The above photo needs no introduction.
You know the spiel by now.
25 years ago today/tomorrow, the night of the 15th/16th October 1987 saw The Great Storm, or The 1987 Hurricane, or whatever you would like to call it. Millions of trees uprooted, millions in property damage, 18 people killed, road, rail and power disrupted, and none of it forseen or foretold by the met office.
Amid great sniggering, the clip of Michael Fish reading the weather forecast on BBC TV at lunchtime on the 15th will be played, with him saying there is no hurricane coming, and the talk will be of how utterly the Met Office failed to prepare the Great British Public for the terrible storm.
That’s the collective memory, and everyone knows it is true.
Except . . it isn’t.
I was there, and I was right in the teeth of the storm in all it’s fury, and I had been watching that lunchtime weather forecast, and I had heard Michael follow his comment about there not being a hurricane (technically true) by telling everyone to “batten down the hatches” as there was going to be some very stormy weather overnight. Ah, but they never play that bit of the clip do they?
But more than that, I was expecting him to say this, and I knew several days earlier that the morning of the 16th would see a great and violent storm coming in from the southwest . . because the Met Office had told me, and other BBC viewers. Far from being unprepared, we were well prepared for a storm, and although, yes, it was much more severe than we expected, it is wholly unfair to say that the nation was not warned.
The nation was, you see, mostly indifferent to the weather warnings over the preceeding days, and much more concerned with waiting for Neighbours to come on after the news bulletin. But the warning was there, as far back as the previous Sunday.
I should clarify here that myself and my colleagues on board Radio Caroline were always very attentive to the weather, and always watchful and mindful of what it was going to do, as in our exposed anchorage 18 miles off the Kent coast the weather had a profound impact on our day to day life – on our level of comfort, on the ease of our doing our jobs, on our prospects of being resupplied at any given time, and on the quality of our sleep. So we were very attentive and invested in the weather forecasts.
You might expect me to tell you of the amazing struggles to stay on the air during the great storm, and the frightening moments and waves as tall as buildings that we encountered that day, but that is not the purpose of this article. I’ve written about it in my book Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline, and there is another account of it written by myself, which you can read for free online at Soundscapes (EDIT: for some reason the article cannot be directly linked from here, but if you google “soundscapes conway hurricane” you will find it)..
No, this piece is my attempt to shout my truth unheeded into the wind yet one more time, and try to tell you that the story of Michael Fish and the sleeping Met Office is . . just a story, a popular narrative.
Unfortunately, it has over time become THE Story, the only one that is told.
So, did the Met Office warn about the storm, and how far in advance did we know?
We knew as far back as Sunday 11th October, four or five days earlier, that we were in for an almighty storm in the early hours of Friday 16th.
Needing to be conscious of the weather, and as Caroline’s Head of News, one of the things I never missed was the Farming Programme on Sundays on BBC1 (not sure if it was called Countryfile back then, but it was essentially a more down to earth and less jazzy version of the programme that still runs to this day). The programme always featured a long-range weather forecast for the next 7 days, and this was highly useful to us on Caroline for assessing if we were going to have some bumpy days, and when there might be a weather window for supply boats to reach us.
I was particularly conscious of the forecast on that particular Sunday, as we were short staffed (two presenters down), running short on certain supplies, and crucially had not received new records for a number of weeks (pretty essential for a contemporary music station). The large supply ship that came out from France that weekend did not have these people or items, but brought a message with it that there would be a small boat coming from the UK on Friday with fresh staff, supplies, and music.
Looking at the long-range weather forecast on the farming programme, we knew that this was just a pipe dream, and that there would be no new supplies on Friday – the weather would be far too rough for even the much bigger French tender to come to us, never mind a small fishing boat.
Thus we were well aware of a big storm on the Friday, and when Michael Fish made his comment about battening down the hatches, well as good seafarers, his advice was more literally true for us than for anyone else.
So although the ferocity of those mountainous seas at daybreak on Friday, 25 years ago, did astonish us, we could not, truly, say we were not warned.
Next time you see the clip of Michael Fish, and you hear the story about how forecasters did not predict a storm, don’t believe it.
I’d like to believe that my personal truth would counter the popular myth, but i know that, like on that morning a quarter of a century ago, my words will be lost in the howling wind.
20 years on from the most terrifying morning of my life . . aground on the Goodwin Sands with hopes of rescue seemingly dashed as the crew of the Ross Revenge shook hands and prepared for the ship to roll over . . .
Seven Towers Agency, East Wall for All and The Sean O’Casey Community Centre present:
Radio Caroline, former Phantom FM DJ and Best Selling Author
Reading from his book
Shiprocked, Life on the Waves With Radio Caroline
Sean O’Casey Community Centre, East Wall, Dublin.
7pm Monday 21 November
free parking, admission free
20 Years ago this November, Dubliner and East Wall resident Steve Conway survived the shipwreck of the Ross Revenge, the last of the Radio Caroline off-shore Radio Ships. Reading from his book, Shiprocked he tells of this event and of his life on the famous Pirate Station, Radio Caroline.
