Radio 270 memories continued

Continuing our look back at Yorkshire's first and only offshore radio station.

Joining Radio 270 at the same time as David Sinclair was his Radio Essex colleague Roger Scott. Roger does not have fond memories of his few months on the ship or even of his time ashore as 270, uniquely, expected its disc-jockeys to help sell advertising while on leave:

Roger Scott

Roger Scott.

“I arrived November or December '66 and there had already been a clearout of some jocks who had been there at the launch. No funny stories from me, I'm afraid, as the three or so months that I spent at 270 (before heading for 390) were not exactly my ‘crowning glory’. That would have been mostly my own fault but the set-up was undeniably dismal - from the vessel out at sea to the boss who wanted us to go from a stint aboard to out and about ashore selling airtime.
The memories consist largely of trying to sleep in a curtained-off bunk actually in the messroom and trying to broadcast! Despite having cut my teeth on Radio Essex beforehand, I was for some strange reason feeling like a fish-out-of-water (or a jock out of his depth) in this more ego-driven environment. At least the music at the time was good: '66 having been the all-time highspot of pop and the brilliance of '67 being just round the corner. The top 40 format at 270 was a clear winner and I am sure that to have actually understood the complex system of play rotation would have been to my advantage!”

Soon after David and Roger had made the move from Radio Essex to Radio 270, another one of their colleagues followed the same path - Guy Hamilton:

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton.

“I'll never forget arriving at Scarborough Harbour. We drove down there at midnight from the 270 office in a director's beat-up old Merc, complete with cracked windscreen and dead chickens on the back seat. He was a chicken farmer when he wasn't a pirate backer, it seemed...
And there, in all her glory, was Oceaan 7 itself, tied up just like the average lugger - except for the 150 feet of mast on top. If it wasn't yet Christmas Eve 1966, it was close to it. I'd had a mysterious telegram from MD Wilf Proudfoot earlier: ‘Ship leaves tonight’ so I'd felt kind of obliged to try and get on it. She'd had a refit after some excitement involving a North Sea storm, not for the first time, and being Britain's first portable radio station had sailed in after closedown. Most stations had a tender coming out to the ship, but 270 was a ship that came in looking tender...
And here I was, and loving every minute of the adventure, a gullible 18 year old having learnt my trade on an intensive do-it-yourself course down south, on HM Fort Knock John, home of the much maligned, but oh-so-good-if-only-you-could-have-heard-it, Radio Essex.
This then was the real thing. Swinging sixties, swinging music, swinging ship, swinging mast ... This was going to be home, for a week at a time anyway. Nobody seemed to be expecting me, so I had a great run up to starting on the air, spent mostly asleep and eating for a few days. Then, on with the show!
Starting on the ‘Midnight Hour’ programme - great late smooch with flashing headlights along Brid Bay etc - my shifts soon became ‘Teatime and Lunchtime, it's music for munchtime, with Wise Guy Hamilton’. That's what Mike Hayes' promo said - and who else could have have written such unforgettable poetry? (Mine for the Mikey Mo Breakfast Show were much worse.)
I actually enjoyed the wintertime rough weather, as well as the summertime good stuff later. Walking down the studio corridor with one foot on the wall, holding half a mug of tea (never more than half - it slops over) was useful experience for sailing activities in later life. Ever since then, I've been quite content to be at 45 degrees, get food and eat it while others are chucking up - you get more as well, that way.
There was obviously a big audience. Later on in an ad agency I found the NOP audience survey showed over 4 million audience to 270. Goodness knows why they didn't sell more ads. Most of them seemed to be for MD Proudfoot's supermarkets, where the doors opened by themselves, which benefited famously from the constant promotion.
I pinched the catchy tune from BBC-TV's Tomorrow's World and started a ten minute ‘Schools Special’ at about 4 each afternoon. First possible mailbag, we had 50-odd letters and cards - it was a great feeling, knowing there were real people somewhere out there. And sure enough, coming ashore the following Tuesday, there they were, lining Bridlington quayside. Real fans! What would you do, aged 18? Well, we went right ahead and did it. All.
Can't believe it's 40 years ago. Bring it back, immediately!
My best wishes to all my old colleagues and listeners, everywhere. And please, give generously, my pension fund's had it.”

