Following the sinking of the mv Mi Amigo in March 1980, three Christmases passed without any offshore radio in Europe. Then, in August 1983, the mv Ross Revenge dropped anchor in the North Sea and Radio Caroline
returned to the air.
By Christmas the station was well-established and disc-jockeys Grant Benson, Robin Ross, Simon Barrett, Tom
Anderson and engineer Andy Moorcock were on duty to entertain their millions of listeners over the festive season.
Grant Benson. A photo shared by Grant on Facebook.
Grant Benson on Caroline's Breakfast Show on Christmas morning (duration 3 minutes 19 seconds)
On New Year's Eve all the disc-jockeys joined Robin Ross in the studio for a party. At 11 o'clock UK time it was midnight on the Continent so the guys attempted to wish their foreign listeners a happy new year in their own languages.
There appears to have been some cross-dressing going on too!
A couple of clips from Caroline's New Year Party, 31st December 1983, with all the DJs, engineers, the cook and ship's Captain participating. Both 1983 recordings shared on The
Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks to him (duration 9 minutes 4 seconds)
By Christmas 1984, the offshore radio scene was busier. Laser-558 had started broadcasting in May and, in early December, the Dutch station Radio Monique had begun sharing Caroline's ship.
On the mv Communicator Ric Harris, Holly Michaels, Tommy Rivers, Dave Chaney and
Charlie Wolf were making sure you were “never more than a minute away from music” on Laser, while on Caroline the team consisted of Keith King,
Jay Jackson, Johnny Lewis, Tony James, Dave Richards, Bruce Purdey,
Marti Wright and the enigmatic Roland Butter.
Laser 558's Holly Michaels, Charlie Wolf and engineer Joe Vogel. Photo courtesy of Michael Dean. More of his photos are here.
Charlie Wolf on Laser-558, Christmas Eve, with a somewhat less than festive Dave Chaney. This recording shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks. Our thanks
to him (duration 4 minutes 22 seconds)
Ric Harris on Christmas Day on Laser-558 with some personal season's greetings. Recording kindly provided by Hans Knot (duration 3 minutes 11 seconds)
On board the neighbouring Caroline ship, later that Christmas Day, the guys were providing a guided tour.
Bruce Purdey on Radio Caroline from Christmas afternoon 1984, with Dave Richards and Johnny Lewis giving a tour of the ship. This is an extract from a longer recording posted on www.azanorak.com. Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 9 minutes 20 seconds)
New Year's Eve on Laser-558 and Charlie Wolf is joined in the studio again by Dave Chaney. Charlie mentions his “exile”. This refers to him leaving the ship on 27th December for four days. Recording courtesy of Hans Knot
(duration 4 minutes 59 seconds).
Laser-558 was a hugely popular station but technical problems and lack of advertising forced it to close down in November 1985. As soon as the station went silent, Caroline grabbed the 558kHz spot on the dial and
relaunched as Caroline-558. a more pop-based service than previously. The rock fans were soon to be taken care of by the night-time ‘Caroline Overdrive’ service which launched on New Years Day 1986 on 963kHz.
Peter Philips on the air at Christmas '86. Photo kindly provided by Richard Jackson.
Broadcasting on the Ross Revenge that Christmas were Nick Richards, Peter Philips, John Ford,
Fergie McNeal, Tom Anderson, Andy Johnson, newsman Graeme Vega and cook
Peter Philips on the 9am-1pm show on Caroline-558 that Christmas Day giving away some free holidays in Morocco courtesy of advertiser Arabian Sands (duration 3 minutes 57 seconds)
Tom Anderson and colleagues on New Year's Eve 1985 on both Caroline 558 and 963. This and the recording above shared on The Offshore Radio Club Forum by Hans Hendriks.
Our thanks to him (duration 5 minutes 14 seconds).
By the end of 1986 there were two radio ships in the North Sea again. The mv Communicator, previously the home of Laser-558, was now operating Laser Hot Hits but unfortunately was not able to broadcast any live
programmes over Christmas or New Year. The station closed down on Monday 15th December and remained silent until Boxing Day. It then returned with mainly non-stop music until 30th December when silence prevailed again. The next day
there was some music but that stopped abruptly at 10.47am. So, although fans were probably checking 576kHz to see if anything was happening on Laser, it was down to Caroline to provide the entertainment.
The team on the Ross Revenge that Christmas consisted of Mark Matthews, Dave James, Richard Jackson, Keith
Lewis, Peter Philips, John Tyler and newsman Stuart Clark. Engineer Mike Watts also put in an on-air
Richard Jackson on Caroline-558 at lunchtime on Christmas Day, with a brief visit from Radio Monique's Ad Roberts. This recording courtesy of www.azanorak.com. Our thanks to Ray
Robinson (duration 3 minutes 8 seconds). Thanks also to Richard for permission to include some of his photographs on this page. (More are available on Flickr.) Richard says: “1986 was probably the best Christmas and New Year for Caroline during the 80s as there was money around, the freezer was full, the tender was the Bellatrix and we actually got paid!”
