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Radio-Noir

Chapter Two

 As we previously pointed out with reference to the Steve Martin comedy routine of 'You can be a Millionaire, and never pay taxes'; the anorak writers make a statement but they don't back it up. They simply move on to another issue which they then explain in great detail, so that their audience forgets their first statement.

 

Put simply, this is how it works:

 

Most people would like to be millionaires, and some people would do their best, after becoming  millionaires, not to pay taxes.

 

Steve Martin explained it this way: "First get a million dollars" (or pounds or whatever.) Then Steve answers a question about paying taxes, and he does so in detail. But what about his first point, the most important one: how do you get that million dollars to begin with?

He avoids having to provide the answer.

This is how anorak publications work.

They tell you that Ronan O'Rahilly showed up in London and that he eventually told Allan James Crawford that he had a wealthy father who might invest in his offshore radio station, and that his father owned a private port at Greenore in Ireland.

Then we hear about two ships being outfitted there and that one of them belonged to Ronan who double-crossed Allan and stole his anchorage off Essex. But we really have to wait until we are told that there was a 'merger' to get into a lot of detail about the operation - after it has relocated to 6 Chestefield Gardens.

All of sudden this is Ronan's project because he has devoured Allan's venture which has run out of money.

But is any of that true?

The answer is NO!

To discover what is true and what is false we have to carefully examine all statements and go to other sources to see if they can be verified.

So far, as part of this discovery, we know for a fact that Ronan O'Rahilly went to Houston, Texas where he met Captain De Jong Lanau of Wijsmuller.

We know that during the last three days of December 1963, first the mv Mi Amigo secretly slipped out of port at Galveston island, Texas; then the next day, Wijsmuller brought the mv Fredericia from Copenhagen, Denmark to Rotterdam, Holland.

During that period of time, which was two days before the end of the year 1963, Lloyd's had recorded ownership of the mv Mi Amigo as belonging to business interests connected to Gordon McLendon, and noted its Panamanian connection. For the same time period, and on the very next day, DFDS record a sale that mentions both a company name and Ronan's name and his sister's name, all in connection with the purchase of the mv Fredericia.

 

Harry Spencer had written a personal account of how he became involved with Allan James Crawford. He also recorded his first meeting at 47 Dean Street where he noted that Alfred Nicholas Thomas was there; Captain De Jong was there, and Ronan O'Rahllly was there.
 
Harry tells us that De Jong had charge of both ships and that Harry had to bid to get the job of installing masts on both of them.

We know that the mv Fredericia spent more time in Rotterdam after being purchased, than it did at Greenore, and we also know from Harry that he was originally going to work on the mv Fredericia in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight where his business was located. But, at the last moment, the ship was redirected to Greenore, Eire.

Harry Spencer went to Greenore, not just to work on the Fredericia, but on the Mi Amigo as well, but it had not yet arrived at Greenore, while the Fredericia was already tied up at the quay when Harry arrived.

In the sparse reference to work performed, Harry Spencer tells us that he sub-contracted work to the Dundalk Engineering Works who supplied their employees who were skilled in various trades. Harry tells us that when the owners of Dundalk Engineering Works discovered the real purpose behind the ships being there, they forbade their employees to work on the ships. So Harry turned to a Roman Catholic priest who intervened and got Dundalk Engineering Works management to lift its ban.

Nowhere does Harry refer to Ronan O'Rahilly being there - except one time. That is when Harry says that he went to Dublin to Ronan's home. Ronan's father was so angry and hostile with Harry Spencer that he would not even look at him, and that he only spoke to him via Ronan. It is clear that the issue which ticked-off Dundalk Engineering Works was the same issue that ticked off Ronan's father.

Both had been conned as to the real reason why the ships had been brought to Greenore!

So who conned them?

Ronan O'Rahilly!

What transpires from the account by Harry Spencer is the absence of any mention regarding the presence of Ove Sjöström or Arthur Carrington, or anyone else. Harry does not even mention George Saunders, even though Harry worked on the mv Mi Amigo, but that could also be because George was there for such a short time. Maybe a couple of days over a weekend, because it looks like he was still employed by Marconi.

