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volume 7
july 2004

In memory of Tony Allan (1949-2004)


by Hans Knot
  Anthony J. Smith, better known as Tony Allan, worked as a deejay for offshore stations as Radio Scotland, Radio Northsea International, the Voice of Peace, Radio Seagull and Radio Caroline. For some years now he had been suffering from throat cancer and he died on July, 9, 2004 at the age of 54. Hans Knot wrote this obituary.
1 Left: Tony Allan in the Maidstone Studio (August 19, 2001)

Sad news came in that Tony Allan died on July 9th at 11.15 at the age of 54. At the end of June, I got the information that Tony was taken to an hospital, the Marie Currie Hospice in Hampstead. Taking care for Tony at his own house was impossible at that stage. It was already known for three years that Tony had throat cancer. At first it was expected he should die early 2002, but his strong character kept him living for a much longer period than expected. In the early hours of the morning Tony got into coma and died in peace. During the last hours his brother and his friend Elija van den Berg were with him. Elija took care of Tony for the past three difficult years. Both met up for the first time when Tony Allan worked as a deejay for Caroline in 1973 and Elija worked on the Caroline office in The Hague.

2 For those who did not know Tony Allan: he was a very professional presenter with a very wide experience in music, production and voice over work. For those who worked with him since 1967 Tony was not always the same guy as he sounded on the radio. He could be very hard to his colleagues and crewmembers on the offshore radio ships he worked on over the years. There are many stories about his misbehaving. I had the honour meeting up with him for the first time in 1972 and since then met him several times. Luckily, I never had the bad experiences with Tony where other talked a lot about. He always lended a willing ear and seemed to have a good nature. Together we shared a lot of memories. He started his career at the age of 17 on board the MV Comet of Radio Scotland. He tried to get onboard the MV Mi Amigo in 1967, after the Marine Offences Act became law. The Caroline director however thought it wouldn't be such a good idea to put such a young lad for a longer period on a ship in international waters. So Allan had to wait until 1971 before he could restart his career as a marine broadcaster on board the MEBO II, the radio ship of Radio Northsea International.
3 Maybe the most legendary programme I do remember was on September, 30, 1972, when Tony Allan officially opened RNI2, a radio station which was only on the air for two days. Radio Veronica, the Dutch offshore station, changed frequency to 538 metres and as soon as the old "192" transmitter of Radio Veronica left the air, an other strong signal came on 192. It was RNI-2, a toy station from Radio Northsea International, only with the aim to introduce themselves to the Veronica listeners and hopefully to win them over for RNI in the then future. In partly perfect Dutch Tony presented with full joy this opening. After his RNI days Tony went to The VOP, the Peace station of Abe Nathan. Together with a team of technicians there was a period of long and hard working in New York, where the MV Cito of the VOP was technically installed. Then came the trip to Europe and hard times in Spain and France. It took months before the station finally came on the air off the Israeli coast and again Tony Allan did open this station. He stayed a long time on the ship, even returned in 1976 after working on both Radio Seagull and Caroline in Europe.
4 When I did research for my book on The Voice of Peace some thirteen years ago, I interviewed a lot of former people who had worked for the Voice of Peace and almost every time people started talking very enthusiastically about the way Tony Allan could bring his experience to them. He was a very creative person, not only for the listeners but also ready to share it with his colleagues. Back in Europe on the MV Mi Amigo, he even presented a lot of programmes in his romantic Dutch when there were no tapes on sister stations like Radio Atlantis and Radio Mi Amigo. For Tony Allan non stop music was taboo. During the 1980's Allan worked on Scottish Television and a few Irish commercial radio stations like Radio Nova, Sunshine Radio and South Coast Radio. With his beautiful voice he could be heard at the same time on Irish Public Radio RTE as a voice over.
