The original published story about the creation of Radio Caroline was the work of David Block. He was employed by the public relations firm of Leslie Perrin and Associates, and Perrin was one of the biggest names in the UK, where he concentrated upon public relations for artists and companies connected to show business.
Perrin would not been commissioned by some fly-by-night operation, because Perrin had carefully built an international reputation so that in the UK he could represent the most famous names in show business.
Just after WWII, Leslie Perrin began building his music and club connections while working for Melody Maker, and when the original Musical Express was about to go out of business in 1952, a new owner stepped in and Perrin joined their new team of four news reporters. The New Musical Express became a trend setter in the UK, because it was the first music tabloid to copy the US Billboard publication and list the top selling records as well as the top sheet music sales.
Over the years Perrin's contacts allowed him to eventually launch his own public relations agency, and clearly someone with a master plan then contracted with Perrin to launch the quality image of Radio Caroline as a neo-clone of a pseudo-Marconi production. Back in 1922, it was Marconi that created radio station 2MT based in a village called Writtle, just outside of Chelmsford. That was before a BBC station ever went on the air, and thus 2MT became the first broadcasting station in the United Kingdom.
The decades went by and then in 1964 the opportunity was created to launch Radio Caroline as a commercial radio successor in interest to Marconi's 2MT. Behind the scenes was not Marconi, but Pye, and the Pye Plan was to use Radio Caroline as an audio battering-ram that would demonstrate a public daytime demand for UK commercial radio. The targeted audience were bored English wives who did not go to work and lived in the more affluent part of England.
However, Radio Caroline was to be a short-term project. It was intended as a means of swaying political votes for licensed land-based commercial radio by establishing a demand from its primarily female listeners looking after a house and raising young children. There was a very limited and narrow window of opportunity to make this happen. Allan Crawford's interests were woven into this Plan, but before Crawford could go on the air he had to get a radio ship, and the Texan owners of the ship that he wanted to lease, would not release it until another ship was used as a guinea pig to prove that the UK government would not seize the vessel.
So the mv Fredericia became Crawford's guinea pig. If this test was passed successfully, then Crawford's interests would be folded into the Pye Master Plan, although it was hoped that the operation would result in land-based licenses almost immediately. There were almost 200 radio stations in various stages of formation that were seeking licences.
A potential deadline was also in the offing. If the Labour Party won the next General Election, then all bets were off. They would not license sponsored commercial radio stations, and they had already made a political noise about rolling back the ITA television program contractors.
But the author of the Master Plan was Charles Orr Stanley who was working with his son John, and they controlled the Pye Group of companies which held existing government contracts in many areas. Stanley was secretly playing all sides against the middle, and for fear of losing his government contracts, he dare not let it be known that he was 'Mr Big' behind the Radio Caroline venture. Stanley did not have to use his own money, only his influence, because there were several wealthy vested interests who wanted to obtain commercial radio licenses.
However, to make Radio Caroline into a serious venture and not a buccaneering exploiter, it was necessary in the first stage to aim at a middle-of-the-road presentation for a daytime audience. No controversy, no politics, no religion. Herbert W. Armstrong who had previously contracted with the Voice of Slough / GBOK project, then turned to Allan Crawford and in 1962 Crawford agreed to take his programming. This is semi-noted in the Radio Atlanta Rate Card which accepted sponsored programming. It was not a part of the original Radio Caroline Rate Card. When Pye stepped in, Armstrong was pushed out.
Radio Caroline as a station was therefore cloaked in the wardrobe of the Establishment magazine 'Queen', and its initial presenters were drawn from the world of the theater. Being able to rub shoulders with the pop world just emerging with the Beatles, and Princess Margaret and her club trend-setters was also good camouflage. But the equipment to be used by Radio Caroline also had to represent the best that the broadcasting industry had to offer. Yet the name 'Pye' could not be stamped upon it.
Because this successor to British Marconi's achievement with 2MT could not use British equipment, Pye turned to the same sources in the USA that equipped the mv Mi Amigo. George Saunders remarked that it looked as if the equipment had been plucked from a catalog. Some of it was totally unnecessary for an offshore station, but necessary for a USA FCC licensed station.
However, with Crawford in the background, a Marconi employee was wheeled out to be 'sold' as the mastermind who put this new station together, and this former Marconi employee was draped in achievements that in reality were not his to claim. Another wrinkle was in the fact that Arthur Carrington's specialty was promoting the sale of Marconi television cameras. He was not a radio man.
