Tom Hardy

31st August 1954 - 2nd March 2022

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy. A photo posted on Facebook by his wife Brigid Burke.

The last couple of years of Radio Caroline's broadcasts from the mv Mi Amigo were not easy. The ship was in a poor condition and finances were extremely limited. Despite this, the programmes were excellent with a superb team of disc-jockeys. One of the best of these was Tom Hardy.
 
His real name was Brian Johnson. Born on 31st August 1954 he grew up in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, and was educated at Apsley Grammar School. He wanted to be a teacher and between 1971 and 1975 studied at Weymouth College of Education. When qualified he became a science teacher at The Vyne school. However he also had another passion - radio. Like many of his generation he had grown up listening to the offshore stations and, inspired by them, got involved in hospital radio and various land-based pirates.

DJs line-up

Left to right: Mike Stevens, Tom Hardy, cook Kees Borrell, James Kaye, Stevie Gordon and Richard Thompson on board the mv Mi Amigo. Photo taken by Ken Crowther and shared by the Felixstowe & Offshore Radio Facebook page.

In June 1976 he quit his teaching job to fly to the Middle East to become a DJ on the Israeli offshore station, the Voice of Peace. Here he broadcast as both Tom Hardy and, briefly, Steve Zodiac.

click to hear audio Tom Hardy on the Voice of Peace - an undated clip from sometime in 1976. The recording was shared by Vincent on the Radiotrefpunt (radio meeting point) forum. Our thanks to him (duration 1 minute 46 seconds)

A number of Voice of Peace DJs also worked on Caroline and in June 1978 Tom followed the same path, moving from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. He was to become a regular on the station over the next two years although there was a gap in transmissions during that period. Caroline went off the air in October 1978. The ship still had to be crewed and Tom spent time on board the silent vessel. He was one of the guys rescued by lifeboat in January 1979 when the Mi Amigo began to take in water. The ship survived and, at Easter 1979, Caroline returned to the air. Tom was part of the team which relaunched the station along with Tony Allan, Tom Anderson and Stephen Bishop (now known as Johnny Lewis). His last show on Caroline was on 15th March 1980, a few days before the Mi Amigo sank.

click to hear audio Tom Hardy on Radio Caroline on 2nd September 1978 presenting a listener's Personal Top 30. The recording was shared by Vincent on the Internet Radiocafé, now known as the Radiotrefpunt (radio meeting point) forum. Our thanks to him (duration 3 minutes 16 seconds)
click to hear audio Tom Hardy ending the Caroline Countdown of Album Sound from 7th May 1979. Taken from a longer recording shared on azanorak.com, with thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 4 minutes 2 seconds)

There then was a period of sitting around, waiting for Caroline to return, but it took too long. Tom needed a job. His former Caroline and Voice of Peace colleague, Stevie Gordon was now on Robbie Dale's new station in Dublin, Sunshine Radio (where he broadcast as Stevie Dunne). He suggested Tom might like to join them. He would. After almost two years at Sunshine he was persuaded to move to the rival Kiss FM/Radio Nova operation, run by Chris Cary. Initially Tom was on Kiss, then transferred to Nova where he replaced Caroline legend Andy Archer.

DJs line-up

Left to right: Robbie Dale/Robinson, Tom Hardy and Stevie Gordon/Dunne in the studio at Sunshine. Photo shared on Facebook by Stevie Gordon.

Things got a bit uncomfortable for the Dublin pirates for a while, with state orchestrated jamming and police raids. There was also a journalists' strike at Nova and the station shed some staff, including Tom. In 1984 he moved back to the UK to join the Chiltern network as presenter, music director and Assistant Programme Director, staying with them until the end of 1987. He then returned to Ireland to establish, manage and present on the border-busting Kiss FM in Monaghan. This high-powered station broadcast into Northern Ireland from across the border in the Republic and proved very popular. However in June 1988 the Irish Minister for Communications Ray Burke announced a new broadcasting law would soon come into force, licencing commercial radio in Ireland. If any of the existing pirates wanted to be considered for a licence they had to cease broadcasting by midnight on 31st December 1988. Tom Hardy hosted the last show on Kiss, closing the station for the final time at 6pm on Friday 30th December. Sadly the station was not awarded a license.

