Essex

Founder of Radio Caroline Ronan O'Rahilly dies aged 79

Ronan O'Rahilly Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ronan O'Rahilly founded Radio Caroline in 1964 broadcasting pop music off the Essex coast

The founder of Radio Caroline - the first pirate radio station off the UK - Ronan O'Rahilly has died aged 79.

His death was announced by the current Radio Caroline, which still exists off the Essex coast.

The station was founded in 1964 to compete with the BBC and launched the careers of many well-known DJs, achieving enormous popularity.

Mr O'Rahilly, who lived in Ireland, had been diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2013.

Radio Caroline was the first of several pirate radio stations that challenged BBC radio's dominance in the 1960s.

The station played pop music all day, while the BBC only played pop records for a few hours a week.

'Changed the world'

After the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was passed in 1967, Radio Caroline continued to broadcast from ships until 1991, when the Ross Revenge ran aground off the Kent coast.

The station, which started broadcasting again on medium wave in 2017, helped pave the way for modern commercial radio.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Radio Caroline was the first pirate radio station off the UK and seen as the precursor to commercial radio in the country

One of the presenters who started on the station, Johnnie Walker, tweeted: "Farewell to Radio Caroline founder Ronan O'Rahilly, The man who made the impossible possible and changed radio forever.

"Thanks Ronan for the incredible experience of being a Caroline deejay and to challenge the Government in 1967. You were an amazing man."

'Sent back Bond contract'

Hypnotist Paul McKenna tweeted a picture of himself and Mr O'Rahilly and said: "I am very sad at the passing of my friend the great Ronan O'Rahilly, founder of Radio Caroline.

"He was such an important person in influencing world events. A personal inspiration and a dear friend, he is definitely someone who changed the world for the better. Rest in peace..."

Image caption George Lazenby said Ronan O'Rahilly convinced him "Bond was all over" while filming On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Former James Bond actor George Lazenby paid tribute to Mr O'Rahilly on his Instagram account.

Mr Lazenby, who only played 007 once, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, said his former manager was "very influential on me giving up the role of James Bond back in 1969".

He wrote: "[Ronan O'Rahilly] convinced me to not stay on as Bond - I'd be in danger of becoming part of the Establishment. Something he rebelled against.

"Ronan wouldn't let me sign the Bond contract - kept sending it back."

Mr O'Rahilly would go on to be an Executive Producer on George Lazenby's film Universal Soldier in 1971.

He concludes the post: "Who knows what would have happened had Ronan not got a hold of my brain? But I don't regret a day of my life. Not a single day. And I still have a great life. Rest well, Ronan. Love George xx."

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