No.18: Ray Clark in conversation with Colin Berry

Ray Clark has interviewed numerous people involved with Radio Caroline for his documentaries and his book, Radio Caroline: The True Story Of The Boat That Rocked (reviewed here).
 
One of his interviewees was Colin Berry.
 
Colin was originally employed to work in Caroline's commercial traffic department, scheduling the advertising spots, but he later became a familiar voice on the station as well.
 
We are grateful to Ray for sharing this with us.


COLIN BERRY: I actually started on Radio Caroline, or working for Radio Caroline - let's get it right - round about the summer of '64. It was basically an admin job. I'd been working for independent television slotting advertising time, Granada TV and then Westward Television, and a mate of mine who I'd worked with at Granada rang me up one day and said “how do you fancy going along and working for the pirates?” and I thought “oh no, that doesn't sound very safe.” I spoke to my dear old dad. He knew I was very keen on radio and certainly on getting into it and he said “you're young. You can afford to take the chance” so I did. I started at Radio Caroline and again it was slotting advertising, with a bit more responsibility for general stuff on the ship like getting the batches of records out to the tender and on to the ship, and liaising with various points of contact that we had on the Isle of Man and also down at Harwich. It was just generally running everything from Caroline House at 6 Chesterfield Gardens. And, of course, I got bitten by the bug.
 
I had been wanting to get on the radio since I was knee-high to a gramophone - you know, sitting at home with a tape recorder presenting a programme that nobody ever hears. We've all done it, haven't we? And there was a day when Colin Nicol, who was one of the news readers out on the ship, he was taken rather poorly and they didn't know how he'd be able to cope for the rest of his stint out there. So Ken Evans - dear Ken who has done so many things for me as far as getting my career launched - he said to me “look, you've always wanted to go out there Col” - he always called me Col in a broad Australian accent. He said “how do you fancy going out for the weekend?” or long weekend I think it was - it's a hell of a long time ago - “and take over from Colin Nicol so he can come back to land and make himself better.” So I went out there and, as I say, it's all so long ago that I can't remember how it snowballed into something else.

click to hear audio On Colin's first stint aboard he was known as “Robin Berry”. Here he is reading a news bulletin on Radio Caroline South from 12th December 1965 (duration 2 minutes 46 seconds)

Colin Berry

Colin Berry. Photo from ‘Pop Went the Pirates’, published by Lambs' Meadow Publications.

I think there was another week when they needed somebody out there. There was a particular week, I think in 1965, when it was so rough... by golly, I was very ill and not a lot of use to anybody I don't think as far as broadcasting was concerned. I was told by Bryan Vaughan, who was the chief disc-jockey at the time, that it was one of the roughest weeks that they'd had out there (laughs). I really had a bad time. After that I was a bit sceptical about going on the ship because I really was so ill at that particular time. I was sharing a cabin with Dave Lee Travis, I seem to remember, and you know how these things stick in your mind, or smells stick in your nose if you like. I'll always remember the smell of Right Guard deodorant because Dave would get up at half past five in the morning to do the early show, the Breakfast Show, and he would spray the cabin with his Right Guard (laughs). The cabins were rather small, as I am sure you'll gather as you've been on board ship, and it took a long while for this Right Guard to disperse. You never forget a smell sometimes, do you? There's no doubt about that (laughs).
 
After that I'd make the odd trip out to the ship, doing bits and pieces, but I managed to get on to rather a goodie. They were doing a thing called Caroline Cash Casino. It was going rather well and someone thought up the idea of having a similar thing for the weekends: every hour, on the hour; a ten minute programme; a couple of records and somebody to present it. They got a sponsor, Weetabix, so the programme was called Weetabix Partners in Profit. It went out - I think it was just on Sundays. It might have been Saturdays as well but it's an awful long time ago. It was great fun to do. I did it in Caroline House and my sea-legs didn't touch a drop of water!

click to hear audio Dave Lee Travis on Radio Caroline South, 25th May 1967, plays Colin's promotion for Partners in Profit and tries to find a girlfriend for his old cabin-mate! Audio from an Offshore Radio Heaven mp3 DVD (duration 2 minutes 33 seconds)

What else did I do? Well there was another sponsored programme by Emva Cream Cyprus sherry, I seem to remember. I used to call the bingo numbers on a thing that Charlie Drake did called Ognib which doesn't take a lot of working out is bingo backwards. And apart from that I used to toddle out to the ship and do occasional shifts when the weather was better, reading the news. I think that just about encompasses my lot on Radio Caroline. Great fun it was too.
 
RAY CLARK: Colin, can I just ask you a couple of questions? How long did you stay with Caroline? Were you there until the bitter end, or as far as '67 was concerned?
 
CB: I was there for three years. Of course the Marine Offences Bill was August of 1967. I was given the opportunity of going out to the ship with Robbie Dale and Johnnie Walker (after the Act became law), in order to basically read news. There might have been a chance of doing some programmes as well but basically to read news, and I am afraid the thought of the tender making that horrendous journey out from Holland just didn't appeal to me. It was a very hard decision but I said no. I did a lot of club work. I carried on presenting a lot of the Caroline club nights around. There was the Chislehurst Caves, the Bal Tabarin, a few others. I did a bit of compèring there. I went on to compère elsewhere and even did a few Radio London nights, would you believe, although I never actually uttered a word on Radio London but, because of my pirate connections, I did a few of those in the Harrow area. I took a bit of a back seat as far as radio was concerned and then joined local radio, BBC Radio Medway, which is now BBC Radio Kent. I did some television continuity for HTV down in Wales, some promotions for Radio 1 and then, of course, when Capital Radio and LBC started, there were some holes at the BBC and I took over from Tony Myatt who went to Capital Radio. And I've been there ever since.
 
RC: That's super Colin. Can I just ask you one more question about Caroline House? What was the atmosphere? What was the set-up in Caroline House? Were there a lot of people? Was it a small operation in a big building or...?
 
CB: Well it was a small operation. They certainly didn't need... I don't know how many floors there were... There was a basement where I was tucked away. The ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ we used to call it; a ground floor which had all the sales staff; the first floor which I think had the directors and people like Ronan O'Rahilly; the second floor had sort of press and publicity and the third floor had another lot of publicity people, I think. It was incredible. I was a big mansion in the centre of London. It must have rattled from time to time with the few people that were in there.


Back to Ray's chat with Carl Thomson.


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