On the rockier Caroline Overdrive service that evening, Mark Matthews and John Tyler co-hosted a programme of their favourite releases of the year (duration 5 minutes 17 seconds)
On New Year's Eve Mark Matthews was on the pop service, Caroline-558, with a studio full of partying colleagues, playing the station's Top 50 singles of the year as voted by the DJs. He also featured some out-takes from an attempt to
record a promotion for ‘Viewpoint 963’, the station's religious output. This and the Overdrive recording courtesy of www.azanorak.com. Our thanks to Ray Robinson
(duration 7 minutes 26 seconds)
Dave James and Keith Lewis celebrating in the mess room on the Ross Revenge. Photo kindly provided by Richard Jackson.
Keith Lewis, Ad Roberts and Dave James watching Mark Matthews on the air. Photo kindly provided by Richard Jackson.
1987 was not a good year for offshore radio. In April Laser Hot Hits closed down and in November Radios Caroline and Monique were silenced when the Ross Revenge's massive aerial mast collapsed. Although this was
the end for Monique, Caroline managed to return on low power in December. For a while the on-air team consisted of two people - brothers Chris Kennedy and Steve Conway
- but they were joined, just in time for Christmas, by Mike Dixon, Steve Masters, John Bibby and cook Rowena
Wilde. Engineer Mike Watts was heard again too.
Christmas lunchtime on Caroline-558 and Steve Conway sends greetings to chief engineer Peter Chicago (“Peter and Carol”) and station founder Ronan O'Rahilly (“the silver fox”), among others. This is an edited
version of a recording made available by The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 5 minutes 33 seconds)
Mike Watts presenting the afternoon show on Caroline-558 on Christmas Day 1987. This is an edited version of a recording made available by The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 3 minutes 11 seconds)
Steve Conway was behind the mic again when the station entered the New Year.
Steve trying to keep control in a Caroline studio full of partying people on New Year's Eve 1987. This recording courtesy of www.azanorak.com. Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration
5 minutes 45 seconds)
After the disaster of the mast collapsing, things improved for Caroline in 1988. In May, World Mission Radio began paying for a short wave religious service to be transmitted from the ship and, in July, a new Dutch
service, Radio 558 - later to become Radio 819 - also provided income.
The Caroline on-air team that Christmas consisted of Kevin Nelson, Nigel Harris, Neil Gates, Dave Asher,
Steve Richards, Tony Kirk, Steve Conway, engineer Mike Watts and his girlfriend
Steve Conway on Caroline-558 links up with his Dutch colleague Ron van der Plas on Radio 819 on Christmas morning 1988. This recording shared on the Internet Radiocafé, now known as the
Radiotrefpunt (radio meeting point) forum by Drumbeat. Our thanks to him (duration 5 minutes 50 seconds)
Steve was back on the air on New Years Eve and, in the lead-up to midnight, chatted to his compatriot Kevin Nelson about the situation in Ireland where the landbased pirate stations were about to be outlawed. Despite Steve's best
intentions the midnight celebrations descended into chaos, much as they had the previous year.
Steve and the rest of the Caroline and Radio 819 DJs on New Year's Eve 1988. This is an edited version of a recording shared on Achim's Free Radio Disaster. Our thanks to
Achim Brueckner (duration 8 minutes 59 seconds)
5 minutes past midnight on January 1st 1990. Dave Asher (seated) with, left to right, Gavin Ford, Nigel Harris, Annabel (did not broadcast), Peter Chicago and Caroline Martin. Photo courtesy of
In August 1989 the Dutch authorities carried out a raid on the Ross Revenge. A good deal of equipment was smashed or confiscated and all three stations based on the ship were silenced. Neither World Mission Radio
nor Radio 819 ever returned to the air but, against all the odds, Caroline did make it back in October, although on severely reduced power.
Nigel Harris, Neil Gates, Dave Asher, Caroline Martin, Gavin Ford and
Chris Cooper were on board to provide the entertainment during what turned out to be the station's final Christmas broadcasting from international waters.
A studio recording of most of the Caroline team together on Dave Asher's show, Christmas Eve 1989. This tape was shared on www.azanorak.com by ‘rad10nut84’. Our
thanks to her and to Ray Robinson (duration 8 minutes 32 seconds)
A week later, on New Year's Eve:
Dave Asher playing the DJs' favourite tracks of the decade. Who would have guessed that the last record to be played on Radio Caroline in the 1980s would be by Jason Donovan? This clip is taken from a longer recording available from
www.azanorak.com. Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 8 minutes 45 seconds)
AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM
THE PIRATE RADIO HALL OF FAME