One of the most famous names in the
world of offshore radio is Ronan O'Rahilly - the founder of Radio Caroline.
Offshore Echo's have met Ronan a number of times, and interviewed him. The first
time was at Flashback 67, held in London in 1977, when we asked how he felt
An interesting point I discovered when I
was dealing with politicians. One of them told me that one of the things they
were worried about with Radio Caroline was that if war is declared, that all
over Europe, the government can switch in to the radio stations and say:
"Go to your base", or whatever they're going to tell people. The only
station which will still be running will be Caroline.
It's seems that the problem with
politicians is that they are becoming very paranoid. They want to get their
hands on everything, on every means of communication. Even if they are in the
opposition, the politicians don't want to change anything as they always hope to
gain power and so control all the media.
But they are excited by stuff like
Radio Caroline., there's a kind of excitement. People are prepared to give, not
their money, but to give their "soul" to the cause, you understand ?
Absolutely I understand you completely.
I believe Caroline is worthwhile in the Seventies, because of the Loving
Awareness thing. The value of the station is based on the fact that by using it,
to stimulate the loving idea. A lot of people, believe it or not, more people
than you think, are into it. It's just a little fantasy in their brain, but if
you plant the seed, that's powerful. I mean it is brainwashing. The whole trip
is brainwashing. I mean we watch television, we go to school, the whole thing.
It's just who does the most brainwashing.
How did you arrive at the album
The point is we got into it, as an album
station. It's worthwhile as that, because there is no alternate like that, so
it's a worthwhile thing to do. There are lots of stations playing singles. It
seems to me, if you want that, listen to another station. We provide an
alternative concept. The trouble is, if you start playing singles before you
know where you are, the whole thing is singles again, because people are
influenced by other stations. The disc-jockeys are influenced when they
listen to other stations.
You have had a good team for two or
three years ?
It seems they care about the whole idea
of communicating with people. If it wasn't for what I've seen has happened from
the Loving Awareness effort we're all making, I mean it's like everybody in the
station is involved with that, either in a little bit... or not at all, there's
all different levels. There's people who don't believe at all in it. They say
it's not possible or it never happened before, or it couldn't possibly happen.
Now to accept that view, for me, is to accept that the planet is finished. So
I'm an optimist and being an optimist, I have to look to the only possibility
for the planet not being finished. And the only possibility for the planet not
being finished is to get into Loving Awareness. We call it Loving Awareness
because it is Loving... Awareness: The Love and the Awareness of other human
beings. That's Loving Awareness. Now if we don't get into that, and because we
have nuclear weapons, because the result of agression is nuclear, and because
nuclear wipes out the whole planet and everything living on ft, the idea of
continuing to handle nuclear weapons is crazy. We are generating an energy of
Love for humanity. That's our contribution, to get people into that idea. Right
? If that took off, then the people who became loving as the result of putting
the effort in, and getting into the habit of it, they would then take a decision
about nuclear weapons. In other words, they take the decision. It's
nothing to do with us. We are just a catalyst. We're like a transmitter... Well,
that's what we are. A transmitter. We're transmitting this idea. We hope people
will pick up on it.
In the 60's when the pirates were on
the air, there was a lot of people listening but they didn't stop the government
from bringing in the MOA.
That happens everywhere. Isn't that the
truth everywhere? In 1968 in France it almost nearly changed except that the
people supported it and that was it. People are into not changing. The majority
of people in any situation go for the status quo. I would have thought that
Veronica was the one station, when it was on the ship, it was the one station
that could have fought successfully the government. Had Veronica decided "we're
going to go on, not move at all, just stay in Hilversum. Everybody stay doing
the same thing". The next day I think they could have won it. They could
have beaten the government. They've lost the momentum. When the Act was passed,
the second day, if they had stayed, with the amount of feeling that was in
Holland (I was there at the time), it was
enormous! If they had stayed, the government daren't touch them the next day.
Like you did in '67 with Caroline ?
No, it wasn't the same situation. The
strength of feeling here and the strength of feeling in Holland were two totally
different things. If they had been, without moving, and not doing any
international offices or any of that - just staying in the sea, carry on
the next day without moving their office, nothing, Rob Out saying.. "we're
all here, this is where the building is and this is where we are going to be
tomorrow and you can arrest ALL of us... this is the address, the same address..."
they wouldn't have done it. I'm sure the government would have lost the battle
and I'm sure the government in Holland could fall because it is so marginal
there. The power of Veronica and the Dutch headtrip was incredibly strong. At
that moment... I was on one of the canals, in Amsterdam, listening to the last
hours.. People were walking around the streets absolutely in tears! These were
middle aged.. it wasn't like a whole lot of kids. That kind of thing. These are
grown, married, with children, walking, all in tears. So powerful.. you know, I
tried to ring up Bull Verwey, I tried to talking him into staying. The trouble
was, the real trouble was, and I think he would have done it except of the fact
his wife became very ill and everything at the same time. So he personally was
going through a lot of troubles. The trouble was that they had their moment.
There is only a moment. You don't get a second moment and if they came on now
and challenged they would be wiped out. They had that moment - the moment
when they could have stayed and, funnily enough, if they had stayed and
challenged the Act it would have been the only country in Europe to actually do
it. And then the axe would have fallen to pieces everywhere. It would have
opened up England and everywhere else. It was the one country that could have
Why have you kept the station going
for the past fifteen years ?
