London Pirates

Radio Jackie

Radio Jackie was one of the pioneers of landbased pirate radio in London, only preceded by Radio Free London. Radio Jackie commenced broadcasts from South West London in 1969 and continued until the early eighties. Radio Jackie was the longest surviving, and most well known of London's Medium Wave stations. They were the most consistent station and probably broadcast more hours than any other land-based pirate. There was an attempt to obtain a broadcast license from the IBA and unfortunately this compromised the programme formats for the final months of their transmissions.

Radio Jackie was one of the most "raided" stations in London, lost a large number of transmitters, and most of it's staff appeared in court and were prosecuted under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949.

The owner of the station and the driving force behind it was Nick Catford (DJ Mike Knight). Also well known on site (and to the DTI) was Brian Horne aka Abie Cohen, he was the most inventive when in court and regularly reduced the magistrate to tears of laughter with his unlikely reasons for being in close proximity to an illegal transmitter. On one occasion he explained that he was in the vicinity of Beddington sewerage works to collect daphnia for his OAP neighbours goldfish, the neighbour was duly called as a witness (Brian paid him £10 outside the court). When asked why he had a VSWR meter on the dashboard of his car, he said that it was to tune the engine. Brian was also responsible for setting up the London Transmitter of Independent Radio (LTIR), this broadcast a different station every night of the week on VHF. FM broadcasting was somewhat new to pirates, previously only using AM. Brian became a respectable radio amateur G4NLB, sadly Brian died in 2017. Mike Knight now works on the revived Radio Jackie on 107.8MHz for the Kingston area, the format these days better reflects the original station and makes a refreshing change from most of the local commercial stations in the UK.


Brian Horne

Another key person on site was engineer Mike Barrington, in addition to running his own station Radio Free Atlantis, he was the first person to successfully prosecute the DTI (namely Eric Gotts) for assault. He went on to work for several years as a radio engineer for the offshore Radio Caroline, and most recently is the Chief Engineer of Roughs Tower. Roughs is unique among offshore ex-military forts, in that it lays outside of British territorial waters and is technically an independent island, known as the Principality of Sealand

Key DTI personnel at this time were Jim Crow,Victor Frisby, Eric Gotts, Brian Holder, Brian Williams and Stanley Smith. Jim was known for his leniency in dealing with pirates, and turned a blind eye on many occasions. When he raided the station Swinging Radio England in Shepperton he ignored the glowing valves of the medium wave transmitter and concentrated on a defunct ex-army No.19 Set which he agreed could not transmit. Gotts and Holder in particular were fond of their work and took almost sadistic pleasure in prosecuting pirates. They were so dedicated that they even tracked down pirates on Christmas Day, which was an unofficial amnesty day for pirates in London.

Radio Concord

I remember one particular Radio Concord transmission where three sites had been prepared in advance, the first was a house in Elgin Avenue where there was only power for the rig, but no lights. The rig was enormous, built on a milk crate, it had 813's in the pa, and another huge tray held the power supply and capacitors. We sat in the bay window looking out on the street (where the aerial was strung the whole length of the road), suddenly there was Eric Gotts (GPO) in the front garden peering in. He could not see us in the dark, one of the Concord helpers (a French army deserter) ran down to the basement unplugged the rig and PSU, ran with it and climbed over the back garden fence. How he managed this I'll never know, must have been the army training.

Anyway Gotts started to look bemused, the signal bearing had suddenly changed, when our site went off air, the next one had turned on. He eventually wandered off and we drove to the next site which was now on air, if I recall correctly this was located at Hornsey Rise in Goldie House, a squatted block of flats. These flats had open balconies connecting the front doors, and while we were there a women decided to throw over a washing machine (or fridge I can't remember) at her bloke who was legging it away at ground level. Certainly an eventful night which culminated in Arnold (driving his red open top MG sports car) being hailed down by the police at about 5am, they were parked facing the wrong way and Arnold just put his toe down and we escaped back to our HQ in Quex Road Kilburn.

Skyport Radio

Skyport Radio was one of the land-based Short Wave pirate stations which appeared as a result of the closure of the offshore pirates, and began transmissions in 1971. A few readers have asked where the name came from; other than the obvious proximity of the station to Heathrow Airport (the planes could often be heard in the background of programmes). The name was actually chosen from an old 1966 Post Office Telephone Directory, in those days numbers in the London area were the first 3 letters of the area name followed by 4 digits. The dialling code for Heathrow Airport was SKYport, or 759. The station pioneered many dedicated show music formats (in Europe) including Hindi Film Music (Mark King), Punk (Mark King and Terry Anderson) and Heavy Metal (Rob Holland). Other formats included Electronic music, New-Wave, Dancehall, Progressive Rock and Indie Rock, but these were not firsts, all being first featured by John Peel in his show Perfumed Garden on Big L Radio London, or subsequently on Radio 1.

Skyport finally closed down in 1982 after first merging with Radio Corsair as the Skyport Corsair Network, and after a last transmission as Workers Radio on May 1st 1982, Workers Radio originally broadcast a one off on April 30th 1978 on 41m, 7395kHz, the final transmission was on 7405kHz to commemorate the frequency first used in 1971. Meanwhile the station Uptown Radio carried on the successful Skyport format but on VHF in the London area. Based on the number of letters received at 134 Eastworth Road, Skyport Radio (and Radio Corsair) had a few thousand listeners, the majority in Great Britain, West Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic "East Germany". Considering the so-called repressions in the GDR it was remarkable that so many listeners were free to use shortwave receivers and send in reception reports for which they confirmed reception of Skyport Radio and QSL cards posted back from the station. Other countries listeners were mainly Scandinavian and The Netherlands, with the occasional report from France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. The map on the wall of the station's office showed the estimated reception area, which was corrected when we received rare reports from Egypt and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Our audience figures were probably helped by a mention on Radio Österreich International's DX Programme, where they featured a "blooper" episode where Mark King was not sure of the stations broadcast frequency, this was actually because the frequency had to be moved due to interference the previous week, he knew the frequency would be either 6260kHz or 6243kHz when the show was taped, so he announced "6260 or 6243 not too sure at the moment" this was to maintain the illusion of a "live" transmission, but it gave the Austrian DX show hosts a good laugh.

