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volume 6
january 2004

A memorable Saturday: September 30, 1972

 





  The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (1)
by Hans Knot
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  Almost nobody heard the very short test transmission in the late evening of September 29, 1972, on 1187 kHz. The next day, however, instead of two offshore radio stations, Veronica and RNI, there suddenly were four stations transmitting from the High Seas: Radio Veronica on 538 metres, RNI 1 on 220 meters, RNI 2 on 192 meters, and next to that test transmissions with non-stop music on 257.2 meters continued, coming directly from the MV Mi Amigo. Indeed, Radio Caroline was back on the air and due to bring some impressive high energy radio over the ensuing years. Here Hans Knot tells us all there is to know about that illustrious Saturday, September 30, 1972.
 
1 Left: The MV Mi Amigo on the North Sea (photo: Bob Noakes)

A new frequency for Veronica. "Sensational" is the word I want to use, thinking back of that illustrious day at the end of September 1972. First of all, in the afternoon, Radio Veronica changed frequency. Interference problems with a high power transmitter in Beromünster, Switzerland, were the reason to switch the frequency to the other end of the medium wave-band. From 192 meters it went to 538, bringing a clearer signal to most parts of the Netherlands and the Eastern regions of Britain. A huge amount of money was spent by the Veronica organization, ran by the Verweij brothers, to achieve this. Throughout two weeks all the big daily newspapers in the Netherlands published daily advertisements in which prominent Dutchmen asked the readers to join Veronica to her new wavelength on September 30, 1972. The Veronica organisation had damaged its own reputation by a bomb attack on the radio ship of its competitor RNI. Now, it hoped to better its luck by reaching out to a larger audience.

  About 11.30 CET, on September 30, one could hear Veronica's deejay Tineke asking everyone for the last time to change frequency with Radio Veronica. After thanking the listeners for all their support, she said she hoped to see them all back in thirty minutes time at the other end of the medium waveband. The next thing to happen was the close-down of the 10 kW transmitter onboard the Veronica vessel MV "Norderney" by technician José van Groningen. Preparations on board had made it possible to change to 557 kHz in only thirty minutes time. But, just as many listeners were about to retune their radio sets to search for the new wavelength, a new sound was heard on the 192 meters. A strong signal came in just after the close-down of the Veronica transmitter. The voice of Tony Allan made itself heard, thanking Radio Veronica for all the many years of pleasure on the 192 meters and wishing every listener a warm welcome to the new sound of "RNI 2".
2 The return of Radio Caroline. Indeed, RNI was playing a joke on Radio Veronica. On board of the radio ship MEBO II, the technicians had retuned one of their two spare transmitters to the 192 meters. They used it to surprise the Veronica listeners with a temporary new station, meant to captivate them for the remainder of the day with the sounds of Radio North Sea International. The particular transmitter was once used for Radio 390. That same afternoon, however, more was happening on the beloved medium wave. On 1187 kHz a modulation test could be heard — this time coming from a transmitter on board of the MV Mi Amigo. After four-and-a-half years of silence, there was again music emanating from one of the former Radio Caroline ships. It was only non-stop music, but nevertheless it signalled the return of Radio Caroline.
  In March 1968, both Caroline vessels — the MV Fredericia and the MV Mi Amigo, had been taken into harbour by the tugs of the Wijsmuller Company due to the fact that this company owed a large sum of money from the Caroline organization for delivering supplies to the ships. Both vessels were taken to the Amsterdam Houthaven were they were locked up. Lying next to the Amsterdam Central station, both ships drew a lot of visitors, mostly Radio Caroline fans or Anoraks. It didn't take long before most of the equipment and tapes were stolen from the ships. Even former deejay Spangles Muldoon was seen there, in the company of former RNI technician Peter Chicago, taking away a lot of equipment. However, as things would turn out in the end, all of the latter could be found on the ship again in 1972 again! Clearly, already at that time, some people were planning for the future.
3 Right: Peter Chicago, taking some rest in Mi Amigo's mess-room

New owners. At that stage, it seemed as if the owners didn't want the ships anymore, so nobody here in Holland believed the many rumours that kept running over the next years that Radio Caroline would come back on the air again. Finally, at an auction in May 1972, both vessels were sold. The Fredericia was sold to the "NV Handels- en Ingenieursbureau" from Amsterdam which resold the ship to shipbroker Rinus van de Marel in Ouwerkerk aan de IJssel for the price of 20,000 Dutch Guilders. The ship remained at the broker's yard for many years and was finally broken up in early 1980. Only one part remained: many years later the ship's bell still could be found in the office of Rinus van de Marel in Ouwerkerk, where the final work on the Fredericia was done. Clearly Van de Marel became attached to the bell. When he moved to Africa, he took the thing with him. Just lately I did learn he came back to live in Holland and took the bell back. On the yard, nowadays, his son runs a maritime museum, hosting a large quantity of unique material collected by his father. However, I don't know if the bell is at display there.

Lucky enough, the Mi Amigo was not bought by a shipbroker. The ship was bought by two persons: Rob Vermaat and Gerard van Dam. Van Dam told journalists that he, as a true Anorak, would rebuild the MV Mi Amigo into an offshore museum. First, he said, the ship would be towed to Zaandam harbour for repairs. Only a week later Caroline fans in Holland and Great Britain got a nice letter in which Van Dam announced that it was possible to visit the ship, which would be transformed into a museum. Guests could also stay aboard for a few days to entertain themselves in the cabins of all the former stars. It would even be possible, the brochure declared, to produce their own Caroline show in the studios on the MV Mi Amigo. In an interview on VPRO Radio, Gerard van Dam even claimed that he had plans to tow the vessel to the British coast, because the British Anoraks loved the station even more than the Dutch.