Well I can tell you, I think... I
believe very strongly in the individual. I believe in the freedom of the
individual. I mean there are so many arguments that I like to put my case for
the lack of control. I believe in the individual completely. I have complete
faith in the individual. I have no faith in the State, of any State. The State
is a power and the State is not an individual. The State is a secret group of
people who don't exist, and don't have responsability for what they do. And
nobody can really tell who they are. Because , is it the local police
chief who grabs hold of you in the street? Is it the politician who writes the
letter to the other department, which gets the policeman to go and grab you? Or
is it the Sergeant Major who says to the soldier: "Fire" ? I mean who
is the "THEY", because it's like a non‑entity. You can't call it
anything. It's the Loch Ness monster. Is it really there ? You think you see it,
and then it disappears. Here's an interesting point: Caroline's fifteen years,
two ships, hundreds of discjockeys, over fifteen years, they're now all over the
world, Canada, America, everywhere, they were always told by me: you have
complete freedom out there, everybody on the ship, they have complete freedom.
In that whole period, there wasn't one act of violence by one person on another,
and yet there was complete anarchy on the ship, total, total anarchy. Isn't that
interesting, as an experiment, I mean you talk about laboratories, look at it as
a laboratory, as a test laboratory out there
on the sea.
We spoke again to Ronan, in Paris
June 1989 and asked that after 25 years, what do you feel about Radio Caroline
I feel like it isn't 25 years to start
with. I feel like it was only yesterday. It doesn't feel like that amount of
time because it was so full of excitement and it is like that all the time
because you never quite know what is going to happen tomorrow, it's a battle a
day. So it's a lot of adrenalin, a lot of energy, a lot of positive stuff
happening all the time and I suppose if you said to me, what's the major
feelings? I think the major feeling is that you can do anything you want to do,
I really believe that. I suppose it's a difficult thing to quantify in the sense
of it's a difficult thing to say what does that mean. Again, getting to survive
against all that Government thing, all those years. It means that a lot of
people in government were supportive although they knew that they should look
the other way and an awful lot of that must have gone on. If the Government
decided tomorrow that they should go and battle for 24 hours a day to go and
stop Caroline. I mean I'd be prepared to battle and go for it and I have had
some very heavy battles, politically, very heavy battles. The biggest one was
with Larbour in 1970. I produced 5½ million posters. I fought in a 100 marginal
constituencies in the UK We had double decker buses all over, we had hundreds of
thousands of young people handing out leaflets. We had the station being jammed
by Wilson's mafia and all that was going on and we hung in there against an
onslaught. I mean it was a real battle. The first time Britain ever jammed a
radio station. During the war they didn't jam Lord Haw-Haw and Wilson was
jamming Caroline and it really got heavy and I had stories told to me by people
at M15 and M16 at that time that Wilson had plans to have me blown away! How
much is true and how much isn't true, you don't know but, we've gone through
some heavy scenes.
you have a lot of support when you had this trouble with the Government?
When the law came in on August 14, 1967
at midnight we had a big party in Caroline House, like the last party that day
before the end and there was one last tender going out from Harwich out to the
ship, the last tender on the last day when it was all legal, you know, legal to
be involved in England and all the jocks said yeah, we're going to be there.
Then about ten o clock in the morning all these disc-jockeys started to
say on‑air, that they were leaving. Guys who'd said in the previous weeks
that they were going to hang in, all started to resign on the morning of the
night. So I had to recruit new disc-jockeys very fast, literally at the
party we were having I was talking people into becoming disc‑jockeys at
the party and got their things and down on to the ship while the other guys were
leaving, it was that dramatic.
Do you think that someday you will be
recognized by the English government? Do you think that one day you will be
allowed to do what you want?
No. I don't. The extraordinary thing in
all that time, they have never once, whatever it is you call a government, they
have never once sort of said 'Let us talk about it', not once. So the answer to
that is no, I don't think so. It's about the freedom of the individual
against the system. I'm a believer in the individual against the system. The
spirit of the individual is what's important and not the system.
Why were you the first to think about
Why I was? My American mother! I don't
know. I suppose my background was that I was into a bit of adventure and I got
into rhythm and blues music and the whole music thing and that was quite wild
and there was a natural progression. It wasn't any kind of planned total thing.
One thing led, genuinely led to another. The Georgie Fame thing with, how do you
get him exposed to the public? You had to start a radio station to do it and
then you start the radio station and then there is an enormous impact. There are
now probably 200 record companies. If you talk to Chris Blackwell of Islands
Records, who's now famous all over the world, he will tell you this, Island
Records could not have happened without Radio Caroline, Virgin Richard Branson
will tell you the same thing. All those people got their thing because Caroline
gave them exposure. I would play Island Records because they were an independent
company and we tended to play small labels, the individual artists, that was our
If you had known what was the risk of adventure with Radio Caroline, would you have gone ahead?
Oh, absolutely! Without a question I
would not have deferred from it, I feel like I am the luckiest person on the
planet. I am very wild anyway and I was always. Every school I was ever in, they
said goodbye to me because I caused too much activity that was not to do with
school that was more to do with having a good time. I was very much someone who
believed in getting people to enjoy themselves, have some more fun. For somebody
who has a wild kind of streak in them, and who likes to live dangerously, I
couldn't have had a better life. I think it's just beginning too, so that's the
other side of me. It's been an adventure, it's been a battle and the one thing
that is going for it is that now there are probably two or three generations of
people who've come up on Caroline and who support us and all the bureaucracy. I
know all kinds of levels of British establishment and there are Caroline
supporters as there is a huge number of people who are with us and Caroline has
been an inspiration to them in the sense of that we have survived and we have
done the impossible. So everybody who thinks that they want to do something,
Caroline is something they can look to and say 'if they can do it against all
those odds and anything that you want to do it's got to be easier than Radio
Caroline' as there's an inspirational thing to that because lots of people have
told me that and they've been inspired by it.
1977 Francois Lhote & Richard Adaridi
1989 Isabelle Moeglin
1997 Chris Edwards & Robert Magniez
Transcripts by John Cronnolley