three miles from Frinton.

British pop music was taking the world by storm during the Swinging Sixties, but, had it not been for the likes of Radio London and Radio Caroline, we’d have been unable to hear the hits of the day.

The BBC were just not interested in playing “pop music”, it played no part in the vision of those running the British Broadcasting Corporation. So, in 1964, when Radio Caroline came on air, playing non-stop pop music, listeners tuned in – in their millions.

Yet, 50 years ago this week and just little more than three years after they had started, “the Pirates” were in their death throes. The Government introduced the Marine (Broadcasting) Offences act and from August 14, 1967, it would become illegal for any British subject to be involved with offshore broadcasting.

As radios blared out songs like “All You Need Is Love” and “Even The Bad Times Are Good”, the listeners, reckoned to be almost half the British population, sadly realised their radios would soon become quiet.

Listeners were no longer able to tune in to DJs who’d become household names, such as Ed Stewart, Paul Kaye and John Peel, from Radio London, or Tom Edwards, Mike A’Hern and Keith Hampshire on Caroline. All of them joining the role-call of stars who’d served time at sea before them, Simon Dee and Tony Blackburn come to mind.

Gazette:

  • TIME TURNER: Radio Caroline in 1967

Monday, August 14, was a blustery, overcast, miserable day, matching the mood of the listeners, “Big L time is three o’clock, and Radio London is now closing down” and for millions their radio, tuned to 266metres , fell silent.

But on 259metres, Radio Caroline boldly proclaimed their intention to continue broadcasting, “We intend to stay on the air” announced Johnnie Walker.

What followed has been 50 years, on and off, of unpredictable radio from Caroline, most recently operating online at radiocaroline.co.uk.

Amazingly, after all these years of fighting for survival, Radio Caroline has, at last, been recognised as a legitimate broadcaster, licenced by Ofcom, and soon to resume serving the Clacton area and beyond on 648kHz, medium wave.

After a 50-year struggle you might wonder why a licence wasn’t granted in 1967, just as millions of listeners wanted.

You can celebrate Caroline’s achievements this Sunday, August 13, at a special event to be held at the Princes Theatre, Clacton.

  • Ray Clark broadcasts on BBC Essex and Radio Caroline and has written "Radio Caroline, The True Story of The Boat That Rocked" published by The History Press.