Christmas and New Year in international waters

The sixties.

The Christmas and New Year period is party-time wherever you are and a small ship or fort a few miles off the coast is no exception. Despite being apart from their loved ones, the offshore disc-jockeys made the most of their situation as you can hear from these vintage festive clips.....

Doug Kerr and Simon Dee

Doug Kerr and Simon Dee (right) reading some of their Christmas cards on Caroline South, 1964.


click to hear audio Errol Bruce, Doug Kerr, Simon Dee and Garry Kemp on Radio Caroline South at midnight on 31st December 1964. The “child scientist” they refer to is engineer Patrick Starling (duration 4 minutes 56 seconds)
click to hear audio Some of Caroline's lesser-known advertisers wish their customers a Happy New Year for 1965. Tape courtesy of Harm Koenders of The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 45 seconds)
click to hear audio Radio London had only just started regular transmissions and was still sounding a bit hesitant on the air that Christmas. This is Paul Kaye on 24th December 1964. Recording taken from an Offshore Radio Heaven mp3 CD, issued by Stichting Media Communicatie (duration 2 minutes 25 seconds)

Caroline Christmas promotion

The front cover of a leaflet advertising a Christmas sales promotion on Radio Caroline from 1964 or '65. Click to see the details inside. Scan courtesy of Colin Nicol.


By Christmas 1965 Radio London was sounding much more self-assured.
click to hear audio The first few minutes of Christmas Day 1965 on Radio London. Tony Windsor, Paul Kaye, Mike Lennox and Dave Cash serenade the listeners with some Christmas carols (duration 3 minutes 42 seconds)
New Year's Eve 1965 was a big day for Radio Scotland. The station launched at ten minutes to midnight. Disc-jockey Paul Young opened proceedings, followed by Managing Director Tommy Shields. The first programme, starting at midnight, was pre-recorded on land and featured David Kinnaird playing records with some applause tacked on the end to give the impression of a band playing live! He chatted to local celebrities, played good luck messages from various stars and introduced some of the new presenters.
click to hear audio Some clips from Radio Scotland's opening programme: David Kinnaird with fellow presenters Paul Young, Stuart Henry, Charlie White, Pete Bowman, Larry Marshall and Bob Spencer (duration 5 minutes 51 seconds)
click to hear audio New Years Eve 1965 on Radio Caroline North as Tony Prince, Jim Murphy, Bob Stewart and the crew welcome 1966 and, if you can believe them, link up with Radio Caroline South for a direct relay of the chimes of Big Ben! (duration 4 minutes 43 seconds)
click to hear audio And on Caroline South, after sending out New Year greetings to their loved ones, DJs Tony Blackburn, Norman St.John, Graham Webb and Dave Lee Travis, engineer George Saunders and a crew-member extend their good wishes to their rivals on Radio London before closing the station down for the night. All four of these recordings are courtesy of The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 4 minutes 44 seconds)


click to hear audio Tony Windsor and Mike Lennox talking about the Christmas celebrations aboard the Radio London ship. The TW clip is from Jumbo Records' The Wonderful Radio London Story CD and the Marshall Mike extract is from RBL's Sounds From The Seas cassette (duration 1 minute 47 seconds)

Keith Skues, Kenny Everett and Chuck Blair celebrating Christmas on Radio London. Photo courtesy of Offshore Echo's.

Radio London's Senior DJ Tony Windsor with a festive beer. Photo courtesy of Mitch Philistin. See here for more of his pics.

From Dave Hawkins's photo album:

Left to right: Administrator Richard Swainson, engineer Dave Hawkins, Ed Stewart, Kenny Everett, engineer Russ Tollerfield, ship's steward Mitch Philistin, Mike Lennox, Tony Windsor and Captain Buninga celebrate Christmas 1966. For more of Dave's photos, click here.
Similar line-up to the other photo except Dave Hawkins has disappeared and chef “Pancake John” can be seen behind the captain with an unknown person in front of him. With thanks to Duncan Johnson for his help with identification.

