LAST week we journeyed to Bridlington and Scarborough to reminisce about bygone summer holidays.

This week we return to the Yorkshire coast for an altogether more swashbuckling tale of pirates on the high seas. These pirates did not brandish cutlasses, wear eye patches or shout "shiver me timbers". Instead they bantered, wore headphones and hollered, groovily: "Your swinging boat on the North-East coast!"

This was one of the many slogans from Radio 270, the North's answer to the seaside sounds of Radio Caroline and Radio London.

Broadcast from a former Dutch fishing vessel the Ocean 7 moored a few miles off Scarborough or Bridlington, and brought the new style of commercial radio to millions in Yorkshire.

Although known as a pirate radio station, it launched legally. But Radio 270 broadcast for just 430 days before Postmaster General Anthony Wedgewood Benn brought in a law that sank every one of the offshore outfits.

In that short time, however, Radio 270 had more ups and downs - literally and metaphorically - than most businesses encounter in a lifetime.

Now author and Radio York broadcaster Bob Preedy has told this rattling seafaring yarn in his book, titled Radio 270: Life On The Ocean Waves.

Mr Preedy had been waiting for years for someone to bring out a book on the station. When nobody did, he took on the task himself. Based on interviews with some of the station stalwarts, characters every one, the book captures the spirit of the Sixties when anything seemed possible - including breaking the stuffy BBC monopoly from the middle of the North Sea.

It was not an easy experience for any of those involved. As Leonard Dale, the station's chairman, told Mr Preedy: "Quite frankly the Radio 270 period is a period of my business life which I want to forget.

"It did do one useful thing, and that was it gave me a very good understanding of the cesspool operations of the entertainment world."

Blame Don Robinson. It was the Scarborough entrepreneur's idea to give the North its own commercial radio station after listening to Radio Caroline. Experienced fisherman Bill Pashby found him the boat: a 1939-built Dutch Lugger languishing in a port near The Hague. The vessel was small, but they only planned to use it to transmit shows taped on the mainland. That plan soon changed, however, and the cramped quarters of Ocean 7 was to be the bane of the DJs.

On September 25, 1965, Don announced that Radio Yorkshire was on its way. But a Leeds company had already registered that name, and so it was changed to reflect its frequency, 270 on the medium wave. Perhaps this was an omen of things to come.

The backlash started even before Radio 270 came on air. One letter to the local press complained that the signal would interfere with the BBC Home Service, and another even suggested jamming the broadcasts.

But the public relations problems were nothing compared to the technical difficulties. As the launch deadline of April 1, 1966, approached, engineers raced to turn an old fishing vessel into a seaworthy radio station. Meanwhile, the company began hiring disc jockeys. Among them was a man who became one of the Evening Press's best-known journalists, the late Stacey Brewer. His show would go out at 7pm every weekday when he would play songs from his personal collection of 10,000 records.

The day of the launch came. Engineers had worked through the night to try to get Radio 270 on air. But they were missing vital parts and the transmitter would not transmit.

Back at Scarborough's Grand Hotel, the shareholders anxiously awaited the first broadcast, scheduled to begin with a prayer for all at sea by the station's vicar, the Reverend Hedley Pickard.

They frantically retuned their transistors, but all they got was a faint signal from southern pirate Radio London. Back on the ship, the 14-man team were fighting against strengthening north-westerlies. The winds got stronger and just after 9am the following day, the £10,000 mast snapped off and sank beneath the waves. It was not an auspicious start.

The refit, and problems with the paperwork, kept Radio 270 off air until June. Then finally DJ Roger Gale (a direct descendant, it is said, of Francis Drake) spun the first record - Frank Sinatra's Strangers In The Night, number one at the time. Soon millions were hooked by the exciting new sound.

For the DJs it was a true adventure. Each presenter spent two weeks on board. On the third week they were ashore selling commercials and their final week was time off. They were paid £25 a week, and at times must have considered asking for danger money. Life at sea was not easy. They were battered by gales, and baked by the sun. A feature on the ship in the Evening Press described life for a sailor of the airwaves.

"The temperature in the small, crowded studio can soar up to the nineties and the air turns stale with tobacco smoke.

"And what is there to do in the three hours break the DJs have between programmes? Pick the pops for the next sessions, watch TV, drink coffee, chat to each other and the four-man crew of the ship - and be stared at by the holiday-makers on the pleasure boats that come out endlessly from Scarborough."

No wonder they occasionally got up to mischief. Australian DJ Dennis Straney, known as Dennis The Menace, was dismissed and then reinstated after a stunt with a vacuum cleaner.

Programme director Noel Miller had a pompous streak, and the DJs took great delight in filling the nozzle of the vacuum with flour, and placing it in front of the DJ panel. Just as Noel was about to start his show, they flicked the switch on to "blow" - and the presenter was forced to do his entire three hour show covered in flour. As The Menace quipped afterwards: "Noel, I didn't know you were into flour power."

There are many entertaining tales of bust-ups and fall-outs in Bob Preedy's book. Questions were even asked in the House about the policy of allowing York University students to broadcast their political messages on the air. Among them was Harvey Proctor, a future Conservative MP whose career was finished by a sex scandal.

The Marine Broadcasting Act ended the fun on August 14, 1967. Among those working for the station at that time was Phil Hayton who went on to be a BBC TV newsreader. By then, the pirate stations had changed Britain. Radio One and the commercial stations were on their way. As Stacey Brewer wrote on the 20th anniversary of Radio 270's demise: "We changed the face - and sound - of broadcasting."

Radio 270: Life On The Ocean Waves by Bob Preedy is published by the author. For a copy send £8, cheque/PO payable to Bob Preedy, to Wetherby Cinema, Caxton St, Wetherby LS22 6WG or e-mail for more details to

Updated: 10:51 Monday, July 01, 2002