Saturday, 16 January 2016

LIGHTSHIP CORMORANT / LADY DIXON - Chapter 131



Talking of detective work, Mervyn Hagger has been corresponding with me and given me a brand new take on pirate radio stations. He is firmly of the opinion that a lot of people have been and still are repeating myths originated for the specific purpose of creating obfuscation, and consequently everything from BBC to Wikipedia archives (which he reckons are always dodgy), are parroting back stuff that is entirely bogus.  The real story of offshore radio is somewhat mind-boggling and it is not the story that the fans of offshore radio (1960-1968), think that it is.
    Arnold Swanson was Canadian by birth.  He had no money and was a vacuum cleaner salesman and not an expert in anything - except conmanship. On top of which he was exposed in the British press as a fraud, and in Canada he was convicted of 'Saville-like' crimes and his wife divorced him.
    Thompson had spent time in Canada.  There was obviously a split-off from Thompson by Swanson, but Thompson retained a lucrative underwriting radio sponsorship, while Swanson seems to have gained control of the Lady Dixon, while Thompson had a mere 70 ton motor boat.
    This and more from ‘proper’ researchers like Mervyn,
Chris Edwards (Offshore Echos Magazine) and Jon Myers (Pirate Radio Hall of Fame). I very much welcome guidance from such stalwarts to keep me away from untruths and Chinese whispers, such as the often quoted origin of Cormorant – the Victoria Shipbuilding Co.  I discovered that no such firm existed and she was built by  the Cork Harbour Docks and Warehouse Company, who owned the Victoria dock.
    Mervyn sent me one tit-bit that Chris Edwards found during his research at the national Archives, Kew – I really must get down there!  This is an extract from an official memo dated 13 February 1962.

The Controller,
Further to my report dated 5th February, 1962, on 6th February 1 received a press cutting from the Scottish edition of the "Sunday Pictorial, dated 4th February, 1962, from which it will be seen that Mr Arnold Swanson gave an interview to a reporter in which he said that he had invested £30,000 into the scheme for commercial broadcasting from a ship, that he had sold £100,000 worth of advertising time, that the broadcasting station would operate from a converted lightship flying the flag of Monaco and moored off Southend. The call sign of the station was stated to be "GBOK".  As a result of this information I made enquiry of Trinity House and ascertained that four lightship vessels were sold in 1959. The disposal is stated to have been as follows:-  ……….
J Johnstone   

    The memo goes on to detail investigation into the disposal of the Trinity House vessels – red herrings!  Mr Johnstone also investigated Scottish Lights, to no avail. He missed out the real source – Irish Lights.
David