Now George does place John Howard Gilman at Greenore, because he drove George there from the railway station at Dundalk. George also places Alfred Nicholas Thomas there, because he is the man who gave George his job after an interview on board the mv Mi Amigo at Greenore.

But nobody mentions either Ove Sjöström or the Marconi TV camera salesman Arthur Carrington.

But what else did George Saunders tell OEM in an interview on January 5, 2014?

Well he confirmed that Harry Spencer had told him about meeting Ronan's dad who was downright rude and hostile towards Harry Spencer! That is second hand information but it stuck in George's mind, and George never met Ronan's father in Dublin; Greenore, or anywhere else, from what can be gathered.

George was not an inquisitive fellow. We asked him when he was at 6 Chesterfield Gardens if he ever explored what was on other floors. He said that he had not.

OEM asked him if he ever went to 47 Dean Street. George replied that he had not.

George did tell OEM about his journey to Greenore, especially the drive with John Howard Gilman from Dundalk railway station.

George also noted on his arrival at Greenore that ".... it had been an old railway terminal and a very large hotel was there, I remember it was quite a big building, probably about three storeys (sic) high. It was sort of very lightly used, a lot of it was just empty. But obviously things were going on. When we parked the car, I saw two ships, one looked like a ship and it was large. He said 'Oh that’s not ours'.  I said Oh, so we marched along the quay and there was a small ship like a coaster and he said 'this is ours'."

From this account by George Saunders we know that both the mv Fredericia and the mv Mi Amigo were still at the Greenore quayside when George arrived. This also helps us to narrow-down dates, since we know when the mv Fredericia left Greenore.

We also know that when George went on board the mv Mi Amigo that Harry Spencer and the Dundalk Engineering Works had not yet constructed a new mast and antenna - which was designed by John Howard Gilman who had also designed the one installed on the mv Fredericia. Said George in the OEM interview: "They said 'when we need quite a bit of work doing yet, it’s not ready to go. This ship has been on the air previously but the aerial has to be rigged'. So I said OK."

Then George added his own mystery man: "A couple of days later, I was joined by another chap, the name fails me,  I can see the face, gosh a chap called Grays no the name’s gone but he joined about two days after me and under John Gilman’s guidance, we did various things to getting it all set up."

George was in Greenore for a very short time and he went there for an interview so his observations have to be understood in that context. He said to OEM about Greenore: "Now what was interesting what else was going on there you see because this other ship which was Caroline - she had never been a radio ship before and they had absolutely nothing to do with ours, they didn’t want to deal with ours. They were quite hostile to us really. When I walked round here I realized there’s a lot going on at Greenore and we were almost like intruders, if you know what I mean."

The hostility was undoubtedly related to an outsider asking nosy questions, and to the deception that caused Dundalk Engineering Works to pull its men off the job, and for Ronan's father to then send for Harry and speak to him via Ronan without looking at Harry.

George added: "(O)bviously things were going on in Greenore that we were not part of. It was used by Ronan O’Rahilly’s father as a base, he actually owned it." So clearly George had no idea of who owned the Greenore facility because it was not Ronan's father!

George did note that: "This place had been like the equivalent of a cross channel ferry terminal. The train would come in, you could then cross from the train undercover to board the steamer. That was the idea. This was all built about 1880 something like that maybe a bit earlier and most of it was still there. The trains hadn’t come there for years. But what was creepy about it what they had all the railway notices were up, still."

​George then stated something he had been told: "Ronan O’Rahilly’s father had a couple of coasters and they came in with coasting cargo they picked up from other ports in Ireland, to be transported somewhere else, that was none of my business. Ronan’s father owned a couple of ships certainly.  And of course they had priority over everything. Now an interesting thing was that apparently the border between North and South Ireland ran straight down through the middle of Carlingford Lough, so when you looked across at the other side that was Northern Ireland, that was British and of course we were on Republican side quite interesting."