Of course it was not just the disc-jockeys who were separated from their loved ones at Christmas. The crew members were also away from home. Many of them took the opportunity to send messages over the air.

Steve Young has supplied this menu from Caroline South's 1966 Christmas dinner. Steve says: “Our Dutch chef went overboard (in a sense) in order to create this fabulous meal.”

click to hear audio Dave Lee Travis on the Christmas Day 1966 edition of The Caroline Countdown with some of the Dutch crew-members on Caroline South. This recording is from Martin Lynch's collection and has been kindly donated by Lynne Sims (duration 2 minutes 24 seconds)
The disc-jockeys would sometimes produce Christmas “pantomimes” as part of their festive programmes:
1966 was the year of the Batman television craze and the Caroline presenters gleefully jumped on the Bat-bandwagon.
click to hear audio the first part of Batman's Christmas Caper starring Mike Ahern, Dave Lee Travis and the rest of the Radio Caroline South disc-jockey team. The clip is from the CD The Legend Lives On produced by Hans Knot and released by Stichting Media Communicatie (duration 2 minutes 3 seconds)
Keith Hampshire remembers: “The part of The Commissioner was played by Bob Larkins (newsreader) and the part of The Mayor was played by yours truly. This brilliant production was conceived and written by Bob Larkins who I believe had worked at one of the major motion picture companies in London. DLT was in charge of production.”
Radio City also produced a panto that Christmas. Written by Ian MacRae, it was a spoof of Alice In Wonderland, featuring the adventures of one Marjorie Poopdeck. Asked for his recollections, Ian says: “I remember there was a lot of ad-libbing going on between Alan Clark and myself. If you'd seen the crap gear we had to record it onto, you wouldn't believe it! I do recall that nobody at the London office had any idea of what we were planning. We just did it. We were quite nervous as to what the reaction would be when we got ashore. Luckily all was OK.”
click to hear audio The on-air singing debut of senior DJ Tom Edwards. The other voices heard on the clip are those of Ian MacRae and Adrian Love. The recording is from RBL (duration 3 minutes 8 seconds)
click to hear audio Can anyone provide a recording of Radio 270's Peter Pantomime, as mentioned by Hal Yorke as he finishes his show on 23rd December 1966? Recording courtesy of Hans Knot (duration 48 seconds)
click to hear audio BBMS, the former Radio Essex, asked listeners to send in their Christmas greetings. What Mark West didn't know when he recorded this on-air promotion was that the station would close down on Christmas Day 1966, never to return. Recording kindly provided by Gerry Zierler (duration 47 seconds)

Christmas '66 on Caroline North. Sitting on the left in a blue jumper, engineer/DJ/newsreader Bob Read, next to him, facing the camera, is Tony Prince. Photo copyright and courtesy of Caroline engineer Mike Wright.

On Britain Radio married disc-jockeys with families were given Christmas off, leaving the single guys to man the ship.
click to hear audio Ted Delaney, on a pre-recorded Christmas Day programme, thanking his colleagues who are still at sea while he is enjoying the time at home with his family (duration 1 minute 38 seconds)
click to hear audio Phil Martin, still on the ship, presenting one of the live Christmas Day shows (duration 1 minute 58 seconds) Both recordings courtesy of The Offshore Radio Archive.
On Caroline North too the DJs on shore leave had left recorded messages to be played on Christmas Day.
click to hear audio Tony Prince, on the air on Christmas morning, reading his cards and playing messages from a couple of his colleagues lucky enough to be at home for the holiday season. Tape courtesy of Paul de Haan (duration 5 minutes 7 seconds)
click to hear audio Ian MacRae promotes some of the New Year highlights coming up on Radio City. Recording courtesy of Martyn Webster (duration 1 minute 15 seconds)
On Radio London Paul Kaye saw in 1967 with a recap of the station's achievements during the previous twelve months.
click to hear audio Paul, along with an assortment of pop stars and fellow DJs, wishing every one a Happy New Year. From Jumbo Records' The Wonderful Radio London Story CD (duration 1 minute 38 seconds)
On Caroline South it was Johnnie Walker in the hot seat as midnight approached on New Years Eve.
click to hear audio Johnnie is joined in the studio by Dave Lee Travis, Tommy Vance, Keith Hampshire and the Captain to send their New Year greetings before he introduces a taped show from the Emperor Rosko, then living and working in Paris. Recording kindly provided by Chris Jameson (duration 4 minutes 28 seconds)

The front of a Radio Caroline Christmas card.
Inside the card. Both scans courtesy of Mike Wright.


