Jack McLaughlin has enjoyed a long and successful career in broadcasting, starting with the offshore Radio Scotland on day one. This book covers his pre-pirate life as
a bingo caller and teacher, and the rather more exciting time he spent on board the Comet, the former lightship converted into a floating radio station.
The author tells us “Pirate Jock is a light fictionalisation based on actual events.” He is not the first person to tell his own personal story of offshore radio in the form of a novel but, whereas Ian Ross
changed all the names in his 1990 publication Rocking The Boat, Jack mainly uses the real names of his colleagues,
their first names anyway. This makes the ‘fictionalisation’ somewhat confusing. Some of the story is undoubtedly true, some of it may possibly be true and some of it is definitely not true. But which is which? If you are
reading the book as a novel, it probably does not matter. All you want is an entertaining story and Pirate Jock is certainly that. But, if you are a radio enthusiast, looking for an accurate account of the life
of Radio Scotland, you may have to take some of Jack's tales with a pinch of salt.
From what The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame knows about Radio Scotland, our guess is that most of the story set on board the ship, and in the Radio Scotland office, is probably correct although the
time-line has definitely been ‘tweaked’ on occasions: one character refers to listening to John Peel's ‘Perfumed Garden’ on Radio London in preference to Charlie White's show on Radio Scotland. In real
life, more than a year separated the transmission of these two programmes. There is a reference to Radio Caroline North launching to compete with Radio Scotland. In reality, of course, Caroline came first. In a conversation in the
book Jack mentions “some punk outfit in London” called The Jam, a good few years before Paul Weller and his mates actually formed the group. Although the author has re-written the past, on these
and a number of other occasions, the lack of historical precision does not get in the way of the reader's appreciation of the story. Pirate Jock gives a revealing and enjoyable insight into what life was
like on board Radio Scotland - and on shore - and, if Jack is guilty of occasionally adjusting the facts to make it more exciting, interesting or humourous than it really was, who are we to complain?
Jack tells us that he has a second volume on the way. Pirate Jock in Southern Waters will cover his time on Britain Radio, Radio 270 and Radio 390 - and this reviewer can't wait.