But the fact of the matter is that at the time that George Saunders was in Greenore, Ronan's father did not own any ships. But was circulating, was a story which even made its way into the House of Commons, that Greenore was being used to smuggle items like cigarettes in order to avoid H.M. Customs Duty fees.

OEM also asked George Saunders how Thomas and Gilman became involved, but George had no direct knowledge. He was totally unaware, until we pointed it out to him, that a BBC staff obituary notice stated that Thomas had left the BBC to work for Pye, and yet, George was the one who supplied us with the obituary notice!

George was asked by OEM if Allan James Crawford ever went to Greenore, Eire, and he replied: "No, he didn't, I never saw him there." However, Crawford says on film that he did go to visit Ronan's father, but he doesn't say when that was. Remember, Ronan's father lived some distance away near Dublin, and we don't know why he really went to see him. Was it a last minute visit by this Australian to get permission to use the quay at Greenore, after Pye had been tipped-off not to send the two ships to the Isle of Wight where the GPO would raid them? It can't have been anything to with offshore 'pirate' radio broadcasting, because clearly that was a shock surprise to Dundalk Engineering Works (DEW) who were in close contact with Aodogán O'Rahilly, and initially, neither he nor DEW had any real knowledge about what Harry Spencer was really doing at Greenore!

But this secrecy and the actions of DEW employees would later cause problems for George Saunders, as he explained to OEM:

"When Caroline eventually went round to be Caroline North, I actually had to go onboard her and sort out the mess that they had made at Greenore, and you know it wasn’t pretty. If they had spoken to us, we could have helped them a great deal and would have been willing to but they thought they knew it all.  And it really was a problem. It was dangerous really what they had done."

Who is this "they" that George Saunders refers to? He thought it was Ove Sjöström who made matters worse by bragging that he had worked on the mv Fredericia at Greenore. But this seems to be a lie, because it looks as if Ove Sjöström was never at Greenore!

He certainly did not do the work complained of by George Saunders, because that was performed by DEW, and it looks like sabotage; or revenge because Harry Spencer had forced DEW to send its employees back to work by using a Roman Catholic priest to do it, and the priests in those days carried a lot of political, commercial and religious weighted authority in Eire!

His next comment makes no sense at all, because he speaks of going on board mv Mi Amigo which had been known as mv Bon Jour off Sweden and home of Radio Nord where Ove Sjöström had previously worked. But we do not think that Ove Sjöström was ever at Greenore, at least not to work on the mv Fredericia. However, George told OEM:

"When I went on her, they had a Swedish chap Ove Sjöström, and he had been at Greenore on Radio Nord, but when I went on Caroline off the Isle of Man, I realised that his knowledge of the transmitter engineering, the power side of it must have been quite limited. The studio voltage should be 115 volts, it was all American equipment, instead it was about 135. It had never occurred to him why this should be, because things were burning out. This is a serious problem. It didn’t occur to him to try and find out why and then try and do something about it."

The problem George was referring to, was the result of work performed under duress by employees of DEW, not by Ove Sjöström. Yet George said: "He told me that one of the contacts in the transmitters, the high voltage protection relay actually had burned out and he had another solenoid made, and the makers couldn’t make him another solenoid, for that it was too badly damaged. He had been raiding the other transmitter for all the bits to keep T2 going. So we had almost a shell which was T1, but lots of bits missing, which he had been taking across just to keep T2 going. I thought this was totally unprofessional."

George told us that it was Tom Lodge who came up to him while George was on the mv Caroline, ex-Fredericia: "One of the DJ’s told me, you see these great big feeders running along the passageway, these are like cables about 3” diameter. He said one of those had glowed red, when Ove had done something or other. I said thank you very, very much, because that means it’s ruined."

Then George told OEM: "So I wrote an account of everything that had happened onboard and sent it off to John Gillman who promptly came out to the Isle of Man, and I had the job of sacking Sjöström, which I did. Gilman then said 'I’m afraid you’ll have to stay on for about five weeks, while I recruit more engineers'.  So Trevor Grantham, Frank Kemble and an Austrian Reisenhofer joined us."

