[Note: This version of an interview with Ove Sjöström can be found in its entirety at this location: http://www.bobleroi.co.uk/ScrapBook/CarolineRollCall/Ove%20Sj%F6st%F6m%20.pdf
When other sources are used for quotations by Ove Sjöström, they will also be cited.]
The reason for citing Ove Sjöström at this time, is due to the controversy that later erupted over the poor maintenance of the new transmitters on board the mv Caroline when it was anchored off the Isle of Man. While details of the equipping and outfitting of the mv Mi Amigo in all of its incarnations up to the time that it eventually dropped anchor in 1964 off Brightlingsea, Essex again (having originally anchored there in 1962 under the name Magda Maria; little if anything has been written and published about the equipping and outfitting of the mv Caroline, ex-Fredericia. As we have previously shown in detail, most of the earlier information was deliberately misleading and published in booklet form by a public relations company.
That company cited a person identified as Arthur Carrington, as the person responsible for all of the work on the mv Caroline to get it ready for broadcasting. But as we have already shown in detail, Arthur Carrington did not have the background for that kind of work. He was a specialist in television cameras, having previously worked for Marconi, and then ITA program contractors. Yet, as you will read, Ove Sjöström also cites the work of Arthur Carrington.
However, when we unravel this story thread back to its point of origin, the key person who emerges is Harry Spencer. On a date after December 30, 1963, which is when the mv Fredericia was towed from Denmark to Rotterdam by Wijsmuller; and possibly before January 8, 1964 when DFDS, its previous owner, sold the vessel as a ferry to the Panamanian company Astrenic S.A., and certainly before January 30, 1964, Harry Spencer was asked to attend a meeting on an unspecified date at the office and studio of Allan James Crawford, which was located at 47 Dean Street in London. [See our Timeline page via link above.]
It was at 47 Dean Street that Harry Spencer met Alfred Nicholas Thomas who was an expert in transmitter engineering. Thomas had spent a lifetime of work for the British Broadcasting Corporation on related projects, before his 1959 official retirement. He then went to work for the Pye Group of companies and became variously involved with VRON (Radio Veronica), and its English language station CNBC, and then GBOK which had emerged from a smaller project known as 'Voice of Slough'.
Alfred Nicholas Thomas was a colleague of John Howard Gilman. He was another long-time BBC expert with a knowledge of antennas. Gilman had also retired and begun work with Thomas on the GBOK project at Sheerness. That was a project involving Farrington; a company owned by the Pye Group.
The career paths of Thomas and Gilman involving Pye then brought them to the attention of Allan James Crawford and his first offshore radio station venture. It was to have been based upon the former Trinity House Vessel (THV) Satellite, and Crawford had a mortgage on the ship which was docked at the Isle of Wight, not far from where Harry Spencer had his own dockyard.
The other person that Harry Spencer met at 47 Dean Street was Captain De Jong Lanau. He was Superintendent of Wijsmuller Towing, and that company had both the mv Fredericia (Caroline), and mv Mi Amigo under contract. Accompanying De Jong at that meeting was Ronan O'Rahilly. Allan James Crawford said he first met Ronan O'Rahilly at the beginning of 1963, and in June 1963, Crawford sent him on a mission to see Bill Weaver in Houston, Texas.
The point of this recital is that De Jong of Wijsmuller was in charge of everything, and he then hired Harry Spencer - after Harry Spencer passed a bidding presentation for two jobs (Fredericia plus Mi Amigo), at Rotterdam. There are indications that Harry Spencer was accompanied by Alfred Nicholas Thomas when he went to El Ferrol, Spain to meet the arrival of the mv Mi Amigo. So that would give us a pecking order of De Jong; Spencer and Thomas, with each person being responsible for an area of expertise in one project involving two ships.
We know that John Howard Gilman brought in George Saunders, but Saunders then had to pass a final interview by Thomas at Greenore at which Gilman was also present.
We also know the Spencer erected the masts on the Fredericia; Mi Amigo; Comet (Radio Scotland) and Oceaan VII (Radio 270), and that all of them used antennas designed by John Howard Gilman. It is also important to note that never again after its initial use to fit the masts on Fredericia and Mi Amigo, would Greenore be used by another radio ship.
Nowhere in this line-up does the name of Arthur Carrington appear, and nor is there a need for anyone with specialist knowledge in television cameras. But there was another project shaping up next door to the home of Charles Orr Stanley of Pye, which not only was related to television and radio broadcasting, but had backstory connections to both Houston, Texas and London, England, although it was not a project relating to Radio Caroline.
This brings us back to Harry Spencer, because not only was he contracted to erect the masts and rig the antennas, but he was also responsible for all of the mechanical work. That is, aside from nautical jobs that had to be undertaken on both the mv Fredericia, and mv Mi Amigo. Since most of the non-nautical work being undertaken was on board the mv Fredericia (because the mv Mi Amigo was just lacking a new mast and antenna), then it is interesting to note who Harry Spencer contracted to do the physical non-nautical construction work.
