Saturday, 12 March 2016


Lots of tit-bits lately concerning the Cormorant’s, or as she was by then, the Lady Dixon’s short-lived venture into pirate radio.  These items come from Mervyn Hagger, Chris Edwards and their colleagues, who are working very hard to unearth the true story of the pirate radio era. Apparently much of what is commonly accepted as the truth is actually far from it. The items include reports from local newspapers and other publications.  From the WPN & Advertisers’ Review, 16 Feb 1962:-

Radio Station GBOK – located in international waters at the Nore in the Thames Estuary – is to start 24-hour broadcasting to an area within a 150-mile radius of the transmitter on February 28th.
    The company is headed by 56-year-old Canadian-born Arnold Swanson, who was originally technical adviser to “Voice of Slough”, a similar radio station planned by 42-year-old John Thompson, ex-journalist and Canadian broadcaster, He has now shelved his own plans to concentrate with Mr Swanson on GBOK.
    GBOK will be situated on a Pilot Station and Lightship which will perform all the normal functions and duties of a lightship to sea traffic.

    That ‘Pilot Station and Lightship’ was the Lady Dixon and, as we know, she never made it. I do wonder how she was going to ‘perform all the normal functions and duties of a lightship to sea traffic’ when her main mast, lantern and all heavy equipment were due to be removed as part of her preparation. Chris has sent me a photo from the National Archives of Lady Dixon waiting at the dockside for that conversion, (Photo 1391) which is the first photo I have come across of the ship between her working in Belfast Lough in 1957 and that 1991 photo of her painted bright red at Sittingbourne. She still has PILOT painted on her sides and sits low in the water, indicating that not only is the lantern still there but all the heavy machinery and anchor chains are down below. Thank you Chris (and the National Archives).
   Just after receiving that photo, I learned of a photo of the Lady Dixon, which was published in the Times newspaper on 10th March 1962, just before she got stuck in the Pitsea mud. It cost me £33 to buy a copy and it should be here soon, but I will not be sharing it with you as they want another £75 to waive the copyright.  Strange that it should cost anything to share a photograph of something you actually own!
    George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces team has contacted Simon to ask whether he wants his project to appear on the program. Simon is already two years into the project and will probably be still going in another two years, so it is likely to be too long a timespan for television. 
    Finally, Simon has been advised by an experienced ‘wet-blaster’ that he would be better off getting a small team of labourers in for a week to strip the below-deck area by hand, rather than any sort of blasting. He would have to take a week off from his wallpapering business to supervise, but any lost revenue would probably be off-set by the difference in costs between manual scraping and wet-blasting.