5 During the 1990's he could be heard again for one day during the 1995 RSL in London harbour. The Ross Revenge was anchored in the Docklands and when I did enter the ship to do my own programme one day, I saw Allan for the very first time since years. He was in a very bad mood as the then programme director Johnny Reece just had told him to leave the ship and never to show up again. He had lost his temper on the radio ship after making a programme and sour comments on younger deejays. It would take years before he was invited again to do programmes on the satellite version of Radio Caroline. A pity his voice was already in a bad condition but still his experience could be heard in the way he was presenting and making his own musical choice. After it became known that Tony Allan was suffering from cancer, I had the luck to meet him once again in November 2002. It was a surprise party as I would met Robin Banks on Piccadilly Circus at two o'clock at a Saturday afternoon for a drink. He was stocked in the traffic and without notice suddenly Tony Allan tagged me on the shoulder. What followed was again an afternoon filled with joy, cigarettes, a good beer and many memories. Memories shared with him will remain for always in my mind. May he rest in peace.
6 An obituary was sent in by Andy Archer: "Of all of the people I met and worked with during my "pirate" radio years, Tony Allan was the most extraordinary. He was charming, erudite — and wickedly witty. Like many talented people — and Tony was very talented — he could have his temperamental moments and throw the odd "wobbly." These were largely as a result of his own professionalism which would not allow him to suffer amateurs gladly. For reasons that have always eluded me, he did not class me in that category, and we never ended up kicking the shit out of each other. It is well known that Tony did not know the meaning of the word "abstemious," and it was during a shore leave from Radio Caroline that he and Graeme Gill visited me at a well-known hotel in Amsterdam. I had been given a room with a very large private bar, stocked with every drink imaginable. During the course of what should have been a highly memorable evening — I wish I could remember it — we drank late into the night. It was only when I woke in the morning — late — that I realised the impact we had made on the stock of brandy, whisky, vodka, gin etc. As the remaining contents of the bar were due to be measured, and the amount missing added to my bill, I had no choice but to top the bottles back up again ... the vodka and gin from the bathroom tap ... and the other spirits with various strengths of diluted coffee and tea. When I told Tony afterwards, his only reaction was: "Thank fuck, I wasn't the next guest in that room!" Sadly Tony and I lost touch for the better part of 20 years but, thanks to our mutual friend Elija van den Berg, we recently met up again and remained in close contact for the last couple of months of his life. We three spent a joyous afternoon together in London which, despite his frailty, was an event marked not by sadness but by laughter. Lots and lots of it."
7 The next one came in from Robb Eden, who also worked together with Tony Allan on both RNI and Radio Caroline: "I'm sure that you will have heard that Tony Allan passed away this morning. We arrived at the hospice a half hour too late. He looked very serene and peaceful. Tony and I have been working on a compilation of unsigned music. Tony has written the sleeve notes. The first pressings will be ready in about three weeks. Profits will go to the Marie Curie Cancer hospice where he was being cared for. I have also interviewed him about his life. When this has been transcribed it will be available for all to see at jacobsladder.org.uk."
8 From Israël, there arrived an e-mail written by media watcher Mike Brand: "It was of course with deep sadness I heard of the death of Tony Allan this evening. What more can be said that already has been said. I had the privilege of listening to Tony on RNI, Caroline and the Voice Of Peace. Thinking that when I came to Israel in 1976, listening to good radio was over, I was gladly surprised to listen to the voices of Tony Allan and Crispian St. John (Howard Rose) once again, through the airwaves of the VOP. Peace was always in the mind of Tony, and radio today has lost a very special person. Tony is the third VOP — amongst other stations of course — presenter to pass away in recent years, the other two being Howard Rose and Kenny Page. Radio Heaven International has a pretty impressive line up at this moment ..."
9 From Canada Ben Healy, another old colleague of Tony Allan in the 1960's days, writes: "Tony and I worked together on Radio Scotland and it was with great sadness that I heard about his passing. He phoned in last July to City Beat in Belfast when I was a guest on the Kenny Tosh show. I will treasure the cd of the show as Jimmy Mack also phoned in to talk to me on the same show — Jimmy sadly passed away last Saturda. Many times he thanked Mel Howard, John Kerr and me for helping hone is craft. He was a consummate professional and I for one will remember him with much fondness."