The answer is Dundalk Engineering Works, and that is where part of the 'hidden' side of this story comes to light, and it also demands a more in-depth look at the entire history of ownership concerning all former property acthat belonged to the Dundalk-Newry-Greenore Railway at Greenore, Eire. It also requires a study of the personal and business relationship of Aodogán O'Rahilly to that property.
The reason is very clear: Harry Spencer was employing personnel from Dundalk Engineering Works. He was not employing personnel who were working on a personal basis for Aodogán O'Rahilly. How much Aodogán O'Rahilly actually knew about the project that Harry Spencer was working on is another matter, because Aodogán O'Rahilly did not live in Greenore. Both his company and his home were some distance away and close to Dublin.
In fact, there is evidence that points to the fact that Aodogán O'Rahilly had no real knowledge about what Harry Spencer was doing at Greenore, and his former ignorance may point to the reason why Harry Spencer went to see Aodogán O'Rahilly. If the reason behind Dundalk Engineering Works issuing their order for work stoppage on the mv Caroline had reached the ears of Aodogán O'Rahilly, he may well have demanded to Harry Spencer came to see him, with his son Ronan.
Ronan knew what was going on because he had been present at that big meeting at 47 Dean Street. But while Ronan O'Rahilly was a gad-fly whose main concern was his own personal well being, his father was of the old school and hated the English. At least those English people who were part of its Establishment propping up the British Crown which had subjugated Ireland for centuries. According to Harry Spencer, when he did get to meet Aodogán O'Rahilly, it was to meet a man who turned his back on him and asked his son to interpret Harry's reaction.
Now if Aodogán O'Rahilly hated the English that much, then clearly Harry's visit was no social call. It was instead, more likely to have been a demand by Aodogán O'Rahilly to know what was going on at his company property at Greenore. Clearly, Harry Spencer and Aodogán O'Rahilly were not on the same team working on one project together.
There are some other pointers to consider. Stories have come back about the mv Mi Amigo being moved away from the quay in dangerous conditions in order to allow another vessel to come and take its place. There is the 'incident' wherein the mv Mi Amigo appears to have left Greenore without work on the mast being properly completed, and this resulted in the ship having to put into port at Falmouth for emergency repairs to take place.
So how did this project end up at Greenore? The answer seems to point to Ronan O'Rahilly meeting Allan James Crawford at the beginning of 1963, and then Ronan O'Rahilly being sent by Allan James Crawford to Houston, Texas in June 1963. The purpose of that visit was to see Bill Weaver and persuade him and his boss Gordon McLendon, that their fears relating to the reapplication of the 'Hovering Acts' were null and void. According to the legal Opinion that Ronan took with him, a QC had determined that the British would not try to seize the ship if it began broadcasting to the UK.
However, not only had Weaver been in London in 1962, but his boss Gordon McLendon had been working on a television and radio project in Eire prior to 1960, and both of them were well aware of the 'Hovering Acts'. McLendon; Charles Michelson and Charles Orr Stanley of Pye had all been engaged in a bidding war trying to get approval for a radio station as part of a quid pro quo to build the Irish television service. So McLendon would sell, but not lease the Mi Amigo. McLendon wanted the buyer to take all responsibility for financial loss as the new owner, if the British government seized the radio ship.
Ronan O'Rahilly had failed in his mission for Allan James Crawford.
However, while he was in Houston, Ronan O'Rahilly met Captain De Jong Lanau, because Wijsmuller had extensive contacts with companies involved with the embyonic Texas offshore oil industry. The bottom line for Crawford was that advice brought back from Texas was that he would have to use another ship to prove that the coast was clear for the Mi Amigo to operate. Then a lease might be possible.
By bringing in Thomas and Gilman from GBOK, Crawford was also bringing Charles Orr Stanley of the Pye Group, who was their employer. This new proposal then resulted in the formulation of a new game plan which in turn expanded the group to include Jocelyn Stevens and a host of other people. All of them centered around Allan James Crawford who was already using Ronan O'Rahilly and it was the expanded group which then brought in Harry Spencer. He was already known to Crawford because of the ill-fated THV Satellite project.
Now this is where the story gets murky because so many people distorted the truth to the point of creating lies. One item that does surface is the admission by Crawford that he had already met Aodogán O'Rahilly at his home next door to Dublin, Eire. But why?
To Aodogán O'Rahilly, the Australian Allan James Crawford was not a hated Englishman, and while we know from Crawford that he did discuss business with O'Rahilly, it was not the kind of business that Crawford described. Crawford says that he was taken to Eire by Ronan, in order to meet his father as a potential investor in Crawford's radio station project. But Aodogán O'Rahilly was broke and looking for an investor in his own business! He was not a potential investor.