4 A new anchorage. After the maintenance had taken place in Zaandam, the ship suddenly disappeared out of the harbour. About September 1, 1982, a tug from the Iskes Company from Zaandam towed the MV Mi Amigo into IJmuiden harbour. Finally, after passing the customs, the ship was anchored around 4 miles north of IJmuiden harbour. Nobody knew what would happen next. Even the captain of the tug, skipper Iskes, was in the dark. In a radio interview, he said that one of the crewmembers of the Mi Amigo had told him that the ship would lie at anchor to wait for a towing vessel. This tug was due to arrive in a few hours from an English harbour and would to tow the ship to the British coast. Iskes added, that he'd warned the people on the MV Mi Amigo that it was too dangerous to go out with such an unstable ship and that it would be a big danger for other ships during darkness. However, during the night of September 2/3, a tug arrived from Scheveningen harbour to tow the Mi Amigo to a new anchorage off the Scheveningen coast, half a mile away from both the MV Norderney and the MV MEBO II, the radio ships of Radio Veronica and Radio Northsea International.
  In his program "Skyline," Tony Allan, was the first to announce the arrival of the MV Mi Amigo. He did so, while telling a little white lie: "On the former Radio Caroline ship there are no transmitters at all." Addressing the Mi Amigo technician, he added: "Peter Chicago, you haven't got a hope. We're bigger than you are, we're better than you are and we've got more money than you have." But Allan clearly knew more than he was saying, because just a few weeks later he had left RNI and was himself on board of the Mi Amigo. The next day the arrival of the new radio ship was mentioned several times in the Radio Veronica news broadcasts and the next Sunday it was on the "NOS Journaal," the Dutch TV news service, which showed some shots taken from an airplane. The reporter told that the MV Mi Amigo had no security lights. This was reason enough for the Dutch navy to go out to the ship and ask the crew to put on their lights during the hours of darkness. When this didn't happen, the navy officer called for the assistance of the Dutch water police, who gave a penalty to the captain of the Mi Amigo for not having the security lights on.
5 Left: The MV Mi Amigo on the North Sea

A big hoax. By now the real plans of Vermaat en Van Dam became clear. The newspapers awoke to the possibility that Caroline could be returning to the airwaves, but still could not get the matter right. On September 4, 1972, the biggest newspaper of the Netherlands, the "Telegraaf" brought the news on the front page that the MV Mi Amigo now officially was the property of the "Bell Broadcasting Company." In the article a spokesman of this company announced that a new station, called Radio Caroline 73, would start broadcasting by the end of 1972 with two separate transmissions, one on 270 and the other on 259 meters medium wave. The power of the new transmitters would be 50 and 100 kW ERP. Reading this, many Anoraks in the Netherlands suddenly started having doubts. Was it really possible to use two such high-powered transmitters on both these wavelengths on just one ship? Impossible, the wavelengths were far too close to each other!

Rutger van den Berg, the newspaper added, was the name of the commercial director of Caroline 73. That was all the information given. A few days later, after some other newspapers had taken over the story, it all appeared to be a big hoax. The two people who were really behind the "Bell Broadcasting Company" stepped forward to tell the true story. Roel Koenders and Henk Meeuwis, two boys from Amsterdam who were dedicated radio freaks, confessed that they'd launched the misinformation to Telegraaf to have some fun at the paper, because this it so often forgot to check its information. Both boys, by the way, finally ended up in radio. Henk Meeuwis became a newsreader and deejay on the Dutch service of Radio Caroline in 1973 and Roel Koenders made his career as a producer at VARA radio in Hilversum and later worked as an announcer on VARA television.

6 No les than four offshore stations. The "Telegraaf" was slow to learn. On September 15, 1972, the newspaper again had a headline story on the front page and again it did get things wrong. The article stated that the MV Mi Amigo would not be used as a radio ship, but as a casino ship, a place where people could play all kind of gambling games that at that time were illegal in the Netherlands Holland — roulette, bingo etcetera. This time the joke was played by one of the biggest liars of the Dutch Radio scene, Anton Rabeljee, who had his own land based pirate station at the end of 1970 by the name of "RNI Groningen" for which Dutch GPO raided him twice. He phoned Bert Voorthuyzen, one time star reporter at the Telegraaf, and told him that he had worked for the offshore stations Radio Veronica as well as RNI. Now, he added, he was working for the new casino organization. With his own eyes, he had seen, so he told, that the transmitters were completely stripped of the ship in Zaandam harbour. Voorthuyzen later admitted he forgot to check the story — he should have called me, he confessed. Some five years later, Rabeljee, still living on allowances, would make the headlines again, but that is another story.
  Meanwhile a few people were giving somewhat better hints at what really was going on. Some days in September 1972 Spangles Muldoon, for instance, announced in his show that he was going to trade Radio Northsea International for another station in the same street. For the benefit of those who didn't understand him, he conveyed that they had to add 39 to 220 (259 meters). For all the free radio fans in Holland, Belgium and Great Britain, this was the first official sign that something would be happening soon on the 259 spot. Despite this early warning, almost nobody heard that very short test transmission in the late evening of September 29 on 1187 kHz. The next day, however, it all became clear. Instead of two offshore radio stations — Veronica and RNI — there suddenly were no less than four stations transmitting from the High Seas: Radio Veronica on 538 metres, RNI I on 220 meters, RNI 2 on 192 meters and, yes, test transmissions with non-stop music on the 257.2 meters, coming directly from the MV Mi Amigo. Radio Caroline was back and due to bring us gigantic high energy radio and album music over the ensuing years, and next to that, many happenings for all the free radio fans to enjoy.
   
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