10 Dave Burke, an avid fan of Radio Scotland, wrote to say: "How sad, if not entirely unexpected, to hear of the death of Tony Allan. For me he was really one the THE voices of the offshore pirate era. Growing up in Glasgow and being a big fan of Radio Scotland, I thought his unique voice and stylish mode of presentation was one of the most important factors in establishing the station's identity and popularity. And who can forget his valued contribution to one of the greatest offshore stations of all time — RNI. He will be sadly missed."
11 Another former colleague from RNI days is Hans ten Hooge — Hans Hoogendoorn. He wrote the next lines: "It's a very strange feeling. I think it's almost thirty years ago I met Tony Allan for the last time but the message of his passing bring me sadness. I think because he was the "personality cult" for those living on board the MEBO II. During my first week on the radio ship, way back in 1971, he was my personal mentor. With a lot of patience he taught me a few skills or, it's better to say, he brought me trust and a bit of self-confidence on the ship. He was younger than me but had a kind of natural authority. This sometimes threw him in a whim of aggressive behaviour. I'm lucky I've never been in the frontline at those moments. I shall always think with dignity to the times with Anthony Allan."
12 From Ireland Steve Marshall sent in his memories: "Sad to hear about Tony Allan's passing, I'd like to add my own tribute Tony was one of the finest broadcasters ever, a one-off, in an age where the word Legend is over used. Legend really applied to Tony. Great as a Jock Newsreader Voice man, and in production there was no-one who could touch him! There was very little that Tony couldn't turn his hand to in radio. As someone who knew him as a workmate and dear friend over twenty years, I miss him terribly. Tony was an inspiration to us all. There will be many people in and out of the business who will fondly remember him. Tony was a talent that only comes once in a lifetime, and that talent was plain for everyone who heard and met him. Tony said recently that if he got people to learn something about cancer, he had done one good thing in his life. He did many great things in his life as a broadcaster and a person. Tony gave his all to broadcasting and lived life to the full, and anyone who knew him would say he had a well developed sense of fun."
  "A consummate professional, Tony Allan never forgot that someone gave him his first gig on Radio Scotland back in the 1960's. Tony always gave advice on radio and life in general freely. I remember working with him on a number of stations in Ireland, he was always fun and such a professional broadcaster. As a friend there was no one better than Tony: he would do anything for you as a friend, and in an industry where fair-weather friends abound, with Tony once he was your friend, he was a friend for life. I remember when he came to Galway in Ireland to help us with Coast 103, he disappeared up to the staff house in the afternoon. I got a call at the station at 6.00 pm saying: "Marshall be here for 6.30 with everyone else, it's veggie curry for supper." That was typical of Tony to put others above himself, and he was a wonderful cook too! And he did some great commercials and programmes for the station whilst he was there! And outside radio, Tony always remained a dear friend through good times and bad."
  "Even now I expect him to call and say: "Hello love, it's Tony, how are you, what you been up to?" And I'm smiling of the memory of a dear friend who passed away. We met a couple of years ago in London, and ended up in a pub near his home, Tony was his same old self, asking after everyone, and wanting to know the latest gossip. A day filled with fun and laughter I'm sure others elsewhere will list his long and varied radio career. I'll remember Tony as a great workmate, and a marvellous friend. Rest in Peace, Tony. You gave a lot to radio and some great memories to the people whose lives you touched with your kindness and love."
13 Marc Jacobs, who worked for offshore stations Radio Mi Amigo and Radio Caroline also reflected his thoughts: "Many years have gone by since I spoke to Tony Allan for the last time, but when reading the sad news of his passing away it is getting me a bit sad. I never had problems with Tony and there are a lot of memories concerning him, of which the most are very positive. Thanks to him I acquired the nickname "Marcyparcy," as he always called me on the air. He had a lot of energy in him. During many nights he could be found in the production room making jingles, really beautiful peaces of art. He had also the gift to bring emotions with his voice to other people. With his own emotions he was at his wit's end. He drank, far too much sometimes. The next thing was that he locked himself up in his cabin and stayed there for days. Nobody dared to go to his cabin in such moments. Except for me, and I brought him in those days food and drink and all I found was a pathetic little man. I was always very pitied with him, but at the same time I did admire him as being the radioman Tony Allan."