Guy Hamilton has kept a Radio 270 playlist from his time on the ship. He has very kindly agreed to let us reproduce it here.
One of John Aston's memories of being on board Radio 270 sounds like a scene from a slap-stick movie:

Radio 270 airtime booking sheet

The DJs on Radio 270 were also expected to sell advertising during their time on land. This order form has been kindly donated by John Aston. Click to magnify.

“One morning I was due on air from 9am through to midday, so a couple of minutes before 9am, I opened the door from the mess/sleeping area and walked down the corridor to the studio. The first door opened into the corridor and gave access to the news room. On entering the room, the door to the main studio was directly in front of one (the door to which also opened out towards the corridor). As one entered the news room, directly on one's right was a table upon which there were a Grundig tape recorder, made of plastic, and a cast iron typewriter, plus various bits of news scripts. Progressing towards the studio door and also to my right was a table and microphone facing the studios' interconnecting window. At this table sat the News Reader, waiting to read the 9 o'clock news. I opened the studio door and entered. The DJ had just signed off and the newsreader had started to read the news. The 6 to 9 DJ was just getting out of his chair when the boat rolled to one side, throwing me on top of the exiting DJ. At the same time the Grundig tape machine, still plugged in, landed at the news reader's feet shortly followed by the cast iron typewriter - causing a loud bang and accompaning electrical sparks. Meanwhile, yours truly was pushing hard on the DJ's chair, trying to regain my balance, when the boat rolled in the opposite direction. I again lost my balance and this time burst through the studio door, running backwards through the newsroom, bursting through the newsroom door and then colliding with the side of the boat in the corridor. As a period of time, it felt like hours but, in reality, it was only a matter of minutes.
As for the news, the lead item turned into nervous laughter with various sounds in the background but eventually all the items were read. Having picked my self up from the corridor, I returned to the studio and started my show. ALL IN A DAYS WORK!!”

click to hear audio John Aston on The Midnight Hour on Radio 270, 7th April 1967, a studio recording kindly provided by the man himself (duration 4 minutes 28 seconds)

layout of Oceaan7

John Aston has kindly drawn the lay-out of the Oceaan 7 studios and living quarters.

The Radio 270 Set booklet

Click to see the Radio 270 Set booklet, published in 1966.

The living conditions on the Radio 270 ship were not pleasant. It was extremely cramped. To add to their discomfort, some of the DJs were prone to sea-sickness. Paul Burnett even endured the ultimate indignity of throwing up live on air (while reading a commercial for Danish bacon). There was a high turnover of disc-jockeys and a certain amount of technical trouble, both of which upset the investors. On a couple of occasions Wilf Proudfoot had to contend with stormy shareholders meetings. However he survived their attempts to oust him.
Radio 270 was also attacked in Parliament. Mr Proudfoot had previously been a Conservative MP and, as someone with an interest in politics, offered late night airtime on his station to various politicians. Harvey Proctor, a student at the University of York and Chairman of the University Conservative Association, was invited to produce a number of half-hour political programmes for Radio 270. Right-wing Tory MP Patrick Wall took part in one show during which he spoke in favour of recognising the illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Government MPs were incensed but Mr Proudfoot defended his actions by saying that representatives of other political parties had been offered equal time, but had turned it down. The broadcasts continued. Harvey Proctor later became an MP himself, representing Basildon from 1979 to 1983 and Billericay from 1983 to 1987, before a sex scandal ended his Parliamentary career.

click to hear audio Radio 270 asks student organisations to contribute programmes. Recording from Leon Tipler's archive, kindly provided by Steve England (duration 42 seconds)

It was not only right wing politicians who benefited from free air-time on 270. Charities like Oxfam, the Salvation Army and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute were all promoted on the station, and £500 was raised for the Wireless for the Blind Fund by selling car stickers at one (old) penny each.

6.00am Paul Burnett or Mike Hayes
9.00 David Sinclair or Rusty Allen
12.00pm Roger Scott or Guy Hamilton
2.00 Brendan Power or Hal Yorke
4.00 Roger Scott or Guy Hamilton
6.30 “The World Tomorrow” (sponsored)
7.00 Paul Burnett or Mike Hayes
9.00 Brendan Power or Hal Yorke
12.00am “The Midnight Hour” (David Sinclair or Rusty Allen)
1.00 closedown

DJs on deck

Part of the 1967 team line up on deck. Left to right: Ross Randell, Mike Barron, engineer Keith Robinson, Rusty Allen, Jeff Jones and Paul Kramer. Photo published by the Free Radio Association and kindly donated by George Morris.

