Hugh Nolan

1944 - 2009

Hugh Nolan

Hugh Nolan in 1970. Photo courtesy of Chris B, www.radiogeronimo.com.

Ian Anderson has kindly contributed this obituary for his friend and former Geronimo colleague, Hugh Nolan, who died in Australia on 3rd November 2009 at the age of 65. Our thanks to Ian.


Hugh Nolan was born in Australia in 1944 and came to the UK when he was nine. He studied at Kings College in Wimbledon but, in true rock'n'roll style he was expelled for smoking in the toilets.
 
On finishing his education Hugh Nolan was a junior journalist in local newspapers. He then became the editor of the Scene page of the pop music paper Disc. In 1969 he worked for a time with the music management and promotion company Blackhill Enterprises. He was a record album reviewer with International Times (IT) and he maintained close connections with the Friends underground newspaper, which had been formed by former staff members after Rolling Stone magazine closed its UK edition.
 
Hugh Nolan became involved in radio in 1969 through Bill Hayes of Opus newsletter. In early August 1969 Bill Hayes produced the first (and never broadcast) Radio Andorra tape in his front room in Muswell Hill in London. Jumbo Blimp Works was formed in October 1969 by Hugh Nolan, Geoffrey Bass and Terry Yason with financial backing from Tony Secunda and Jimmy Miller of Ringmaker Music with the aim of producing alternative radio programmes and to charter air-time on Radio Andorra.
 
Hugh Nolan became the one constant, from August 1969 until October 1970, in the Radio Andorra and Radio Monte Carlo programmes under the names of Jumbo Blimp Works, Radio 428, Radio Rupert, Radio 205 and Radio Geronimo. Various people dropped by the wayside in those 15 months.
 
At this time Hugh and his wife Jackie lived in Manchester Street in west London. A son named Benjamin was born in November 1969, joining a son Marcus born in 1963, and the family eventually moved to Denning Road in Hampstead. But by 1971 Hugh Nolan and his wife Jackie had broken up. Jackie, Marcus and Benjamin eventually moved to Devon.
 
Hugh went off to Afghanistan for a time. He was not to reappear on the airwaves until the summer of 1973, when Ronan O'Rahilly, the owner of Radio Caroline, and Andy Archer, the programme director, decided to launch Radio Seagull as a progressive music radio experiment. Hugh and former Radio Geronimo colleague Barry Everitt were approached to take part and they went out to the radioship Mi Amigo off Scheveningen, in the Netherlands, with the record collection from Radio Geronimo.
 
Hugh Nolan stayed on board the Mi Amigo for one stint, from 11 August 1973 until 24 August 1973. An article in the Observer newspaper named Hugh the best DJ on radio, but he refused to go back on board, despite the persuasive attempts of Ronan O'Rahilly. He said that he was never paid for his two week stint on board.
 
In late October 1973 the Geronimo record collection was piled up separately in the downstairs record library on the Mi Amigo. But the records were never returned, despite attempts to do so around about 1977. Some were believed to have been stolen and others went down with the sinking of the Mi Amigo in 1980.
 
Between August 1973 and 1975 Hugh Nolan moved north to Scotland, settling in the Black Isle for about five years, leaving behind journalism and radio, and taking a job with the Forestry Commission. Debbie, who had been the girlfriend of Barry Everitt, joined Hugh and Debbie and Barry's son Blue took the surname Nolan. Hugh and Debbie had a daughter called Mauve in 1976.
 
At the end of 1976 Hugh visited Shetland briefly, looking for work in the emerging oil and gas industry, and he stayed in the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. However at that time work was being processed outside Shetland. Hugh, Debbie, Blue and Mauve Nolan eventually moved to Shetland in 1980, where Hugh worked for the oilfield services company Schlumberger. They stayed in a converted church at Strom and then in new oil worker housing in Hillswick and they made many friends. Barry Everitt even paid a visit to Shetland and saw his son.
 
The Nolan family left Shetland in 1985. In recent years Hugh Nolan had been a journalist in Vietnam. When he became ill on returning to Australia, his daughter Mauve went to Australia to look after him.
 
Hugh Nolan died in Australia on 3 November 2009 after a long illness at the age of 65.
 
Ian Anderson 4 November 2009


Barry Everitt, Hugh's colleague on Radio Geronimo and Radio Seagull, wrote the following tribute for the Geronimo website. Our thanks to Barry and web-master Chris B for allowing us to reproduce it here.

My oldest friend, companion and partner Hugh Nolan. R.I.P.
 
On Monday the 2nd November 2009 Bex and I were at Tottenham Hale Station waiting for the train to Stansted Airport and a weeks break from London at our villa in North Cyprus. I had written to Hugh a week or so before, chatting about life, Arsenal football and wishing him well on recovering from another bout of illness that had brought him back to Australia months back from his home in Vietnam.
 
My mobile rang and it was Deborah, Hugh's long time wife, telling me that Hugh's illness was severe and his fight against the cancer was drawing to a close. She was sitting with him at his bedside talking to me and if he stopped breathing she would probably drop the phone. She didn't drop the phone for the 45 minutes we talked. She did tell me of his brave fight to retrieve a life from a disease determined to end it. He'd fought the pain with his usual gentleness and dignity, never offering a cruel word or curse towards it. He had always been a truly gentle loving man.
 
We talked of their scuppered plans of building a holiday retreat on their beach front land in China Bay Vietnam, of her success with her first book and how the advance was perfectly timed to help out with his medical bills, how he had written a bunch of radio show programmes, read books and listened to his beloved music.
 
He had written to me three months earlier telling me his day was spent sitting weakened in his chair watching the waves spread themselves over the beach in front of his house then retreat back into the blue ocean for another try. We had talked through e-mails of my visit to Hanoi six years previous, the trip up to the mountains of Sapa and our weekend of sailing in Halong Bay, the caves we explored on the Christmas we shared together. He was editing the English written tourist and ex-pats bi-weekly magazine Time Out (nothing to do with London's TO). He loved Vietnam.
 
So bless him, peace be with him and remember all the great radio, writing and love he gave to the world ..... if only more people could have his sense of being on the planet we would be in a far, far better place now.
 
Barry Marshall Everitt

Barry's web site is www.houseofmercy.net.
 
You can hear a high quality stereo clip of Hugh, recorded in 1970 for Pan-American Airways'
Theater In The Air Geronimo in-flight jazz show, at www.radiogeronimo.com.


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