Most people associate pirate radio with Radio Caroline but in truth there were pirate radio stations all arouind the UK. Radio Scotland went on air on New Years Eve. Then Radio 270 intended to start broadcasting on 1st April off the Scarborough coast.
It is easy to think that the Radio 270 was put together on the cheap yet in truth this was a £40,000 venture. It involved local businessmen such as Wilf Proudfoot. Don Robinson was an entertainments promoter. Leonard Dale was the head of Dale electrics at Gristhorpe.
Bill Pashby, a Scarborough fisherman was involved with the company as Maritime Director. He picked out a vessel - a lugger from the Netherlands for £2500. It was 137 feet long and had a 240 horse power engine - it was built in 1939. The vessel came into Scarborough towed by a local trawler 'Courage' and was fitted out. The fish hold was converted into a communications room and living space for three DJ's and three tecnnicians. There was a distillation unit which could produce 200 gallons of fresh water daily from sea water. Twenty tons of ballast was added to help make the boat ride better at sea. The vessel was renamed Ocean 7 - an anglicized version of Oceaan VII.
In June 1966 the first record was played. It was the current number one - 'Strangers in the night' by Frank Sinatra. It followed the example of other pirate radio stations dishing up rock and roll records. It was presented in a hip and stylish way with slogans such as "Your swinging boat on the north east coast". It was tremendously successful reaching a potential 15 million listeners.
One of the senior DJ's was ironically called Roger Gale. The vessel took a real pounding in the North Sea. Deck hand D Murphy had experienced tropical storms in ten years in the Royal Navy yet he had never experienced anything like this. He had no intention of going back and was going to get a job elsewhere.
The storm in question ended up with three DJ's sending an ultimatum. That the ship should either move to the more sheltered Bridlington Bay or would set into harbour during a gale.
Perhaps the funniest moment happened when a DJ threw up on air whilst reading out an advert for Proudfoots bacon. During storms the DJ's had to revert to prerecorded tapes rather than live radio.
The vessel was perfectly safe though. It had a safety certificate and sea worthiness certificate. It was fitted with two lifeboats and plenty of lifebelts.
The station was successful though - Scarborough Council even advertised on Radio 270. They paid for 12 15 second adverts to annouce the events in the Festival of Norway. There was opposition from some aldermen (Alderman Smith) but the adverts made sense. Radio 270 reached a huge amount of people. The transmitters reached seventy percent of Scarboroughs tourist catchment area. Radio 270 had a reach of 100 miles and covered 15 million people. Clacton, Ramsgate, Southport, and the Isle of Man also used pirate radio for advertisements. Many took the view that it was up to the government to decide if this was a lawful station or not. The council also allowed the DJ's to use the Spa ballrooms for events such as a beauty contest organized by the station.
The station did get bad publicity though. Alan Rennard reported that the Scarborough Lifeboat had been hearing pop music on their radio frequencies. The station had always tried to keep on good terms with the RNLI broadcasting their charity days.
Bill Pashby resigned as Maritime Director. He had described a 26 foot coble boat to supply the station as 'junk'. He was also fed up with the continuous sackings of the crew. Captain Frank Graves, former harbour master at Whitby was brought in to provide help with maritime matters.
In 1967 the Government brought in legislation which effectively closed down all pirate radios stations. It was made illegal for all British citizens to supply or advertise with offshore radio stations. That was that. Radio 270 went on right till the legal deadline. Land of Hope and Glory was played and then the National anthem. Messages were read out from leonard Dale saying 'goodbye' to the listeners. He thanked the crew - in particular the skipper Olaf Hodgson and Mr Gordon Bailey who had been there since the start. Then the station went off air. The Marine Boardcasting (Offences) Act had come into force at midnight. Young Frankie Dalton set a course for Bridlington - where disconsulate listeners welcomed the Ocean 7 and spoke to the DJ's.
The pirate radio stations gave the people what they wanted. The rock and roll generation were ignored by the BBC. The Great British Broadcasting Corporation was serving up the same menu of tired light entertainment and classical music. If you liked Desert Island Discs then it was OK but modern pop music was completely ignored. Anyone trendy, stylish and hip was just not catered for.
When the BBC relented and set up Radio One it was virtually based upon the pirate radio model. Many radio Croline presenters found jobs such as Tony Blackburn. It was revolutionary. Pop music was played all day long. As soon as pirate radio closed down Radio One took over.
In another sense it took years for the BBC to catch up - pirate radio was local. It was 1983 before Radio York was set up. This covered the whole of North Yorkshire. Here local audiences are catered for with a studio in Scarborough - the Crescent. Yorkshire Coast Radio was set up in 1993 and that covered the coast from Flamborough Head up to Whitby. Its signal can be heard inland towards Malton. Origonally Yorkshire Coast radio was to be set up on an old trawler - the Hatherleigh. It was to double as a maritime Museum.
In 1989 a 30 foot mast from the ship was caught in Tommy Williamsons nets on his trawler "Success". This was It had been cut off during a storm by Bob Sabin (who went onto become deckhand on the Skarthi) at the time. Some of the stays on the mast had parted and so it was cut off entirely.
Criticism of Radio 270 was perhaps unjustified. This was a properly constituted company legally broadcasting from outside the UK. It was not interfering with anyone. They had an excellent technical director in Peter Duncan. He found a wavlength (269m) which had very little on it. There were a few companies broadcasting from this wavelength but in eastern Europe or the Meditteranean. Radio 270 was not powerful enough to interfere with these. It was not a nuisance but rather a valuable service to millions of people. In fact pirate radio as a whole had 25 million listeners in the UK. When it closed down the best presenters were grabbed by the BBC and continued in the same spirit transmitting popular music in a fresh and origonal way.
- Local topic file on Tv and Radio at Scarborough Public library
- Scarborough Evening News July 28th 1966
- Scarborough Evening News October 2nd 1966
- Scarborough Evening News 3rd May 1966
- Scarborough Evening News September 17th 1967
- Bob Preedy, 'Radio 270 : Life on the Ocean wave'
- Scarborough Evening News September 17th 1967