Radio Caroline finally goes fully legit this Friday

The legendary pirate, launched in the 1960s by Ronan O'Rahilly, has managed to bag itself a licence...

Broadcasting history will be made on Friday December 20 when, 53 years after its Easter 1964 launch, Radio Caroline takes to the air on 648kHZ as a full-time licensed station.

The brainchild of Dubliner Ronan O’Rahilly, whose grandfather was The O’Rahilly of 1916 Rising Fame, the station’s first ship was fitted out in the port of Greenore before setting sail for the international waters of the North Sea where it flouted the British authorities, on and off, until 1990.

Since then, its programming has been heard via-the internet and via-temporary licences.

The Irish connection doesn’t end with O’Rahilly who was also associated down through the decades with Marianne Faithfull, James Bond actor George Lazenby – Ronan rather unwisely advised him to ditch the 007 role because he felt spy movies were becoming passé – and the Loving Awareness Band who morphed into Elvis Costello’s Attractions.

His 1960s business partner, Phil Solomon, ran Major Minor Records who, courtesy of judicious Caroline plugging, scored major hits with Tommy James & The Shondells’ ‘Mony Mony’, ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ by Belfast’s David McWilliams and The Dubliners’ ‘Seven Drunken Nights’.

Phantom man Steve Conway, Gareth O’Callaghan (then Tony Gareth), former Nova boss Chris Cary, Sunshine Radio founder Robbie Dale, ex-Today FM lynchpin Tom Hardy and our man Stuart Clark are just a handful of the thousands of people who worked on the seafaring Caroline.

Two of the DJs you’ll be able to hear on Friday, Johnny Lewis and Kevin Turner, plied their trade here during the Great Irish Pirate Goldrush with the likes of South Coast Radio in Cork, ABC Radio in Tramore and Suirside Radio in Waterford.

While the legal Caroline’s old-fangled 1KW medium-wave transmitter will only fully cover Suffolk and Essex, you can listen online at

Although still Caroline’s spiritual leader, Ronan O’Rahilly is suffering from vascular dementia and back living in Louth with his family. It’s fair to say that no Irish man has done more to advance the cause of commercial radio.


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