More on both stations including some recordings can be found on the Radio Eric site. There are also some ID clips and information on the Pirate Memories site.

It is not widely known that outside the transmission hours of Skyport Radio the transmitters were used to broadcast taped programmes from Radio Rastafari International (Nederland), and Kraut Rock Radio from West Germany.

The operators of Skyport Radio (Mark King) and Radio Corsair (Roger Stevens) were both members and supporters of what is now the CPB. Regular adverts for the Morning Star and various rallies were heard on their programmes, and Communist Party leaflets were sent out to listeners. If any listener remained in doubt over their allegiances, they ended transmissions with communist anthems "The Internationale" or "The East Is Red". It should be added that the other DJ's did not share the political views of the station operators and no attempts were made to suppress their narratives (e.g. Rob Holland's plugs for the Conservative Party), in this respect Skyport Radio was more balanced than the so-called unbiased BBC which to date excludes the Morning Star from it's many newspaper reviews, it got a rare mention recently (2017) on Andrew Marr's Sunday show and Andrew Neil's Daily Politics, which were blatant attempts to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party with "wrong" communist policies reports. It could be argued that the BBC is in fact in breach of it's charter, by not regularly reviewing all British newspapers it is effectively advertising capitalist papers only.

Unlike the anarchist Radio Concord Skyport Radio was never raided by the GPO over 12 years of operation (8 of which were from a single site), as the GPO were closely related to GCHQ/MI5 (they shared some monitoring sites) we can surmise that this was either because they liked opening our listeners letters from the GDR, or they had indeed been infiltrated by communist sympathisers which was the narrative at the time, or maybe they just didn't bother with Short Wave stations.

Rigs: 38 Set AFV, 19 Set AFV, 15W (807 PA, 6L6 Mod), 120W (TT21 PA, 2x 6L6 Mod.), KW Vanguard (6146 PA 2x 6L6 Mod.), Pye SSB 130 (2x 6883B PA, solid state Mod.)

Antenna EFHW Zepp with no vertical element (to reduce ground wave radiation) L-Match tuner

Staff: Terry Anderson, Bob Earl, Rob Holland, Mark King, Roger Stevens (part-time).

Locations: Feltham (1971-1979), Southall (1979-1982), Hillingdon (1982)

Swinging Radio England 254m (1974-77)

Originally started by Roger Stevens, Rob Holland, Bob Earl and Tony Jackson the former staff of Chertsey based Offshore Magazine, it replaced their first venture Sunkhead Radio around 1974. The original transmissions came from Rogers house in Shepperton until it was raided by Jim Crow.

After the Offshore Magazine staff met up with Mark King the station expanded to include Dave Grainger, Allen Reeve, Mike Barrington, Peter Shaw, Kid Grant , Bobby Constable, Jim Stockwell, and probably a few more I've forgotten. The station initially broadcast on Sundays from 10am-2pm on 254m, and then 239m before moving to all night Friday transmissions from Midnight-0800 on 227m, the programme schedule was:0000-0200 Bobby Constable, 0200-0400 Jerry King, 0400-0600 Kid Grant, 0600-0800 Pete Shaw. After the station ceased transmissions in 1977 Dave Grainger went on to start Radio Celebration and Allen Reeve started Radio 239, (later Radio City 238).

Apart from the early raid by Jim Crow on the Shepperton site, we were pretty unlucky with our other sites and none due to the GPO. At Crane Park we were reported to the police by a member of the public who thought we were the IRA wiring up a bomb, the first we saw was a panda car bumping over the grass towards the transmitter and aerial which was up a tree. We persuaded the police that we were radio amateurs, we were almost sussed when the officer tried to push play on the cassette recorder used for the programmes, the tape was still in it, he was a bit clumsy however and pushed the battery cover off, the batteries fell out and we were off the hook, he couldn't be bothered to put them back. They stood and watched us load the transmitter and car battery back in our car and drove off.

At the farm in Chertsey we were shot at (above our heads) by the owner, he accused us of stealing electricity from one of the outbuildings, we admitted to trying, but finding the power off we were using batteries. He accepted this as he had attended the previous week when the electricity board had removed the main fuse, little did he know we had already jumpered it back on. We packed up and left in a hurry.

At Feltham disused marshalling yard we were DF'd by some belligerent radio amateurs from the Echelford Club, they were pretty miffed when they found out our rig had been built by one of their members. Finally the derelict Harefield Place used for the Friday all night transmissions was pretty scary, it had been used as a TB isolation hospital, and a film set for Hammer Horror films who were located at nearby Denham studios. We rigged the meter to get a mains supply and there were loud bangs as the antiquated wiring started to explode under the floor, we transmitted there for several weeks with no visits from the GPO, it was mid winter and despite the cold everyone sat outside in the grounds too frightened to go in except to change the tapes and that after a large dose of Dutch courage.

Rigs

10W MW VFO 5763 PA

807, EF86, 6L6, ECC83. hybrid solid state PSU

Solid State converted 160m RSGB design 10W Xtal controlled

Transmission Sites

Night transmissions

Harefield Place (derelict at the time)

Day transmissions

Farm House Chertsey

Crane Park Hanworth

Camberley

Feltham disused railway marshalling yard