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Radio Caroline North - History (7)

Although financially necessary the directive from Philip Soloman (who was now effectively running the Caroline stations) to include these records in the station's output caused much resentment amongst DJs, particularly on Caroline South whose reception area contained hardly any audience for such material.  Caroline North did at least have an audience in Ireland who appreciated the largely folk-based music, but saturation exposure of certain artists eventually became too much even for them.

A number of dummy 'announcements' and 'advertisements' from British companies were also broadcast at this time in an attempt to confuse the authorities, who were known to be monitoring the station's output. These dummy commercials also provided cover for any true advertisers who, it was claimed, had bought £300,000 worth  of airtime - enough to keep the station operating for at least six months.

The fake advertisements which were broadcast included products from various large British companies such as Horlicks, Nestle and Beechams, who all strongly denied that they had bought airtime on the station in contravention of the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act. Officially Radio Caroline denied that they were transmitting any free advertisements and claimed that contracts for these international products had been entered into quite legally before the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act  became effective.

Despite Radio Caroline's gesture of defiance in continuing to broadcast after the implementation of the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act the authorities in Britain were determined to enforce the legislation and prevent any further stations taking to the air.

The Post OGPO Marine Offenses Act warning advertffice placed advertisements in over 70 newspapers and magazines warning potential advertisers and suppliers of the provisions of the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act  and the penalties which  could be imposed for contravening it.  A full page advertisement was also taken in the American magazine Time in a bid to dissuade any foreign-based companies, particularly those with offices or headquarters in America, from buying airtime on  Radio Caroline.

The initial euphoria which surrounded Radio Caroline's defiance of the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act soon subsided as practical operating difficulties came to the fore. By September 1967 both ships were (theoretically at least) being tendered from foreign ports - the Mi Amigo (Caroline South) from IJmuiden in Holland and the MV Caroline (Caroline North) from Dundalk in Ireland. Fuel and major supplies  for both ships came from Holland, but this involved a round trip which took over a week for the tender on a journey to the MV Caroline in Ramsey Bay.

Programme material, and in particular new release records, also became more and more difficult to obtain and deliver to the ships so quite quickly the station had to dispense with its Top 50 chart, although it tried to maintain the illusion of a chart for some weeks after August 15th 1967.

Tenders visited the two Radio Caroline ships sporadically, often failing to bringOffshore 3 essential items or sometimes even a replacement crew, a reflection of the difficulties of operating long distance supply routes. DJs spent many weeks at a time on board the two radio ships  and the cumulative  demoralising effect of this lifestyle  came to be reflected in the station's programme output, dictated as it was largely by the Major Minor  'plug list'. Significantly neither those on board the ships, nor the station's listeners realised at this time that revenue earned from the constant playing of these 'plug list' records was not being used to pay Radio Caroline's bills.

However, despite this negative side to the continued operation of Radio Caroline some positive progress was achieved during the last two months of 1967. New  DJs were clandestinely recruited to the station by Ronan O'Rahilly using his Mid Atlantic Films operation in London and Amsterdam as a 'front'.

Despite these clandestine recruitments and the facade of a foreign-based operation it had become common knowledge by late 1967 that Radio Caroline staff from both ships were quietly travelling in and out of Britain in contravention of the law, but  without hindrance from the authorities. The Post Office were fully aware of the operational difficulties being experienced by Radio Caroline, as well as its fragile financial situation, and seemed content to wait for the natural demise of the station  rather than make folk heroes out of individual DJs  by prosecuting them for breaking the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act.


As 1968 dawned both Radio Caroline stations were still on the air, each staffed by a small crew of DJs who had reluctantly  become  used to the hardships of an isolated life in the North Sea or Irish Sea. DJs frequently made on-air comments about the lack of supplies, equipment or records and morale generally fell to an all time low.

In spite of the low morale one positive programming  achievement at this time was the reintroduction of a US Hot 100 chart with a regular supply of records having been arranged from across the Atlantic. However on the financial side Ronan O'Rahilly admitted for the first time that Radio Caroline's income was below expectations and the prospect of actually making a profit from the station's operations seemed remote - a break-even on operating costs now appeared the only possibility.  

After struggling to overcome all sorts of practical  difficulties and hardships for six months to keep the Caroline stations on the air events took  an unexpected and dramatic turn  at the beginning of March 1968. During the afternoon of 2nd March a tug anchored a mile from the MV Caroline in Ramsey Bay, refusing to state its intended destination to the Isle of Man maritime authorities. The tug made no attempt to communicate either with the authorities or  with the crew on board MV Caroline, who had themselves  identified it as a Dutch vessel, but had no particular  reason to suspect it was a threat to the radio ship.

‘Warning notice’ advertisement placed by the GPO

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Daily end of transmission announcement for Radio Caroline North International, Don Allen

Caroline North Int - Daily closdown announcement.mp3

Caroline North’s  post August 1967 tender, Offshore 3, at Dundalk Harbour in Ireland.

Photo: Andy Cadier

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