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Liverpool Daily Post

27th March 1989

Caroline 558 daily opening announcement

558 daily opening announcement.mp3

Close of Viewpoint and start of Caroline Overdrive

close of Viewpoint 963 , start of Overdrive.mp3

Announcing the suspension of Caroline 558 daytine service, July 1988

announcing suspension of 558 8.7.88.mp3

Top Deck Travel

commercial Top Deck Travel.mp3

Radio Caroline 1980s - History (8)

Caroline's technical staff  thought they had found the answer to reintroducing a second medium wave service using a revolutionary new carbon fibre mast from Canada, known as a 'Valcon' aerial - claimed by its manufacturers to produce a suitable medium wave signal from a much shorter length of mast than a conventional arrangement and therefore it did not need to be guyed.

The new 135' (41m) Valcon mast was finally installed on the Ross Revenge in mid-May 1988. However, almost as soon as it had been erected the mast cracked at its base and it proved necessary, after all, to attach guy wires to hold it in place.

The new aerial mast (and a new generator) on the Ross Revenge was in preparation for the launch of a Dutch language service on 819kHz. In readiness for this new service some Dutch DJs arrived on board the Ross Revenge during April 1988 and presented a few live programmes, in English, on Caroline 558.

From late May 1988 Caroline 558 programmes were simulcast on 819kHz as test transmissions for the new Dutch station - Radio 819. On 30th May 1988 the separate Dutch language service began on 819kHz, but the following morning it ended abruptly when the carbon fibre Valcon mast melted, and split in half. Attempts were made to rig up a temporary system using a 'sausage aerial' strung from the remaining half of the Valcon mast to the 558 aerial mast, but this caught fire within minutes of the transmitter being switched on.

A number of lattice-work mast sections were acquired and, in a series of clandestine tendering trips, were transported to the Ross Revenge. However there were numerous delays in starting construction work, much to the annoyance of the Dutch who, having hired the airtime and technical facilities on board the Ross Revenge, wanted to put their programmes back on the air quickly. Equally from Caroline's point of view the delay was frustrating because it was vital to have the Dutch station broadcasting as the hire of airtime and associated tendering arrangements were financially lucrative to the organisation.

This double pressure led to a dramatic change of schedules on 9th July 1988 when Caroline 558 gave up its frequency during the daytime to the Dutch language station, which now broadcast using the call sign Radio 558.

This arrangement continued until 22nd October 1988 when tuning tones were again heard on 819kHz. When Radio 558 came on the air later that day the programmes were relayed in parallel on both 558 kHz and 819kHz and an announcement was made that, after three months on its temporary frequency, Radio 558 had now become Radio 819 once again. Radio 558 programmes continued to be broadcast on both frequencies until midday on 5th November 1988 when Radio Caroline was able to resume 24 hour programming on 558kHz.


The Caroline Overnight alternative service was reintroduced on 819kHz in January 1989, but during February the station (along with Radio 819), was off the air for various periods while a team of specialist riggers constructed new aerial masts on board the Ross Revenge.

Radio Caroline celebrated its 25th Birthday over the Easter weekend of 1989 with a Top 1001 countdown broadcast throughout the weekend using both frequencies.

On Easter Sunday, 26th March a group of over 500 Caroline supporters took part in a trip organised by the Caroline Movement on the Olau Britannia ferry between Britain and Holland, sailing close to the Ross Revenge on the outward and return journeys. Radio Caroline's founder, Ronan O'Rahilly, joined the supporters on the voyage.

DJs on the Ross Revenge had planned to speak to fans on the ferry from the deck of the radio ship as she passed by on the return journey. Unfortunately, this had to be abandoned because foggy conditions meant that the Olau vessel could not sail as close to the Ross Revenge as had been hoped.

From early July 1989 DJs and crew on board the Ross Revenge began to suspect that the radio ship was under surveillance by the authorities once again. Although nothing was said over the air on either Radio Caroline or Radio 819 the Ross Revenge crew monitored a small patrol boat anchoring near the radio ship for periods of three or four days at a time throughout July and early August.

On one occasion when a Dutch fuel tender did arrive at the Ross Revenge and tied up to transfer its cargo two British police boats together with a DTI vessel drew alongside and warned the crew of the Dutch ship that they were breaking international law. Meanwhile officials on board the police and DTI launches photographed and videoed the radio ship and anybody who appeared on deck.

Further filming of activities on board the Ross Revenge took place during the following weeks from a light aircraft and a helicopter, which hovered low and close to the radio ship in an attempt to obtain shots of the on-air DJ through the Radio Caroline studio porthole. A French Navy patrol vessel also continued to pay the radio ship regular visits, but throughout all of these events DJs said nothing on air to indicate to listeners that they were experiencing problems from the authorities.

The ill-fated carbon fibre ‘Valcon’ mast on the deck of the Ross Revenge

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