click to hear audio Tom Hardy closing Kiss FM in Monaghan on 30th December 1988. This clip is taken from a much longer recording available on radiowaves.fm. Our thanks to them (duration 2 minutes 51 seconds)

There was a brief return to Chiltern to do late nights and around three weeks filling-in at Oxford's Fox FM, but then Tom moved back to Ireland. Classic Hits 98FM had won one of the local franchises for Dublin and he was taken on as Assistant Programme Director. Shortly before the station launched it was discovered that a clause in one of the DJ's contracts meant that there was a two-hour gap in the weekday schedule. Tom found himself back on the air, filling that gap.
 
The station was a success and wanted to expand. Tom was seconded to Prague to help set up the company's first overseas property, Kiss 98FM. After a further year at 98FM in Dublin, he moved back to Britain to re-launch Leicester Sound. This was followed in 1994 by a position at SBS in Stockholm with responsibility for twelve stations across Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Tom then spent around 18 months as Programme Director at 2CR-FM, Bournemouth, before becoming Programme Manager at Ireland's national commercial station, Today FM in August 1998.
 
After 14 years at Today FM, Tom left to run his own consultancy company. In 2021 he shared the information with friends on Facebook that he had been diagnosed as suffering from cancer and was undergoing radiotherapy treatment. Sadly he suffered a heart attack while in hospital at the end of February 2022 and passed away a few days later, on 2nd March. Aged 67, he left a wife, Brigid, and three children Laurie, Meg and Elsa Jane. The comments below are just a small sample of the numerous posts on social media from people expressing their affection and admiration for Tom. He was a very popular and talented man, and would be greatly missed.

There is a tribute to Tom in Irish music magazine Hot Press.
an interview with Tom about his time with the Irish pirates on the Irish Pirate Radio Audio Archive,
an excellent two hour tribute programme on the More Music Ireland site
and a video compilation of Tom's career here.


Some comments from former colleagues and listeners, mainly from social media:

Andy Archer: “How terribly sad. I'm so sorry to hear about Tom's passing. He was a lovely guy and excellent company.”
 
Stuart Clark: “They say never meet your heroes but Tom was as lovely a man as he was a genius broadcaster and programmer.”
 
Bill Rollins: “So sorry to hear the sad news. Only met him a couple of times - a great chap and excellent broadcaster. RIP Tom. Condolences to his family.”
 
Bob Lawrence (Richard Thompson on Caroline): “I learned so much from him. So, so much. About radio, yes, but also about life. Over the years he never stopped giving and he was always right.”
 
Paul Graham: “So sad to report Tom Hardy ex Caroline and VOP passed away today. A lovely guy.”
 
David Baker: “Tom was one of a kind, an absolute gent. You only have to look at what people are saying about him to realise how high up he was in people's thoughts.”
 
Paul McKenna: “So sad to hear this terrible news. Not only a great programmer, but a great guy - kind and with a wonderful sense of humour. Rest in peace, my friend.”
 
Johnny Lewis (Stephen Bishop on Caroline in the 70s): “A wonderful person, and great broadcaster who helped me loads in my early days on the Mi Amigo and at Sunshine Radio Dublin in the early 80s. Rest in peace mate. You'll never be forgotten.”
 
Rob Ashard: “He was part of the fabulous team aboard the Mi Amigo in the mid to late 70's. Great broadcaster.”
 
Nick Richards: “RIP Tom. Thinking of you, your family and your radio family. You were the best of the best.”
 
Robb Eden (reprinted from Hans Knot's International Radio Report): “Just heard the news about Tom Hardy. What a shock. Tom was part of the wonderful Caroline team in the late '70's. Despite all the setbacks Tom and the others always kept a brave face and went over and above the call of duty. They will always have a special place in my heart and Tom will be fondly remembered by us all. Radio has lost a dedicated broadcaster and we have lost a great mate.”


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