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Radio Caroline 1980s - History


Almost as soon as the Mi Amigo had sunk representatives of Radio Caroline were stating publicly that the station would return to the air from another vessel and it was reported that the station's backers had been looking for a new ship anyway, even before the Mi Amigo had gone down. Press reports speculating about the imminent return of Radio Caroline started to appear from August 1980, less than six months after the Mi Amigo sank.

Apart from the search for a suitable ship other activities had been taking place during the summer of 1980. Radio Caroline engineers had located and purchased three second-hand transmitters from radio stations in Canada and the USA which, together with various items of studio equipment were packed for transportation across the Atlantic.

By early December 1980 stories started to appear in trade newspapers that Radio Caroline was set to come back on the air in January 1981 and named two men behind the new organisation - known as Caroline Sales International - businessman Anthony Kramer and Vincent Monsey, a London property dealer and wine importer. Ronan O'Rahilly was also still reported to be involved with the project "behind the scenes".

A report appeared in the advertising trade magazine, Campaign, at the end of November 1980 stating that Major Market Radio (MMR) in New York, a leading American radio sales house, was claiming through its Vice-President, Roy Lindau, to have exclusive rights to sell airtime on the new Radio Caroline.  However, a Radio Caroline spokesman, named in the article as Paul Collins, was also quoted as saying that MMR was just one of three companies briefed to sell airtime on the station. It later transpired that the mysterious 'Paul Collins' was in fact Vincent Monsey, Ronan O'Rahilly's 'right hand man' in America. Clearly there were already rival interests at work within the organisation planning Radio Caroline's return.


Throughout early 1981 rumours of various plans for the return of Radio Caroline continued to be published in newspapers and magazines. A report at the end of February 1981 in the London Evening Standard, indicated that  the station would return on Easter Sunday from a new vessel, Imagine, (named in tribute to the recently murdered ex-Beatle  John Lennon). The article went on to quote Paul Collins (alias Vincent Monsey), Marketing Director of Major Market Radio, as saying that Radio Caroline would return "with a lot of new faces and dramatic new sound".

In preparation for an anticipated return at Easter 1981 some famous name ex Caroline DJs had been clandestinely recruited including Johnnie Walker, Tom Hardy, Stevie Gordon, Stephen Bishop, Mike Stevens and Johnny Jason.

More, seemingly definite, information appeared in the advertising  trade papers Adweek (2nd March 1981) and Campaign (20th March 1981), both quoting 19th April 1981 (Easter Sunday) as the return date for Radio Caroline. Once again the same names, Vincent Monsey, Roy Lindau and Anthony Kramer were quoted as being the people behind the station's imminent return. Also said to be involved was Warner Rush, President of Major Market Radio (MMR) in New York and the reports indicated that MMR had been contracted to sell air time on  Radio Caroline. They were targeting international advertisers, particularly companies who were heavy users of radio in the USA, but had not yet advertised their products on radio in Britain. Warner Rush said, "They [Radio Caroline] required a US agent, looked at a few and chose us. We had our lawyers thoroughly investigate the set up and they deemed it proper."

Potential international advertisers received a rate card from Roy Lindau at the beginning of April 1981 claiming that Radio Caroline would "return on 19th April, with a new ship, new management, new equipment, new dial position, increased power and a new mass-appeal music format." In the document Roy Lindau described himself as Vice-President of Sales at Major Market Radio, a division of Golden West Broadcasters, who represented stations in 32 markets with offices in New York and eleven other major US cities and that the company was Radio Caroline's "exclusive worldwide sales representative."

The thrust of the sales pitch was that advertisers could "efficiently cover the entire UK and Western Europe with one radio buy on one station" and great play was made of the fact that, at the time, Britain did not have a national commercial station or even a fully developed network of ILR stations which would attract large international advertisers.

However, Easter Sunday 1981 came and went without Radio Caroline returning to the airwaves - excuses about financial problems, technical problems and a lack of advertising were all put forward to explain the continued silence of the station.

Further planned dates for the return of Radio Caroline in August and November 1981 were rumoured but once again nothing happened on air although a lot was going on behind the scenes. Radio Caroline eventually found its new ship in 1981, the former Icelandic trawler Ross Revenge, which was fitted out in great secrecy in the small port of Solores, near Santander, northern Spain.

On the programming side during the summer of 1981 Vincent Monsey entered into an agreement with an American syndication company, Al Ham Productions, to provide programmes 24 hours a day under the call sign Radio Life, on a second transmitter from the new Caroline ship.

As part of the deal Al Ham arranged to purchase a 50Kw transmitter in Dallas for installation on the Ross Revenge. This transmitter, together with the others already acquired the previous summer by Radio Caroline engineer Peter Chicago, was despatched to Holland in August 1981, but on arrival they were confiscated by Dutch Customs authorities. It was a further three months before the Dutch authorities agreed to release the equipment and in December 1981 the transmitters were eventually transported in great secrecy from Holland to the Spanish port where the new Radio Caroline ship was being fitted out.

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Record Mirror

10th January 1981


21st November 1980

Pages from the rate-card issued by Major Market Radio on behalf of Radio Caroline in 1981                                         Click to enlarge

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