Clearly John Howard Gilman who had been reporting to Alfred Nicholas Thomas was in charge of the engineering on both ships. So what happened to Arthur Carrington? Well of course his name was dropped in to create the impression that there were two projects, and even though Atlanta was now Caroline South, it is clear that Gilman was reporting to Crawford!

George was asked by OEM if he knew where the mv Fredericia was going after it left Greenore: "We knew exactly what they were going to do, they were going to go skedaddle down the Irish Sea, down the Irish channel and make to our station, which is more or less what they did. They then came on air before us."

It is also clear that prior to Saunders leaving Marconi and going to work for Radio Atlanta on board the mv Mi Amigo, that the two Texans who were broadcasting from the ship on the same wavelength as Radio Caroline after it closed down for the evening, were reporting to Milan Leggett. He was the Texan engineer sent over by Bill Weaver on behalf of Gordon McLendon when the ship left Galveston. The other person named by Crawford who was responsible for the broadcast engineering side on the mv Mi Amigo, prior to the arrival of George Saunders on board, was Alfred Nicholas Thomas!

How do we know this for a fact?

Because Allan James Crawford wrote a note to that effect!

In other words George Saunders had not yet left Marconi, meaning that George Saunders was not there! Exactly when George Saunders left Marconi and joined Radio Atlanta is something we are trying to determine. Only then will we know what George knew for a fact and what he was told by someone else! Here is an example of his dubious reporting:

"Now they broadcast 6am to 6pm so after a couple of days when we arrived there, we tested on 1546/8, which wasn’t a channel. But this is the crystal we’d been given by Continental and it was actually the frequency which our transmitters were tuned to, so away we went. Our first programme from first transmission from Radio Atlanta was actually a tape of French music and was linked together by the wife of Toni Gomeche, and she had been educated at the Sorbonne and this tape was absolutely beautiful, it really was nice and it ended with La Mer. At the end of that everybody on shore then knew that we were ready to go when we had the right crystal."

George's prejudicial judgment shows up in this next item by him in talking to OEM:

"Now Caroline, they were broadcasting from 6am to 6pm and eventually they bought one of our crystals across to us so we actually started testing then as Radio Atlanta, when they closed down on the same frequency. We had a pair of Texas DJ’s on board, now actually they were father and son and they were both highly extrovert, both fat, overfed, absolutely screamers, they really were. They hadn’t been very long and they were told to calm down."

This is the old stereotype of Americans that began with World War II. From the pictures seen it is difficult to assess the son as "fat" and "overfed". They were not "screamers", in fact, the father while he may have been overweight, was not exactly an "extrovert", but more representative of a typical Texan who broadcast on a Country and Western format station. By English standards, or at least by George Saunders standards who believes in 'Queen and Country' (meaning England); he would label Charlie Drake as an extrovert displaying improper behavior for an Englishman. In other words, George's comments are totally subjective and may be based upon hearsay alone.

George Saunders said to OEM: "Then we eventually got ourselves more organised in London and of course we were a tape operation like Radio Veronica and were using Brightlingsea as the Port. Now the problem was Brightlingsea was tidal and it wasn’t a customs port, so everytime we wanted to go out to the ship, we had to get customs clearance. They had to come down to Brightlinsea and of course they didn’t like it and also of course they charged."

Now keep in mind that the programs for Radio Atlanta that were on tape, all came from 47 Dean Street, and George has admitted that he never went there! This is where George starts to fudge about how long he was at Greenore, because he went there for an interview to get a job which he did not have, and the job he did have was at Marconi where he told us that he had to give notice before he left. Yet this is the woolly information that George provided OEM, when we know that he cannot have been at Greenore for much more than one weekend!

"Now when the ship left Greenore, we had on board a Granada film team. I got a feeling I left the ship actually then. I didn’t go down the Irish Sea, but they did and apparently they had a hell of a time and the ship had to come into Falmouth as one of the stays broke and it says much for it that all the aerial remained upright. But she headed to Falmouth for emergency repairs. The Granada film team apparently crept ashore and hadn’t shot an inch of film - they’d all been horribly seasick so that was the end of that."