Johnnie Walker and Robbie Dale

Johnnie Walker and Robbie Dale (right) exchange presents in the Caroline office in Amsterdam. Photo from Pinky Siedenburg's collection, taken by Bill Rontree of the Sunday Mirror and kindly passed on to us by Robbie. Click to enlarge.

By the end of 1967 the Marine Offences Act had closed down most of the British offshore stations. Only Radio Caroline International was still going, broadcasting from ships off Essex and the Isle of Man. Because of the passing of the new law the festive season was especially poignant for the disc-jockeys, now even more cut off from their families than ever. Robbie Dale has kindly donated the photo, left, to The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. He writes: “This photo was sent to me by Pinky Siedenburg, the Dutch girl hired by Terry Bate to run the office he rented for Radio Caroline International at Singel 160, Amsterdam. This was JW (Johnnie Walker) and I opening Chrissy presents. One not included in the photo was a budgie in a cage, I named it Caroline, what else? Alas the budgie came to a sticky end the following year. (My wife) Stella's marmalade cat Thomas somehow got the poor thing and ate it. Christmas on the boat: I recall it to have been very merry, lots of good food. The British and Irish listeners are very special people. Sacks full of letters some containing money, cards, presents, food, drink and medication for colds and the like, all sent with love.”
click to hear audio The first few minutes of Christmas Day 1967 on Radio Caroline South as the DJs and engineers gather to sing some carols and send messages to their families and friends. Recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks to him (duration 5 minutes 2 seconds)
Christmas 1967 saw the premiere of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. The film was shown for the first time on BBC-1 television at 8:35pm on Boxing Day evening.
click to hear audio Robbie Dale playing all the tracks from the Beatles' soundtrack EP on Caroline South on Christmas morning. Clip from the Johnnie Walker and Robbie Dale - Their Offshore Radio Years mp3-DVD (duration 4 minute 40 seconds)
The full team of disc-jockeys was on board Caroline South over Christmas 1967 - so many of them, in fact, that they had to shorten the shows to give everybody a turn:
click to hear audio Andy Archer from Christmas afternoon on Caroline South. Recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks to him (duration 4 minute 58 seconds)
On Radio Caroline North senior DJ Don Allen recorded a Christmas message before going on leave.
click to hear audio Don's message broadcast on Christmas Day 1967 on Radio Caroline North, introduced by Jimmy Gordon (duration 3 minute 24 seconds)
click to hear audio Martin Kayne hosting a somewhat atypical show of music from stage and screen during the afternoon of Christmas Day 1967 on Caroline North. This is an edited version of a recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Paul de Haan. Our thanks to him (duration 3 minutes 45 seconds)
click to hear audio Johnnie Walker, Andy Archer, Stevi Merike, Glenn Adams and Carl Mitchell with the chimes of Big Ben, courtesy of a radio tuned to the BBC, and some particularly dreadful singing. Radio Caroline South, New Year's Eve 1967 (duration 4 minute 16 seconds)

Caroline South DJs and crew

Caroline South DJs and crew on 23rd December 1967. Photo taken from a sightseeing trip to the Mi Amigo from Harwich by Chris Cooper (not the 80s DJ of the same name) and kindly shared with us by the Felixstowe & Offshore Radio Facebook page. Left to right: Johnnie Walker, a crew member, Stevi Merike, Spangles Muldoon, Lee Groen (marine engineer) or Carl Mitchell?, Robbie Dale, Bud Ballou, Roger Day and Glenn Adams. Andy Archer is probably missing because he is on air.

Christmas in the Seventies over the page.

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