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volume 7
april 2004

Never ever accept any cheques


  The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (15)
by Leen Vingerling
  In the late 1970's a young guy from Naaldwijk did a lot of work for the Radio Delmare organisation. It was Leen Vingerling who not only figured as deejay Jan Olienoot but was often seen under dangerous circumstances supplying one of the former Delmare vessels. He even put a lot of his own money into the tendering to ensure that the station would continue its programs. In the 1980's, he helped tendering the MV Ross Revenge. And again his money was at stake.
1 Right: Leen Vingerling and Marjo (photo: Leen Vingerling)

A scatterbrained Person. Naaldwijk, The Netherlands, October 1984: "Leen, someone's on the phone for you from England and he sounds very strange." "A moment," I replied, "I'm on my way." I asked a colleague to take over my work. In those days I worked at my father's bookshop. I left my clients and went to answer the phone in the storage room. No one could listen in or even hear me there. "Leen, this is Mike," the voice came. "Hi Mike," I answered, only to hear: "Leen, eh, sorry ... I forgot why I rang you, but I will call back very soon." It wasn't the first time that day that Mike Person, the big chief of the Radio Caroline office, had rung me. It had started around midday and every time he rang he had lost his lines, next apologised and promised to ring me back. He did phone back, but this was already the sixth time.

  Why was Person so scatterbrained? Was there a crisis going on? It wouldn't surprise me at all. The Caroline organisation was overcome by huge financial problems. The money from the advertisers was often insufficient to buy even a loaf of bread. The last time that I had supplied the ship with fuel, the generators could run for only one more week. That week now had gone by, but Radio Caroline was still on the air. The ship's engineer Mike Barrington clearly had misjudged the reserves and fortunately "The Lady in Red" was still broadcasting. Had Barrington, "the hermit," miscalculated the remaining fuel on purpose?
2 Left: Leen Vingerling and skipper Danny o­n o­ne of the tenders (photo: Leen Vingerling)

That black stuff .... Very soon after Caroline's relaunch in August 1983, there were problems with raising funds and getting advertisers. In July 1984, on one of the tender trips to the Ross Revenge, a friend of mine paid for some fuel. The Caroline organisation had become a bottomless pit. Were its days numbered? All kinds of unanswered questions occupied my mind. I walked back from the storage room into the shop. The phone again rang several times that day, but these times there was no "incoherent" sounding personality from England. At six o'clock I locked the shop door and went home. Time to relax, to prepare dinner and to watch television. So I thought ...

  In the midst of our dinner the phone rang. We were having lasagne, one of my favourite meals. Which "idiot" was ringing us at this time in the evening, while we were enjoying our food and wine? Marjo, my other half, answered the phone and passed it on to me. Our friend from England, again ... This time Person sounded more down to earth. "Leen," he started, "could you bring another full load of that black stuff, you know, tomorrow?" I told Person that without any money I wasn't willing to go. Last time Danny the skipper and I had had to wait o­n the MV Ross Revenge for our money for half a day. Grant Benson had to come in a rubber dinghy to deliver the cash. We were lucky then, because the wind had started to pick up and we had already pumped the fuel. It had made us realise, that we couldn't rely o­n the word of "the office" anymore.
3 Right: Marjo with Mike Person (photo: Leen Vingerling)

An unpleasant situation. Person became desperate. I was the only one, he said, who could bring the fuel, and without "the black stuff" the transmissions would have to be aborted. O­n top of this, the weather looked good for the next day. A storm front with gusty winds was forecasted for later that week. The conversation took nearly an hour. In the end, Person personally guaranteed that there would be a cheque waiting for us o­n board. That cheque would be posited on the name of a company that belonged to his brother and himself. Poor old Mike, so it seemed, was putting his own money into Radio Caroline. I trusted him and said that "De Zeemeeuw" would leave the harbour of Nieuwpoort in Belgium the next day to sail to the MV Ross Revenge. Marjo wasn't that happy about the deal at all. "How do you know that the cheque will be covered?" My reply wavered out: "I trust him and if the worst comes to the worst I, I ..."