Picture​What we learn here is an admission by George Saunders that he had gone to Greenore for a job interview, and that he left Greenore before the mv Mi Amigo departed from Greenore, which was after the mv Fredericia had already left.

We think that George arrived on or near to March 13, 1964, and departed before March 27, 1964 when the mv Fredericia left Greenore.

"I know I joined her at Brightlingsea because I was living in Essex so it wasn’t far from here at all. Brightlingsea was a branch line from Colchester. Not long after Atlanta had opened, Dr Beeching decided to close the branch line, so that made life a bit more awkward. So there was every reason for us to move to Parkeston Quay to Harwich and that was a much better station."

But George refers to two other items of interest concerning the real timeline of events. We will address the second one first, and that is what appears to be a hurried departure from Greenore by the mv Mi Amigo. Was it ejected? Had DEW finished their work or bodged this job as well as the transmitters? Was Harry Spencer thrown out of Greenore, along with the second ship? Is that why the mv Mi Amigo had to put into Falmouth on April 21, 1964 for emergency repairs?

Now let's look again at the first item concerning that Granada film team. Granada did shoot film around the Greenore area, and that was after the mv Fredericia had departed, because only the mv Mi Amigio was there at the time. A news report in the 'Daily Telegraph' on April 2, 1964, noted that the men working on the mv Mi Amigo were not local to Greenore, and no one was talking about what they were doing. But the Granada film crew production that was transmitted as part of the 'World in Action' series on May 12, 1964, seems to have angered people at Greenore because it portrayed  them in a bad light by comparing them with pirates of old.

George admits that there was a gap between the time he was at Greenore and the time he left Marconi to join Radio Atlanta. Remember, we asked George if he ever went to 47 Dean Street, and he replied: "No I never went, never visited it."

He was also asked if he ever went to 6 Chesterfield Gardens, which was given the name of 'Caroline House': "Ah now, after the merger, I was on the ship when the merger took place. Caroline House then moved to 6 Chesterfield Gardens and obviously I went there. On my fourth night ashore, I deputed for John Gilman in Caroline House London as chief radio engineer. That actually was very useful because it gave me an insight into what was going on, all over the place. It was time well spent as far as I was concerned."

But George admitted that he never toured 6 Chesterfield Gardens, and he confined himself to the area where Gilman had his office. So George did not gain any insight into what was going on, and this is obvious from his lack of basic first-hand knowledge about who and what was behind the Radio Caroline operation where there was no "merger" as such.

When George later terminated his employment with the Caroline organization, he soon realized that he had no idea who had really employed him, or who he had been really working for!

"Now, when I left them, jumping ahead quite a bit, my new employers wanted a reference, so I wrote to Caroline and explained what I wanted. So eventually after a couple of days an envelope plopped through my door and I opened it and it was a reference I wanted. But it was from a firm I‘d never heard of, Hanicon Investments Inc Panama, European Agency Offshore Tender & Supply Company Baarn Holland. Now the offshore Tender and Supply Co was in turn an offshoot of Wijsmuller Company, the big Dutch towage. So I think that’s who we were."

George was asked if he knew who owned the two ships:

"I think after the merger, the Dutch owned the ships and then if you then think forward a bit more, when Caroline eventually closed down in 1968, they were seized by the two Dutch tugs. I think this is just the case that the Dutch decided that there were unpaid bills and they’d had enough and they were going to call in the investment.  Now I appreciate this might not be a popular view for some people but I think that’s actually what happened."

So a lot of what George Saunders thought that he knew about Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline, he really didn't know at all, and this led to him blaming Ove for something that Ove clearly did not do. Whether Ove should have been sacked because he was incapable of performing the job of Chief Engineer, well that is another matter.
It all boils down to too many inflated egos all puffing themselves up in the same way that Johnnie Walker did when talking about Don Pierson, and none of them had a clue as to what the real story was, or is.

We do, and we will reveal more tomorrow by taking a detailed look at the life of Aodogán O'Rahilly. You will then begin to understand why Ronan O'Rahilly showed up in London and what he was really trying to accomplish. It isn't what you think!