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 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.

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, which originally broadcast a one off in May 1978. Meanwhile the station Uptown Radio carried on the successful Skyport format but on VHF in the London area. 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, and Kraut Rock Radio from West Germany.

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.)

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

Locations: Feltham, Southall, Hillingdon

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 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).

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 House (derelict at the time)

Day transmissions

Farm House Chertsey

Crane Park Hanworth

Camberley

Feltham disused railway marshalling yard