14 Rob Chapman, who made his broadcasting experience on stations including BBC local Radio in Northampton and Bristol and contributed material to programs on BBC Radios One and Four and is author of Selling the sixties. The pirates and pop music radio wrote in too: "On hearing of the sad death of Tony Allan, I would just like to add my tribute. He was without a doubt the most erudite, musically eclectic and mischievous soul ever to grace the pirate airwaves. I have many fond memories of his time on Caroline. His mere presence on the ship seemed to audibly lift the spirits and the general vibe of the station. I have a large stack of recordings of Tony on Caroline/Seagull from the 1970's so I shall always have that voice to listen to. God rest his soul."
15 Ger Kruidenier from Rotterdam has re-found interest in radio since a couple of months and after reading the sad news responded with: "What a sad message that Tony Allan isn't anymore with us. It really shocked me when reading. I always thought he was one of the better deejays. It's good that I have enough tapes to relisten his programmes. The "Mi Amigo and Caroline in an ocean of love" jingles were master pieces produced by Tony. During the years I sometimes pondered where he and others had gone. Had they stopped working in radio or would they still be working for a local radio station? It's really very sad now to hear he passed away."
16 From Rene Burcksen in Montgomery, Maryland USA, comes the next memory: "I was sorry to hear about Tony Allan. I too have fond memories and remember for example another start up of Radio Caroline in the late 1970's which were presented by Tony. How excited and thrilled he was being able to present this program which started another episode in the Caroline saga and the start of Dutch programming on this station during the day. I am happy to have been able to listen to such a talented deejay."
17 From Whitstable in Kent Bob LeRoi wrote in: "I first met Tony Allan in the early 1970's and like most managed to rock and roll with his tempestuous personality. Tony was though without doubt a natural gifted talent, having learnt his trade from the earliest days of Radio Scotland. Developing a style of his own, he captivated his audience with the simplest, and sometimes most personal of links. He had a passion for the music he played and very much enjoyed sharing it. Timing is everything, and Tony was there in 1972 pitching it just right. Everyone was waiting and hoping for the moment, when Tony's voice cut through with the words: "We're back, this is us." That short statement was to forever make him synonymous with Caroline and the offshore movement. Stories galore abound about his times in Ireland, and he'd be the first to admit he liked a drink. But it's with much respect and admiration that we saw Tony mellow, and with advancing illness go to great pains to make peace with old friends. I've fond memories of lively discussions with Tony on many subjects; he'd an opinion on everything. Yes, Tony was passionate about radio but he also appreciated art, was an active ornithologist, champion of minorities, and truly supported the underdog. Tony Allan — He'll be remembered with affection as a real character and for the many happy times that he helped create."
18 From Don Stevens comes the next one: "I did not know Tony passed on ... he was a man I worked with many times, and he caused me no end of problems with business partners in Israel, especially with Schmuel Hoogy and the mafia who ran the Karish NightClub in Ramla back in 1978, but he was a unique person and he was always willing to help out no matter what the circumstances of the last meeting. He worked with me years later in Ireland in 1982, he even worked for me as Head of News both at South Coast Radio and Atlantic Sound Galway. He supported Keith York and me when we launched WLS Galway and was Head of our News and Presentation, and I believe he helped Keith out again after I left Galway in 1987, he was great."
  "Thanks to Tony Allan, I was Breakfast relief at Radio Nova in Summer 1985, a real treat for me as I had always enjoyed the style and attitude of Nova and its founder Chris Carey, a man who never lets folk down and is rarely appreciated for his sincerity. I did enjoy driving my car through a bunch of striking NUJ thugs at Nova Park who wanted to close the station down, and once we broke the barrier the rest of the crew got through. Chris really appreciated that, and Tony, Keith and I celebrated well that night, rejoicing in the good fortune we had our chance to do a favour for Chris. Great times and fond memories of radio's greatest lost talent. He should have been the greatest broadcaster of the late Twentieth Century in terms of wealth and position, instead, we are all fortunate that he was our greatest broadcaster in the free radio world, and he was our friend."
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