Perrin assigned the PR contract to David Block, and a Radio Caroline booklet shouting the praise of Arthur Carrington, was the result - even though Carrington never showed his face or answered a single question at a Radio Caroline press conference. So it was that when Radio Caroline came on the scene it sported the very best in broadcasting equipment which everyone was told, had been installed by a Marconi employee whose prior achievements had been noted by all. Of course there was just one problem: That was not exactly the true story behind the creation of Radio Caroline.
But David Block's writing skills and his layout artist worked a charm with their booklet! Both the press and the public 'bought' the message that David Block had delivered, and to distract nosy reporters, a young; good looking gad-fly and gifted 'blatherer' named Ronan O'Rahilly, was hired to draw attention to redirect all of the unwanted questions to himself and his make-believe life..
In response, Ronan shoveled out story after made-up or exaggerated story about his quest to promote a blues singer named Georgie Fame, because all he ever wanted to do was to record Georgie Fame and get his record played on the air. Never mind that Georgie Fame was already doing well and EMI issued an LP featuring him, long before Radio Caroline ever came on the air. Never mind that the theme of Radio Caroline was an instrumental tune played on an organ by a U.S. jazz musician; or that the first record played in regular programming was by the Rolling Stones featuring a Buddy Holly song; or that test broadcasts had also featured the sound of Ray Charles.
However, while Radio Atlanta had indeed been put together in the USA by a dedicated, and very qualified team of professional broadcasters and engineers so that it only lacked a new mast and antenna before it could go on the air, the same was not true of Radio Caroline. It was built one step at a time, and the first step was buying a ship. The second step was installing transmitters and a studio. The final step was building a mast and attaching an antenna to it.
It was fine for David Block to create a image by claiming that Marconi's Arthur Carrington had created Radio Caroline, but in reality the work was performed in secrecy because not all of the people involved were qualified to build an entirely new radio station. Meanwhile Arthur Carrington who was this supposed engineering genius, was nowhere to be seen and photographed!
It now appears that the reason for 'puffing-up' the achievements of Arthur Carrington was in order that the entire venture would be interpreted as his work, and his work alone. Coincidental with this PR exercise, David Block had to steer clear of anything to do with the mv Mi Amigo and Radio Atlanta. That was a separate project by other people who just happened to use the same wharf to tie up to in Eire. David Block and Leslie Perrin did not represent them. They had their own public relations firm called Ed White and Associates.
Block made no mention of Thomas; Gilman or Spencer, yet we know that Spencer built the broadcasting mast on the Fredericia from which he hung the antenna that Gilman had designed. We also know that Thomas appears to be the main link to John Stanley of the Pye Group of companies, and that Thomas, Gilman and Spencer were all present at Greenore. But was Carrington ever there?
Here is what we do know for sure:
We know that Arthur Carrington had been employed by the Marconi Television Demonstration Unit, and that his achievements with regards to television camera promotion are well documented. We also know that he knew Alfred Nicholas Thomas as far back as 1950, and one year later on August 8, 1951, we can still place Carrington at Marconi promoting television cameras.
In 1955, Arthur Carrington was hired by Howard Thomas of ABC-TV to head up the engineering staff of the joint ABC-ATV Alpha television studios. (Howard and Arthur were not, as far as we know, related.) This new employment brought Carrington into the sphere of Charles Orr Stanley and his Pye Group of companies. After WWII, Stanley had been the driving force behind the introduction of both sponsored commercial television and radio stations in the United Kingdom, and Stanley was also connected to Howard Thomas via many contacts in the ITA franchised venture..
Now we have the team of Alfred Nicholas Thomas, who went to work with Gilman for Pye on projects relating to the promotion of licenses for sponsored radio broadcasting, and Thomas who had previously worked with Carrington. But to see where Carrington fits into the installation of equipment on board the mv Fredericia, we first have to turn back to Harry Spencer's account of events at Greenore.
Then we can read the account of Ove Sjöström about his clash with George Saunders - who claims to have sacked him due to poor work. But in reality, that remark about "poor work" may have been a totally unjust allegation, because Sjöström may have been acting in desperation as a result of the poor work initially carried out by unknown Irish workers at Greenore. They held a grudge against Harry Spencer, but no one knew this thanks to David Block. He falsely attributed the work to Arthur Carrington!
I originally planned to conclude this section today, but because the next part is a blog in itself, I will wrap up this true story behind the electrical installation dispute, tomorrow.
[This text was both expanded and amended after its first publication on line today in this blog.]