There is however, a more devious scenario.
Aodogán O'Rahilly was managing director of a building materials company called Weatherwell Ltd. This company had bought two adjacent properties as a result of two auctions. One was the abandoned Greenore Railway Hotel, and the other one was the abandoned Greenore railway station. Both properties adjoined each other and a quay from where a sea-base freight service had operated. But when that shipping service came to a halt at the end of 1951, the railway line also closed. The last time a passenger ferry service had operated from Greenore was back in 1940. When port activity ceased, Irish Customs withdrew its officers. The hotel tried to limp on after 1951 by catering to the adjoining golf club clientele, but in the end it also closed down.
Therefore if Allan James Crawford dangled a newly purchased former Danish ferry boat in front of Aodogán O'Rahilly as a means of restarting both passenger and freight services from Greenore, then it would not be too difficult to see him imagine that Eire Customs might restaff its empty hut which remained on the Greenore properties. Pye had several manufacturing companies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and it made the proposition worthy of consideration.
There was just one problem: no one was telling the real truth about anything!
First of all the only reason for talking to Aodogán O'Rahilly seems to have arisen out of necessity, because from what Harry Spencer has written, the mv Fredericia was going to be fitted with a mast near to his yard on the Isle of Wight. But Pye must have been tipped-off at the last minute that the possibility existed of another raid by the GPO. previously experienced such a raid by the GPO on GBOK which was being constructed on board a hulk that was tied up alongside their Faraday factory at Sheerness, Kent.
While the mv Mi Amigo only needed a new mast and antenna, the mv Fredericia required the installation of a studio, transmitters, and generators. This is where Dundalk Engineering Works enter the picture. Clearly that company did not know what the real purpose was behind the mv Fredericia. Harry Spencer wrote: "I needed extra staff for this work, about half a dozen in all including engineers, welders, burners, etc., which we got from Dundalk Engineering Works." That's a lot of extra "staff" for just one job. But that was not the only job.
This is where Ove Sjöström reenters our storyline. He said (quoting again from the same source listed above):
".... when I came up to Greenore owned by Ronan’s father, it is a little yard, an Englishman was already there and he had fitted the transmitters and started to build the studio and I saw that this job was huge."
From this description it might be wrongly assumed that he is referring to Alfred Nicholas Thomas, or even John Howard Gilman. But Ove Sjöström corrects this false conclusion when he stated that:
".... those that assembled the equipment on Caroline were Carrington. He had a company and worked earlier on the BBC and had helped BBC to get started with the first live broadcasts building studios and so on. A very capable bloke, but he had not any skills about measuring the antennas, not those parts and could not retune the transmitters to change frequency and all that."
But that is not just untrue, it is also nonsense. The 'Carrington' that Ove Sjöström is referring to is Arthur Carrington, whose name was first introduced by David Block of Leslie Perrin and Associates. That public relations firm produced the original booklet about Radio Caroline in which the mythology about Arthur Carrington was first introduced as fact.. [See our Blog entry for 7/5/2020 where this is explained in great detail.]
Carrington was ex-Marconi. He had specialized in heading sales teams promoting Marconi television cameras. He did not work for the BBC. In fact, he left Marconi to work on television studios shared by two ITA program franchisees.
Because we know who made those transmitters and the conditions under which they arrived for installation on the mv Fredericia, we can show that they were installed at Rotterdam, before the ship got to Greenore. From the time that the mv Fredericia left Denmark and was taken by Wijsmuller to Rotterdam, it remained there for 44 days before leaving port.
What was installed at Greenore was the generator to powers them, and for that work Dundalk Engineering Works were hired. When their employees discovered what the ship was actually going to do, they refused to work on it, and it took were some sort of religious blackmail by a Roman Catholic priest to make them return to work.
However, Ove Sjöström claimed that Arthur Carrington had already installed the transmitters on the ship by the time it reached Greenore: ".... he had fitted the transmitters and started to build the studio ...." But George Saunders noted that whoever had ordered and then installed the studio equipment seemed to have done so according to U.S. Federal Communication Commission mandates. Not only had someone bought duplicates of equipment installed on the mv Mi Amigo, but ordered and has they installed American equipment that would only be necessary if the station was trying to comply with American rules and regulations. But of course, the mv Fredericia was not attempting to provide a legally licensed service to the USA, but an unlicensed service to the UK.
Ove Sjöström made many claims about the involvement of Ronan O'Rahilly and his own terms of employment, but none of that information was true and it was first claimed years after the events concerned. But by inserting himself into the storyline, Ove Sjöström then made himself vulnerable to real events that did follow, and he got blamed for them. This is where George Saunders reenters the story, and that will be explained tomorrow.