The fans' memorabilia - The tower of power comes down

John Richards used to work for Antennae Communications Ltd. In 1967 he was instructed to climb to the top of Radio City's 200ft aerial. The mast was mounted on top of a marine fort, itself more than a hundred feet above the sea. No wonder, all these years later, he still remembers dismantling the “tower of power”....

Shivering Sands fort, the home of Radio City

     “Just a little bit about the day we took Radio City off the air. Myself, Dave Baker and (I think the other rigger was) John arrived at Sheerness early one morning to go across to the iron forts by boat. It was not a long trip out there but a bit choppy. It looked a bit ghostly seeing this massive expanse of metalwork looming at you through the mist and, if I remember correctly, there were 6 towers although at least one was very badly damaged and was not used. On one of the towers there was some writing about 10 feet high. It was the station wavelength, 299 metres. As we got nearer we could see our 200 plus foot radio tower. The top 60 foot had a bad lean on it.
     After getting on board, the first thing to do was investigate. This was not very inviting. How those DJs lived out there in some of the conditions I shall never know. What I mean by that is that it was an old wartime fortress that had had no upkeep at all and had suffered much damage over the years. You had to walk from fort to fort across a sort of metal version of the rope bridges you would see in a Tarzan film. When you consider that these towers were old, damaged and more than a hundred feet above the sea, it all seemed a bit dodgy. We went into the studio section and saw some of the piles of letters that had been sent to the DJs by their fans. Many of the letters could never have been read over the air due to the explicit contents. I wonder what those thousands of ladies that sent them are doing now!

One of the walk-ways between the towers

     It was time to take down the tower. We could see why the top 60 foot section was leaning. It was because a number of the guide wires had broken which meant it was being pulled over by the remaining wires on the other side. If you can imagine that this tower was only about a foot wide all round, the top looked like a catapult ready to fire. We had to go up to the top to get the transmitting aerials down first. After lowering these cables Dave put his leg through the centre of the top of the tower. I can remember clicking my harness around the tower about 4 foot from the top and then it was time to cut the wires. Well I thought that my time had come as, after cutting through one of the remaining top section guide wires, it caused a carry on effect and two more of the wires snapped! The top 60 foot whipped about 6 foot in each direction and must have been very close to breaking point. Dave and I were hanging on for dear life!
     When we got it all down, the remaining DJs had been watching and they looked more nervous than we were. That was it. Time to get the boat loaded, to get it all back to dry land and back to Hertford. I can remember well that as we sailed away from the forts, we had the remaining DJs on board with us and, although I can't remember the song that was playing on the boat's radio, it was an apt one. It was the tune that one of the DJs had used to open his show. I can tell you that it was a very sad weepy sail back as “The Tower of Power” was no more.
     Living in Hertford, we used to listen to Radio City a lot. It played all of the music that people wanted to hear and, although it was never as popular as Caroline, it was with me. If it had not been for these pirate stations I wonder if we would ever have had Radio One. A lot of people put them down but it was down to these stations that we got pop radio. Good old Radio City.”

Many thanks to John for sharing his memories.
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