Been and Gone: Pirate radio broadcaster who founded Principality of Sealand
- 2 November 2012
- From the section Magazine
Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - people of the past month.
In 1965 Paddy Roy Bates, a former army major, took possession of a WWII sea fort off the east coast of England and set up Radio Essex, the first pirate station to offer a 24-hour service. Convicted under the Marine Offences Act, Bates moved to another fort outside UK waters and declared the new Principality of Sealand. An attempt by a group from Radio Caroline to occupy the fort was repulsed with petrol bombs, and warning shots were fired at a Royal Navy vessel, which had been sent to the scene. Bates and his son appeared in court accused of firearms offences but the case was thrown out as the fort was outside British jurisdiction. Bates declared this was de facto recognition of Sealand and Prince Roy, as he styled himself, designed a flag and constitution. In a 1980s interview Bates declared that "I might die young or I might die old, but I will never die of boredom."
The occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 raised the profile of Russell Means, who was to become one of the leading activists for the rights of Native Americans. The protesters claimed all land abandoned by the US government should be handed back to the Native American people. Means, who had been born into the Oglala Sioux tribe in Dakota, became the leader of the American Indian Movement just a year later. He instigated a number of high profile events to highlight the plight of indigenous Americans. These included an occupation of a replica of the Mayflower in Boston and the takeover of the town of Wounded Knee, which led to an armed standoff between protesters and the FBI. In a lifetime of activism Means also lent his support to native peoples across the world, particularly in Latin America. In the ongoing debate over how indigenous Americans should be described, Means always insisted that "American Indian" was the term he favoured.
When Bill Dees and his band, The Five Bops, were asked to open a concert for a relatively unknown singer named Roy Orbison in 1957, it marked the start of a remarkable songwriting partnership. The two men's paths crossed a number of times before Dees moved to Nashville and persuaded Orbison to record one of his songs, Borne on the Wind. In 1964 the pair co-wrote It's Over, which went to No 1 in the UK. This was followed by Oh, Pretty Woman, an even bigger hit, with Dees having the idea of Orbison growling "mercy" over the guitar solo. In all, the pair wrote more than 60 songs with Dees, who had a fine voice himself, often adding to the harmonies on the finished record. He later went on to write songs for other artists including Gene Pitney and Johnny Cash, as well as touring as a performer.
When the animated film Yellow Submarine was in production, the Beatles declined to voice the dialogue, so character actor John Clive was drafted in to provide the voice of John Lennon. Although born in London, his family had moved to Liverpool while he was a child and he worked as a pageboy at the Shakespeare Theatre. A year after Yellow Submarine he made what is probably his best known appearance, in The Italian Job, as the garage manager where Charlie Croaker (Michael Caine) has stored his Aston Martin while in prison. In a scene largely ad-libbed, Clive excitedly counts a wad of notes as Caine explains his long absence by claiming he has been away shooting tigers. Clive later appeared in a couple of Carry On films as well as a string of TV series including The Sweeney and Rising Damp. He later turned to writing a series of bestselling historical thrillers.
The appointment of Daphne Skillern to head the Commissioner's Office at Scotland Yard in 1974 marked a major breakthrough in the role of women in the Metropolitan Police. Although she was the second woman to reach the rank of Commander she was the first to head a branch other than A4, the women's police section. Women police officers first took to London's streets in 1919 but it was not until 1973 that they were fully integrated into the Met. Prior to this they had mainly undertaken duties associated with children and family issues, and later enforcing the law against prostitution. Skillern had spent most of her career in CID, which women were first allowed to join in 1954. Following her time at CO branch she went on to head the Obscene Publications Squad which tackled pornography. She was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 1979.
When the government proposed the closure of dedicated military hospitals in the UK it met formidable opposition from Admiral Godfrey Milton-Thompson, the then Surgeon-General of the armed forces. Milton-Thompson argued that wounded servicemen and women needed dedicated treatment and rejected the idea of putting service wings into NHS hospitals. Despite his best efforts, four service hospitals closed during his time in office and the rest followed afterwards. Earlier in his career he had been responsible for ensuring that the Falklands Task Force had the correct medical supplies and he trained many of the doctors who travelled with it. With two of his forebears serving as admirals in the 19th century, he maintained a keen interest in naval history. On his retirement to Cornwall, he supervised the restoration of the tomb of John Richards Lapenotiere, the naval officer who brought the news of the Battle of Trafalgar to England.
Among others who died in October were:
Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn
Actress and star of Emmanuelle Sylvia Kristel
US Senator and presidential nominee George McGovern
Prolific session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan
Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk