I was born in Birmingham in the 50’s and grew up in that wonderfully transient period of the sixties when the old values were turned on their heads. I suppose I was a product of the flower power revolution, something which has stayed with me. I was brought up in a house where electronics and audio equipment were the norm, by the time I left junior school I could mix and edit tapes. By the time I was sixteen the world was calling and I had itchy feet.
A major turning point in my life came when I realised it was time to quit the safety of the streets of Birmingham (well they were in those days). My brother who was 3 years older had joined the RAF and seemed to be having a good time, so I took a trip down to the recruiting office, signed on the dotted line and took the Queens shilling. Looking back I still consider it one of the best things I ever did, it gave me a much wider perspective on life, made me self reliant which came in handy later in life and gave me my first taste of real radio.
After finishing my training as an aircraft engineer I was posted to an RAF base near Ipswich which had its own cable network called WFN (Wattisham Forces Network), OK so it didn’t have a vast number of listeners but id did have a very professional attitude and all the equipment a young DJ needed to cut his teeth on. I was not the only Caroline DJ to learn the trade in the RAF; that most famous of Caroline DJ’s Simon Dee did his while doing national service I seem to remember. My old mate and long term friend Brian Martin was one of the guys at WFN and followed me out to the Mi Amigo.
I spent 4 years at WFN becoming station engineer and then studio manager. We had some great time and I was able to experiment, an essential for a young DJ trying to find his style. The station was essentially Top 40 format with specialist programs at various times and generally to a reasonable standard.
I left the RAF in the long hot summer of 1976 moving back to Birmingham to stay at my parent’s house. I had decided radio was the thing for me in my civilian career and it had to be offshore radio as the BBC and upcoming ILR stations seemed to totally lack any sense of adventure in Comparison.
I managed to get an interview with the guys at Radio Caroline, not easy feat in those days when everyone was so elusive. In all I spent 3 very happy years on the Mi Amigo, it was a great station to work for and I saw both the good times and the bad times of the late 70’s. The conditions on board were good when I arrived but as time went on and the general blockade of supplies to the ship made it less comfortable as time went on. However we were never deterred and I honestly cant remember a time when we ever thought of giving up. Towards the end of my time with Radio Caroline I was spending more time working behind the scenes helping Rob Eden who did so much in those days to keep Caroline afloat as well as running the Radio Caroline Roadshow. Of course the end came for the Mi Amigo on the 19th March 1980, the ship I had called home for so long was lost to the sea.
After Radio Caroline which had commanded so much of my life, I along with a good friend Paul Graham headed for the Republic of Ireland where we set up a radio station called WABC in the west of the country. I had family links in the area which made it easier for us. The station lasted until 1981, after which I went to work for a station in Balina a bit further to the west in Co. Mayo called ARW. The radio business in Ireland in those days was very volatile as none of the stations were legally licensed and there was always the inpending presence of government action. In 1983 I moved to Castle Radio for a few months before the government finally decided to act, several of the presenters moved on to the community and regional stations that were formed shortly after. I on the other hand decided to see what was going down back in the UK.
It was one of those great coincidences that Paul graham, who I had not seen for a year or so returned to England at the same time as me in 1983 and we made contact again. He mentioned that a land based pirate station was setting up in Shropshire with the intention of broadcasting 7 days a week, something that had not been done before. Always one for an adventure I got in touch with Graham Symonds the main man at the station which would be called Sunshine Radio where I kicked off the 7 day service by presenting the breakfast program Monday to Friday, it was good to be back on the air!
The station proved hugely popular and many listeners were unaware of its legal status (or lack of it). Of course there were the usual rounds of dodging the authorities when they came visiting, we were fortunate that we had a well informed contact and I always managed to remain one step ahead. As with all good things though it had to come to an end and the pressure from the authorities was getting intense. My life at that time was also taking a change in direction, marriage finally caught up with me. It was time to live a sensible life for a while.
The end of the 80’s saw me settling down in suburbia with a wife, a mortgage and a ‘real’ job, my earlier training in the RAF was about to pay off. I had several jobs in engineering before seeing a vacancy for an aircraft engineer working on military aircraft, just up my street I thought and went for it. By 1992 I also added a daughter to the above list which kept me occupied to say the least. After a few years of domesticity I was coming to realise that I was not designed for domestic bliss in suburbia and the urge for adventure of any kind was was becoming paramount.
Early in 1997 I saw an advert for military aircraft engineers to work out in the middle east, this was my chance to escape the mundane suburban world after all there must be some adventures to be had out in the desert. Coincidently I found out later that at least two other guys from Caroline had ended up in Oman after leaving the Mi Amigo.
So I found myself out in the desert in the Middle East working with the Royal Omani Air Force and surprise, surprise there was a small local radio station run by Brits. It was not long before one Roger Mathews made his return to the airwaves. I have to admit I spent 6 very enjoyable years out in the desert and met many lovely people. Away from the radio it was not all easy, there was a lot going on especially after 911, but then again I went out there for the adventure. Oh, for those that were wondering, no I had not abandoned the wife and daughter they came along too to share in the adventure.
I returned to the UK early in 2003, mainly for my daughters secondary education, yes doesn’t time fly by in life. I ended up working for a couple of big airlines as contractor and started to renew my acquaintances with my old Caroline friends which resulted in a return to the airwaves of Radio Caroline on December the 23rd 2005 after an absence of some 26 years. I returned to the airwaves unannounced one Friday morning in a spare slot much to the surprise of some listeners who had not heard my voice for a very long time. A lot had changed since those heady days of the 70’s, the location, the technology, but one thing had remained unchanged the Caroline vibe. I had returned home.
I also spent some time doing some programs for our old friends at Radio Seagull in Harlingen in Holland.
In November 2006 through an old business friend of my wife, I was introduced to the guys at Forest FM a community station in East Dorset, not far from where I was living. Since then I have been doing programs for them which has proved immensely enjoyable and quite different to the programs I do for Radio Caroline.
My six years in the desert of Oman gave me a liking for hot climates and as a result in 2008 we relocated to Cyprus, no more drab English winters (or summers). The wonderful thing is that modern technology makes it easy to continue doing programs from anywhere in the world studios are now linked by such wonders as the internet. Sitting on a ship back in the 70’s who would have thought it would come to this.