Radio 270's ship, the Oceaan 7, would make regular trips ashore for supplies. It was the only British offshore station to do this. The others were all supplied at sea. News-reader Jeff Jones remembers one of the visits:
“There was the occasion when I was nearly arrested. The good ship Oceaan 7 had arrived in Bridlington to fill up with whatever it needed. Although it was about 4 in the morning, a few of us were up and decided to have a stroll on the harbour wall. Next thing a policeman did appear with the words ‘Which one of you is Jeff Jones?’
‘'Tis me’ quoth I, whereupon he seemed to be charging me with some form of road traffic offence. ‘Hang on, when did this alleged offence take place?’ I asked.
It turned out that I was actually reading the news at the time and, as we had fairly blanket coverage of the north of England, I wasn't short of listeners to back up my alibi - not that it went that far as the policeman realised that someone else had ‘borrowed’ my name.”

Radio 270's office was run by Maggie Lucas (now Maggie White) and, DJ Noel Miller's then wife, Carole. Maggie casts her mind back:

Maggie Lucas

Maggie Lucas.

“I had previously worked for (Managing Director) Wilf Proudfoot when he was Member of Parliament for Cleveland and this was how I came to work for 270 some months after it went to air. In the interest of economy the office had moved into the large family room at the Proudfoots' Scarborough home, adjacent to the purpose-built offices of the Proudfoot Supermarkets. So Wilf was always on hand for both.
Carole Miller and I basically did the lot, until she returned to Australia, then I was it. We handled the mail (lots), ran the 270 Set, the competitions, sold advertising, wrote commercials, organised running sheets, handled the many calls and records from the record producers and music publishers. You name it, we probably did it.
The pay was poor. The plus was we were involved in something new and exciting. We were often invited to meet and sometimes interview stars and I remember Carole meeting Paul Anka and being given a cigarette lighter engraved with ‘Stolen from Paul Anka’. She was devasted when she later left it in a shop and it was stolen from her. One of my memories was being invited to a small party to celebrate Englebert Humperdinck's Release Me topping the charts. To attend any of these we had to pay our own expenses and use holiday leave. Even though we usually returned with material for the station.
It was exciting when the ship came into harbour in the early hours of the morning, usually to take on fuel and water. As a registered ship it was legal to do so, as long as it was not broadcasting. However, no chances were taken and it would creep in and out in total blackness.
Australians Noel & Carole Miller and Dennis Straney returned home and, just before the station closed, I came to Australia at the invitation of the Millers. Where I met my Australian husband. Several of the crew followed and later DJ Peter Bowman lived with us for a while.
Somehow I still managed to keep a link with broadcasting, working as secretary to the retiring Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and member of the Australian Control Board. How different to 270!”

Asked what Carole had been up to since, Maggie says:
“Carole went on to have a distinguished career in media, marketing and tourism. She went to Darwin in 1980 to build its first FM Radio Station, TOP FM. She returned in 1991 and when she resigned to Chair the Centenary of Federation in 1998 was General Manager of TOP FM, 8TAB racing radio and the Territory Network. She was awarded the OAM (Order of Australia Medal) and was Territorian of the Year in 1998. I am unsure where she is at present.”

press cutting

Press article about Carole Miller. Click on headline to see the entire cutting.

In May 2016 The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame heard from Carole. She sent us this press cutting from the Mercury, dated 23rd June 1966, which described her as “the ‘piratess’ from Wagga Wagga”.

click to hear audio Some Radio 270 local advertisers. The third commercial is for Stapleton Lipton Entertainment. Bandleader Cyril Stapleton's wife was an investor in Radio 270. Tapes courtesy of Guy Hamilton and Hans Knot (duration 3 minutes 44 seconds)
click to hear audio Ed Moreno joined Radio 270 in 1967. Here he is with Mike Barron on news-reading duties from May of that year. Tape courtesy of Stuart Russell (duration 5 minutes 36 seconds)
click to hear audio When Radio City closed down, Paul Kramer joined Radio Caroline but quickly moved on to Radio 270. This recording is from August 1967 and is courtesy of Manfred Steinkrauss (duration 4 minutes 29 seconds)
click to hear audio Vince “Rusty” Allen on Sunday morning 16th July 1967, plugging local events and making good use of some re-edited Radio England jingles. This clip is from a programme posted on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Scotty. Our thanks to him (duration 5 minutes 25 seconds)

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