Ray Clark has interviewed a number of the people involved with Radio Caroline. Extracts from these conversations were used in his book Radio Caroline: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked
We are very grateful to Ray for allowing us to publish some of his interviews on The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame.
This one is with Graham “Spider” Webb, one of the most popular disc-jockeys on Radio Caroline South and News Director for both ships. The interview took place over the phone with Graham in
Australia. Ray only recorded Graham's end of the conversation so we don't have the questions.
GRAHAM WEBB: My first contact with Caroline was to meet up again with Allan Crawford who was a music man - one of the music publishers in Sydney when I was working for a radio station
as a DJ in Sydney. I arrived in London thinking “well, I've got to get a job here somehow and I'm not posh enough for the BBC so what should I do? Who do I know?” Well - Allan Crawford. He's running a thing called
Radio Caroline. At that stage of the game it had become Caroline. He had started (Radio) Atlanta and joined up with Ronan O'Rahilly so the two of them were joint Managing Directors. I thought, bold as brass, need a quid, walk in
- so I did and got the job! £30 a week first up. It turned into £40 before I left but, there again, £30 was about the best I could get out of them.
HIS FINANCIAL STATE
Let me put it to you this way. I left Caroline House, went back to my digs, which was some little grotty flat... I ended up (living) in Knightsbridge which was lovely because I ended up staying with a guy called
Tommy Moeller who was the lead singer with Unit 4+2. They had a big hit back then with Concrete and Clay and so he said “oh,
come and live with us over here” but in the meantime I stayed at this little grotty digs and I thought “what am I going to do? I've got two pounds...” No! I didn't have two pounds. I had a train ticket to get me
to the pick-up point to get out to Radio Caroline and I had two shillings and eight pence (13p) left in my pocket. So I bought a roll on the train, a bread roll, and a cup of tea, and that was it. I arrived on Radio Caroline without
a penny in my pocket.
HIS FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE SHIP
The ship itself, well (laughs) after that long and harrowing journey of about 16 kilometres from Harwich which took us out there... and by that time Radio London had kicked on so we were by-passing Radio London
and ended up at Caroline. There was this little thing bobbing in the North Sea. And of course Radio London was a bigger ship - a much bigger ship. The Americans had put that one in and when I got on to Caroline - 470 tons - I thought
“this thing's gonna sink any minute from now” but it lasted 18 months before it broke its mooring and hit the shore at Frinton. I can remember that, back in January 1966. Don't talk to me about that!
OH, GO ON!
(laughs) Oh alright, I'll talk about it if you really want to hear about it. I'd seen this television plug for “Caroline - you are drifting” as if we didn't know. We didn't know at the time though
apparently because the Captain was a little bit off his face. He'd been making this little hooch up on top. It was a fun time back then because we got our beer ration on board - not rum ration - and he turned it into hooch and
he was a little bit off his face on this particular night so when we saw we were getting close to the lights of Frinton, Dave Lee Travis and I climbed the mizzen mast, right up to the top, and ended
up in the crow's nest and we were overlooking Frinton as we were heading towards it with the ship bobbing down below us in a force 9 gale. A most amazing night for me and when we finally landed fifty feet from the... or fifty yards
maybe from the shore and fifty yards again from a wartime sunken... one of those big sunken iron things... we nearly hit the whole lot but we missed it all by about 50 yards. And then they hauled us ashore on breeches buoys. There was
Dave Lee Travis and Tom Lodge and Tony Blackburn... Oh God, what a night! And I remember I got dunked three times on the way in! January 19th 1966. A night I'll
Autographed photo sent to your webmaster by Graham Webb while he was working on Radio Caroline South.
That was an interesting point, about the news. There was no news on Radio Caroline. I'm an old radio man - I had been for many years - and I decided that it was time that Caroline became a little bit more...
what's the word? Legitimate. That's the word. Because I was legitimately paying my taxes so I figured they should be more legitimate at doing news, as well as just pumping out pop music. So I suggested it to Ronan O'Rahilly who said
“alright. If you want to do it, you do it”. “Oh, right, me? Who me? On my own?” “Yes, you do it. You can pick a staff. You can have two men on the south ship, two men on the north ship, and become the
news director”. Well, I felt terribly important even though I'd never actually been a journalist or anything like that, though I had read news back in Australia so I thought “why not?” So I interviewed people and
picked four of the best that I could find - that could read news articulately. Because you couldn't be a DJ and read the news. Could you imagine Tony Prince being a news reader? Or Dave Lee Travis being
a news reader? No way! So I had to get people who could actually speak nice and clearly - not ever so correctly but maybe more a mid-Atlantic correct accent. And so I got these four guys, two on the south ship, two on the north ship,
and I spent two or three days on each ship and sort of flew in-between and teed it all up for about six months. We got it all working very well. We called it Radio Caroline Newsbeat.
Now you asked me how I gathered the news... We stole it! We did. We had no fax machines or telex machines in those days. All we could do was listen around the dial. So I had my newsmen listen around the dial from
Radio Asia, Radio Australia, BBC overseas service, we listened to all the services, South African... Hey, here was one. When Rhodesia declared independence, we picked that up on Rhodesian radio. They
had declared independence and we broadcast it four hours before the BBC would even mention it. So there was a scoop for Radio Caroline.
For more about the grounding of the Mi Amigo, see here.
Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11th November 1965, see Wikipedia.
Back to the interview with Mike Ahern.
Conversation with Carl Conway over the page.
Our thanks to Ray Clark.