- 21 Apr 20
"You took a chance on an Irish lad at a difficult time for Irish people living in England," Gareth says of the man who gave him one of his biggest broadcasting breaks
Former Sunshine, Nova, BBC Radio 2, 2fm, Classic Hits 4fm and, most crucially, Radio Caroline man Gareth O'Callaghan has paid tribute to his former boss, Ronan O'Rahilly, who passed away yesterday in Louth following a long illness.
Using his then pirate alias, Tony Gareth, he was one of the crew who re-launched Caroline from its new boat, the MV Ross Revenge, in 1983.
It was, as Gareth, writes on his Facebook quite the watery adventure. With his permission, we bring you that touching tribute here:
It was April 1983. Robin Ross who was working on Robbie Dale's Sunshine Radio in Dublin asked me if I wanted to be part of of Ronan's return of Radio Caroline, 319mw, from the North Sea.
Ronan was so excited that he had secured the most perfect boat. It was a 300ft long Icelandic trawler. Just perfect for careful renovations to convert this baby into a floating radio ship.
The Ross Revenge at that stage in very early 1983 was being kitted out with studio facilities and living quarters in the port of Bilbao, Spain. It would be piloted up through the Bay of Biscay to the wider Thames Estuary for its relaunch.
They were good days. Not the easiest, but in hindsight I'm so grateful for the chance to be there. I met Ronan on a few occasions. I thank him for giving me a break into UK radio. Without him and Robin Ross it probably wouldn't have ever happened. I would have just stayed here at home.
That said, I thank Ronan for the opportunity to work on an amazing radio ship, in the company of a bunch of the greatest, kindest, funniest most talented bunch of lads - some of those gentlemen and good friends are long gone to the studios beyond.
Radio far out to sea, when there's nowhere else to go for weeks and weeks, is a rare chance to realise that before and after your show that's all you live for: Just loving being on the radio, playing great music. And as you once told me, music is forever timeless. You were right on there.
Years later, we shared a long hug and a short chat when I met you in London, Ronan. I remember your belief in Radio Caroline back when I met you in Rose Street, in Covent Garden, back in 1983.
You took a chance on an Irish lad at a difficult time for Irish people living in England. But I always loved how you took chances. They always worked out.
I remember meeting you again many years later when sadly you no longer remembered me. It was so sad and poignant when I think of all you achieved. You were such a modest man, but so funny. But I will always remember you, my dear lost friend.
Thank you, Ronan O'Rahilly. You paved the way for truly great radio, so many great DJs, great stations, and great ideas. Rest well.
Much love from all who will forever be grateful to you. Sail away now. It's all calm tonight