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13 November 2014

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You are in: Isle of Man > History > Pirates of the Irish Sea

DJ's aboard MV Caroline

MV Caroline. Manx National Heritage

Pirates of the Irish Sea

2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the demise of Radio Caroline North, the offshore radio station which operated out of Ramsey Bay between 1964 and 1968.

The anniversary will be marked with a special exhibition organised by Manx National Heritage at the House of Manannan later this summer.

DJ's meeting with fans

DJ's meeting with fans from Manx National Heritage

There was heart-break amongst loyal listeners when the Radio Caroline was disbanded following the Marine Offences Act which outlawed the operation.

Before Radio Caroline came onto the scene, the powerful means of mass communication known as "the radio" was dominated by the BBC.

Caroline was started by pop music entrepreneur Ronan O’Rahilly because he could not get his artists played on the BBC, which at that time broadcast only one hour of pop music a week.

Radio Caroline was a revelation because it played pop music all day and it quickly built up a listenership of approximately 4 million people across northern England and Ireland.

The competitions were also legendary.

DJ's onboard Radio Caroline

Live on Air. Manx National Heritage

One lady in Wales won £4000 in 1967, a substantial sum which would have easily bought a house in those days.

There were no phone-ins in those days so everyone who wanted to enter a competition had to send in a token from an advertisers packaging.

Radio Caroline’s postal address in the Isle of Man was PO Box 3 and it became the most written to address in the north west of Britain at that time.

The Isle of Man Post Office needed dedicated staff to handle the volume of mail flooding into the station.

The DJs were big stars and were also well known celebrities on the Island – Tom Lodge compered dances at the Palace Lido and Ray Teret had a boutique, the 'Ugli Bug Boutique' in Douglas.

Radio Caroline

Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage

Other names on the station were -'Daffy' Don Allen, Mick Luvzit (who received about 1000 fan letters a week!), Jerry 'Soopa' Leighton, Tony Prince (‘Your Royal Ruler’) and Dave Lee Travis.

Many DJs had their own T shirt designs which fans could buy and many of the top stars of the day including Jimmy Saville and Hermann's Hermits appeared as guests on the station.

Mick Luvzit actually married his girlfriend live on air in 1966 - in the only case of a wedding on an offshore radio station and the first live on air wedding (though the idea has been copied since).

The ship MV Fredericia (renamed MV Caroline) was registered in Panama and so acknowledged Panamanian law.

MV Caroline in the Manx mist

MV Caroline in the mist. Manx National Heritage

Although the captain of the ship performed the wedding ceremony, he had to contact the Panamanian consulate in London to obtain the correct form of words for the ceremony.

The ship MV Caroline was anchored three miles off Ramsey and was tended by vessels from Ramsey which brought the DJs fresh food, water and other supplies.

They also brought special guests out to the ship, including Jimmy Saville, and the Beatles.

If you have any memories or associations with Radio Caroline North, please contact Matthew Richardson at the Manx Museum on 648000 or e-mail Matthew.Richardson@mnh.gov.im.

last updated: 19/08/2008 at 12:16
created: 09/04/2008

Have Your Say

Do you remember Radio Caroline North?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Kenny Tosh
Last Record was played by Don Allen, Sat 2nd March, it was on his country show, "God be with you" By Jim Reeves

Chris Sunley
I’ve recently acquired two working ferrograph reel to reel tape recorders that are marked with Radio Caroline and are dated 1966/67. Also with are some demo tapes and original jingles, ‘funny’ ‘phone that rings & fast talking’ ‘happy new year’ etc.The reel seems to be the on air running tape with white splicing tape between the recorded jingles.I’m not sure if they are north or south equipment, I will be selling them on eBay but I’m trying to find any information that can help.If there are of interest please email me.

clivebennett69@btinternet.com
I think the last record played on RCN was Petula Clark can you advise on that.

Stuart Smith ex Manx Resident
Hi Folks......just to let you know that PIRATE BBC Essex will be 'On Air' again THIS EASTER 10th / 13th April. Broadcasting From Harwich aboard the LV18. Jonnie Walker, Tony Blackburn, Roger Day, Mike Ahearn and others will join BBC Essex DJ's ....including ME.....!!! yes I've got a couple of 'overnight' slots, bringing you music from '64 to '67. for more info...message me ; radiostu@hotmail.com or contact Tim Gillet / Steve Scruton at BBC Essex

clive neil thomas
I joined a night cruise frommenai bridge in Anglesey which was out to the ship of the IOM Regretably I had been drinking around town before I got on board.I spent all my time sick in the ship toilets. I saw nothing

peter bartoszuk
yes I remember her wellone day a friend douglas corkhill (rudy) wanted to get a request for his latest girlI had an 8'6" dingy with a seagull out board at the time and said I'd take him out.when we arrived it looked deserted. so we came alongside and tiedup to a fender. still nobody showedfinaly rudy got fedup and started hammering on the hull with a steel rowlockthis brought one of the DJsto find out what all the noise was aboutafter giving our request,we sat listening to the DJ (murf the surf)tell his listeners how two crazy locals from ramsey had come 3 miles out to deliver their request in a tiny boat not much bigger than a tin bathI also used to fish with the captain of the essex girl(the supply boat) when he was the captain of the masi warriorit was a big disappointmentwhen the goverment caved in to the english goverment

Ann Rooney
Whatever happened to Robbie Robinson after he left Ireland

Rick W
To answer Fenella: the closedown theme was 'Round Midnight' by Jimmy McGriff. It's from his 1962 debut album 'I've Got A Woman'.

Fenella
The stations 'signature'music,'Caroline' was the best ever, will remember it always, does anyone know what music was played before the station closed down at night in addition to Caroline?.

