Having met Ronan O’Rahilly, the charismatic Irishman behind the formation of Britain’s first pirate station (and everything that followed) at least once when still the cub reporter on the Gravesend Kent Messenger, my devotion to the ships and forts proved to give me a small USP when in May 1967 I joined Disc & Music Echo – then the No.3 in quite a long list of pop weeklies, after New Musical Express and Melody Maker. Apart from the joys of working with Penny Valentine, in Fleet Street, rubbing shoulders with tabloid legends like Don Short, Mike Housego and Bob (the guy on the Sun, whose surname has momentarily vanished!), editor Ray Coleman recognised that none of the rivals was paying much attention to the pirates, whereas I had visited Caroline a couple of times, circled the forts and still have a bunch of letters from many of the disc jockeys.
So when, in June 1967, the folk from Chesterfield Gardens (Caroline’s Mayfair HQ) told me about the great man’s latest plan, Caroline TV, we gave it a major page 3 splash (Exclusive by…!!). If the photos from my bound copies of the paper are illegible and if anyone is sufficiently interested, I can transcribe them, but the “facts” column says it all really. Broadcasting from two airplanes using technology already tested on US troops in Vietnam, three crews, colour UHF transmissions to be available to 75% of the nation, each aircraft housing a studios for live interviews (did I think that through carefully enough??!!), no adjustments needed to your TV set, and the planes will fly “elliptically at 25,000 feet at least three miles off the coast”
There’s Ronan with the liveried plane; I was a believer; it was June not April.
Was it a hoax? Did I ever mention it again?
It would have been fun though – pop TV all day!