  The next day, the weather was very cold, but the sea was very calm. It seemed ideal weather for tendering. We arrived in the early hours of the morning. Radio Caroline was still on the air, but the fuel was running very low. Barrington smiled upon our arrival. He had indeed managed to give us the wrong figures about the fuel situation, but he hadn't done it on purpose. He always kept some fuel in case of an emergency. It had helped him in the past, but this time — if we hadn't brought our supplies — he really would have been forced to go off air. He was really happy to see us.
  The Zeemeeuw tied alongside the Ross Revenge and we started pumping the magic liquid. After the job was done it was time for some bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee. So far we hadn't yet received the promised cheque. There was a slight problem: Person had not yet arrived on a little tender from the UK. I lost my appetite immediately and Danny's face turned whiter by the minute. Under his breath, Danny muttered: "Bastards ... don't you dare not to pay us." The situation started to grew unpleasant and even more so. Again we had to wait for our money. Danny was fuming and decided that if Person didn't turn up he would cut the anchor chain. He was a professional diver and had all the necessary tools with him on his boat. He was serious about it and the Caroline staff believed him.
4 Left: The huge mast of the MV Ross Revenge

Action on the horizon. I had to act as an intermediary. Talking, chatting, and running to the galley to make some more coffee for Danny. We were now both standing in the wheelhouse of the Ross. We were o­nly disturbed by the noise of the generator. But that generator was running o­n "our" fuel. We felt betrayed, mislead and annoyed. I felt responsible for the whole situation. Why, for heaven's sake, had I trusted Person? Marjo's critical remarks about the cheque kept running through my mind. How foolish of me not to have listened to her. Did I have lost sight of reality?

  Suddenly we saw some action on the horizon. Was it Mike Person and his cheque, or an ordinary fisherman? It turned out to be Mike. He was the man who discovered Latin Quarter. Person and his brother were in the record industry. They had obviously more knowledge of records than of running Radio Caroline. With a thousand excuses he handed over the long awaited cheque. With a long trip back to Belgium ahead of us, we decided to leave. I felt relieved. I opened a bottle of Jupiter beer and saw the huge mast of the Ross growing smaller and smaller at the horizon.
  Back home in the Netherlands I went to my local bank. 'We will honour it for the moment," the employee at the counter said, "but we will have to check it with England." Within a couple of days the money was transferred. I immediately phoned Danny, because it was money that was due to him. We were all happy. I went to the bank again to get the cash and to deliver it to Belgium. Two weeks later, however, I received an envelope in the mail. The cheque was refused by the British bank. There was not enough money on the account. To make life even more miserable, the whole amount was deducted again from Marjo's account. As the result that she dived into the red! She was not amused at all. We had recently bought a house with a high mortgage. We couldn't survive on her income alone.
5 Right: The unaccepted cheque (photo: Leen Vingerling)

An important lesson. I felt betrayed and I was furious, so I rang Person. He assured me that there still was enough money on his account and that someone must have been making a mistake. He told me that I could go to the bank again and cash the cheque. A week passed by and there still was no money on my account. I asked the bank to keep me informed. Two days later they rang to tell me that the cheque was definitely not accepted by the UK bank. There was no money on the account of the company of Person's brother. I practised all my Dutch swearwords and went out for a walk.

  The fuel situation on the MV Ross Revenge became critical again. Suddenly I received a call from Kate Webb, Tom Anderson's girlfriend. She had resigned from her job at Marks and Spencer to work for the Radio Caroline office. Kate was an attractive blond girl with a certain talent for organising things in the office for the better. She asked me to supply fuel again. I explained the whole situation to her, I told her about the cheque and I said that I was only willing to go when they gave me my money first. By this time it was the end of November. "No problem, darling," she said. She booked an expensive business class flight from London. Within a day, she arrived at Schiphol Airport, where I picked her up. I drove her down to my place and next, out of her handbag, came plenty of colourful Dutch banknotes. That was very thoughtful of her. She had already changed the money. Later, it turned out that Fred Bolland had paid a deposit in cash to Ronan O'Rahilly to start up Radio Monique. Whoever paid for it, I got my money back. Moreover, I had learnt an important lesson in life: never ever accept any cheques.
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