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Radio Atlanta - History (2)

The Magda Maria docked at El Ferrol in northern Spain on 2nd August 1962 where a complete overhaul of the vessel took place and she was re-named Mi Amigo. The renovated ship left El Ferrol on 14th September 1962, giving her destination as Dover, England and a few days later she dropped anchor in the Thames Estuary. The purpose of this was to conduct test transmissions (under the call sign Radio LN) to prove to potential purchasers that a good signal could be delivered to London and south east England.

However, despite Crawford’s earlier negotiations with the owners of Radio Nord there were now two potential purchasers for the Mi Amigo (Magda Maria) - Project Atlanta and the Verweij brothers, owners of Radio Veronica who were still looking for a larger ship and stronger transmitter to launch an English language service to Britain.

Unfortunately for Project Atlanta while the Mi Amigo (Magda Maria) was in El Ferrol Danish police had raided the former Radio Mercur ship, Lucky Star (see Radio Mercur History in the Scandinavia Gallery). This action made some of Project Atlanta’s financial backers uneasy and they withdrew funding, leaving Allan Crawford unable to proceed with the purchase of the Mi Amigo

With the Mi Amigo now in position off the British coast, fully equipped and ready to broadcast, Crawford tried to renegotiate the deal with Bob Thompson to lease the ship in an effort to keep Project Atlanta alive. Unfortunately they were unable to agree a compromise and the deal between Radio Nord and Project Atlanta was called off

In early October 1962Mi Amigo anchored near Radio Veronica the Mi Amigo sailed from the Thames Estuary and dropped anchor off the Dutch coast, near the Radio Veronica ship Borkum Riff. Although the deal with Project Atlanta had fallen through Bob Thompson was willing to wait a short while for Allan Crawford to try and secure alternative sources of funding. However, at the same time  other possible purchasers were being sought - after all Thompson had a former radio ship to dispose of and it was a 'hot' property, unwelcome in many European ports, the subject of constant attention from various authorities and with the ever present threat of seizure or even sabotage attacks.

The Dutch and Belgian press at the time speculated about various plans for the ship, including a claim by a Dutch businessman that he would purchase her either to launch a second Dutch offshore station (to compete with Radio Veronica) or to establish a station off the British coast. There were also suggestions that the vessel would be used to house a television station beaming programmes to Belgium. Another rumour circulating was that the ship had been sold to the CIA to become a propaganda station anchored off the United States coast beaming programmes to Cuba.. Magda Maria in Ostend November 1962

After about three weeks lying at anchor near Radio Veronica the Mi Amigo entered Ostend Harbour (Belgium)  in late October 1962 and rumours continued to be published in the European press about her future. The Belgian television station rumour continued to flourish with a report in October 1962 that broadcasts would start in February 1963.

On 15th November 1962 one Dutch newspaper reported that a Belgian radio and television station was planned from the ship, with the radio station transmitting on FM as well medium wave. In early December 1962 a Belgian newspaper even published a specific starting date of 18th December 1962 for a radio station based on the Mi Amigo. This time the vessel was reportedly to be anchored off the French coast because the Belgian Government was in the process of introducing legislation outlawing offshore radio stations. One further rumour was that the ship would take over the broadcasts of Radio Antwerpen after their vessel, Uilenspiegel, ran aground in December 1962.

After this series of rumours in late 1962 all came to nothing and speculation surrounding the future of the Mi Amigo seemed to die down for a while - nothing more was heard of plans for either the Belgian radio and television station, nor of the proposed competition for Radio Veronica.

What is certain though is that throughout this period the Mi Amigo was still in the ownership of the Radio Nord organisation and Bob Thompson was still handling the sale of the vessel through a series of agents and companies based in various central European countries.  Allan Crawford was unable to proceed with either the purchase or lease of the ship partly because the Bank of England was now procrastinating over the transfer of funds out of Britain (despite the earlier written approval obtained by Oliver Smedley).

Frustrated by continuing delays in selling his ship Thompson decided to sail the Mi Amigo across the Atlantic to Texas where it was planned to remove all the radio equipment and convert her into a fishing cruiser for recreational use by members of the former Radio Nord consortium. There was also a continuing story that the ship wpuld be sold to the CIA tobe used for propaganda broadcasts to Cuba.

Whichever plan was the real intention, the Mi Amigo sailed from Brest on 26th January 1963, and arrived in Galveston, Texas six weeks later when the aerial mast and transmitters were removed.

Meanwhile, Allan Crawford had not given up his plan to launch a British offshore radio station and throughout late 1962 and 1963 he sought new sources of finance for Project Atlanta. The structure of the Project also began to take a more legal shape - Project Atlanta Ltd was formally registered as a company on 2nd August 1963.

Among the small investors Allan Crawford approached  in late 1962 was Ronan O’Rahilly, an Irish born music promoter now resident in London. At that point O'Rahilly himself could not provide financial backing, but took Crawford  to Ireland where he introduced him to his father and showed him the port of Greenore, which O’Rahilly senior owned. During the course of this meeting Crawford made available the results of the legal, technical and market research he had carried out into the feasibility of operating an offshore radio project off the British coast. This was to prove a pivotal error on the part of Allan Crawford.

In June 1963 Ronan O’Rahilly on behalf of Project Atlanta, went to Texas to try and re-open negotiations for the purchase of the Mi Amigo. O’Rahilly visited the ship  and realised that it was far from ready to once again become an offshore radio station and consequently Project Atlanta would have to wait a long time to get on the air. He began to formulate a plan of his own to launch a rival offshore radio station - Radio Caroline.

Throughout 1963 Allan Crawford continued to assemble a team to help launch Radio Atlanta - a former associate from Australia, Ken Evans was engaged to find suitable on air presenters and fellow Australians Tony Withers, Colin Nicol and Bryan Vaughan subsequently joined Project Atlanta. A recording studio was also created in Merit’s offices in Dean Street, London so that programme material could be prepared and stockpiled.

The Mi Amigo (Magda Maria)  anchored near Radio Veronica’s ship, Borkum Riff, October 1962

Magda Maria in Ostend, November 1962

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