Mike Wright
I was a Radio Engineer on Caroline North from 1966 to 1968. I'm sorry I could'nt make it over to the Island, I had planed to go. Why can't One or All of the BBC Radio Stations in the North West do something next Easter or july to mark 45 years since the start of Radio Caroline. Something like Pirate BBC Essex ???

Alan Turner (Neddy on 199)
Looking forward to the Caroline convention, 19th.-21st Sept. and seeing old friends and acquaintances.

Liz
I remember visiting Radio Caroline , can't remember what year it was. I was about 12 or 13 then. It was a huge thrill because I was a great fan. Does anyone else remember Caroline the dog - a mascot on the ship? I wrote in and got back a letter with pawprint ..Wish I still had it now!When Caroline closed down, I refused to listen to any other station for ages!

Breesha
I have also seen the exhibition in Peel and it is absolutely fantastic. The footage which is being played has never bee seen before. Incredible. Top see Freddie and the dreamers onboard MV Caroline playing onboard is a real experience. Manx National Heritage has done a really remarkable exhibition. Congratulations to everyone involved.

Simon Clucas
I was on holiday in Port Erin and rememeer going to Douglas to see Freddie and the Dreamers perform- I suppose this must have tied in with their visit to Radio Caroline.

Cath Watterson
Went to see the exhibition in Peel yesterday. Brought back great memories of my teenage years! I had sore shoulders from carrying my tranny on top of them so I could listen to the best radio station ever!

Nutty Norah
Caroline North was part of my life in the 60s and I look back with fond memories of those fun days. I was Daffy Don Allen's Fan Club Secretary and spent a lot of time with him.

Pete Davies, Southampton
I lived in Lancaster during the Caroline Years. Perhaps I can advise Phil on the names.There were two Radio Caroline ships. The one we all knew and loved was Caroline originally, and the other one, in the Thames Estuary, was Radio Atlanta. This station didn't last very long and soon became Caroline South.I found what now passes for Caroline on the Internet a few weeks ago, but nothing like the real thing . . .

Patricia Ellard (nee Solly)
I was head receptionist at the Grand Island Hotel from 1966 for a number of years having moved to the Island from Essex. I remember a lot of the DJ's used to come to the bar for drinks and some of the stars stayed there before heading out to Caroline. I remember especially Billy J Kramer who stayed overnight in the hotel. My sister & I also used to go fishing with our dad out by the Caroline ship as there were always plenty of fish there where the crew threw stuff overboard.

james murgatroyd
i went to the radio caroline nights at the queens bar discothque in cleveleys blackpool in the 60'slistened to caroline from start till the end and enjoyed every minute of it.

Lord Charles Brown
In rough weather we used to tape coins (the heavy "old" pennies) to the pickup arm to prevent the record from "skipping.

Lord Charles Brown
The greatest radio station ever! Nice to see your tribute. I well remember go "on air" times on 259. -Terry John.Johannesburg RSA

Lord Charles Brown
The greatest radio station ever! Nice to see your tribute. I well remember go "on air" times on 259. -Terry John.Johannesburg RSA

BBC Isle of Man
Graham "Spider" Webb, Please would you be able to contact the IOM team on isleofman@bbc.co.ukWe are really interested in talking to you about Radio Caroline. Thanks

Graham "Spider" Webb
I was the Announcer for the Wedding as well as stand in DJ and News Director of Caroline North and South so I'm a little "Peeved" to not be mentioned

J. Kaneen
I used to sit on the prom in Ramsey across from the Passtimes staring through my cheap plastic binoculars at Caroline north whilst listening to it on my little transistor radio. From then on, I was a big fan of her and listened right up to when she stopped transmitting from the Ross Revenge. Sadly, you can only hear her on sattelite or on the occasional RSL broadcast.

Phil
I remember MV Caroline as an enigmatic fixture in Ramsey bay, best viewed when descending from the Rest and be Thankful.Two questions though...Didn't Tony Blackburn start his career onboard?Was it really called "Radio Caroline North?" I only remember it being called "Radio Caroline".

Lesley Callister
used to listen to radio under bed covers so not to heard by parents

Colin Wilkins
Caroline North was the best radio station ever, there has and never or ever will be a better station than Radio Caroline NorthIt was full of fun, all down to great djs as Daffy Don Allen, Prince Tony-Bob Stewert, Mike Ahern.Mick Luvzit , Jerry Leighton,The music was different from Caroline South, I think Caroline North had a better play list. When Caroline was towed away, it was like losing a great friend, the air waves were empty. Although today we have many radio stations, they are just bland, they all sound the same, playing the same songs time and time again.The Labour Goverement have a lot to answer for, how could they take away a simple radio station that gave pleasurre to millions of people, doing no harm to any one.If only we could turn the clock back..Colin Wilkins

mike Body
i clearly remember Caroline often seeing her anchored off Ramsey. I heard a Caroline jingle on a be i have just recently listened to.mike south africa formerly Ellan Vannin

Derek
I lived in Ramsey as a teenager during the Caroline years and I vividly remember seeing Freddie from Freddie and the Dreamers, who had been on a visit to the ship, being chased around Ramsey harbour by some female fans after he stepped off the supply boat!

Kiff
They only played vinyl records in calm weather, as the needle would indeed have jumped. In stormy weather they had standby tapes of current pop hits, made up during quiet days! :-) Kiff

JOHN H.
I fondly remember listening to Radio Caroline in North Wales all through the summer holidays while off school. It was something completely different to the other stale radio of the 1960's.

Gary
I'm too young to remember Radio Caroline, but often wondered if the records jumped in rough weather?

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