Steve will also read a preview excerpt from his new book, due out next year, that covers his career beyond Caroline, including the 10 years spent working for Dublin’s alternative station Phantom FM / Phantom 105.2
This event is free, but an opportunity will be available to give donations and to RNLI and Sean O’Casey Community Centre.
6pm, Sunday 24th August 2010, Seven Towers reading and open-mic. All welcome.
Tomorrow I will be reading at this London even alongside fellow Irish writer and poet Eamon Lynsky, poet Graham Buchan and performance poet Yetibetti.
I will be reading a new lighthearted short story (fiction) and possibly some extracts from Shiprocked – Life On The waves with Radio Caroline.
The Hammersmith Ram is really easy to access by public transport – it is 4 minutes walk from Hammersmith Tube station (on the Piccadilly, District and Hammersmith & City lines) and Hammersmith Bus Station (main routes include the 9 and 10 from central London, and west London routes including the H91 and 266)
The other readers:
Graham Buchan graduated as a Chemical Engineer. He then had a career as an editor, writer, producer and director in the UK and US film industries. Now he writes poetry, short stories and reviews, and he facilitates a Creative Writing group for people with mental health issues. The ‘the tall-lighthouse’ has published his collections ‘Airport Reading’, ‘There is Violence in these Vapours’ and ‘In Bed with Shostakovich’
Yetibetti is a 29 year old aspiring performance poet, originally from the East Midlands but has been living in the London area for about 8 years, originally coming down for university. It was only recently she tapped into the London scene through nights such as Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe and found both writing adn performing addictive. She has a full time demanding office job and so writes in the margins. She believes in ‘person first – poetry second’ and although she appreciates many contemporary and classical poets she really admires anyone who can make her think, smile and hold her attention, such as Jarvis Cocker and the Artic Monkeys.
Éamonn Lynskey has had poems published in many magazines. He was nominated for the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Poetry in 2006 and one of his poems will feature on the 2009 OXFAM calendar. His first collection Dispatches and Recollections was published in 1998 and he is currently working on his second And Suddenly the Sun Again to be published in May 2010. Eamonn’s work is also featured in Census, The First Seven Towers Anthology and Census, The second Seven Towers Anthology. . Eamonn has also translated works of Italian poets Montale and Valeri and written in Italian – he holds a Diploma in Italian Lauguage and Culture from the Italian Institute, Dublin. His second collection, And Suddenly the Sun Again has just been published by Seven Towers.
Well, the “Winter Storm Tour” with readings at Ramsgate, London, and a visit to Caroline herself at Tilbury went very well, and I am now making my way back up to catch the ferry at Holyhead.
I’ve a great deal to report, and many pictures of the events and Ramsgate and London, and of the Ross Revenge and how she looks today.
Watch this space in about 24 hours.
Today’s (Sun 28th March 2010) special reading marks my return to The Hammersmith Ram, where the London launch of Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline was held last year.
This is the first Seven Towers event in London, and with free admission, easy access by tube (Hammersmith Underground and Bus Station is 1 minute walk away) plus great food and drink on offer at The Ram it promises to be a good evening. The reading at 6.30 is followed by live traditional Irish music at 8pm.
EVENT DETAILS BELOW:
Seven Towers Writers – Steve Conway, Eamonn Lynskey and Donal Moloney will be joining Liverpool artist and writer Alice Lenkiewicz at the Hammersmith Ram Pub in Hammersmith, London for a spectacular reading.
The reading will be followed by an open mic and the whole event will be followed by the Ram’s weekly Session!
A great night out
Artist and writer Alice Lenkiewicz lives and works in Liverpool.
Her books include a poetry collection, Men Hate Blondes (origional plus, 2009) and a novella, Maxine (Bluechrome Publishing, 2005).
Alice Lenkiewicz also publishes and edits Neon Highway, a poetry magazine that supports emerging and established poets.
Below, she talks about the series of events that led to Neon Highway:
Men Hate Blondes
Steve Conway is a journalist, writer and radio DJ,. he is a former programme controller on the legendary Radio Caroline. Steve has written a best selling memoir – Shiprocked, Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline – about the years he spent at sea with Radio Caroline on the Ross Revenge, and the dramatic end to this time.
Éamonn Lynskey has had poems published in many magazines. He was nominated for the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Poetry in 2006 and one of his poems featured on the 2009 OXFAM calendar. His first collection Dispatches and Recollections was published in 1998 and 1.His second collection And Suddenly the Sun Again will be published in 2010. Éamonn, who holds a Diploma in Italian Language and Culture has also translated the works of modern Italian poets into English. He is also a long time contributor to the open mic scene in Dublin.
Dónal Moloney is a writer and translator from Waterford. The excerpt published here is a version of Chapter 4 of a novella called In The Balance, which he is currently completing. An alternate short story version of Chapter 1 of the novella received a commendation in the 2009 Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition. An excerpt from his short story The Mask appeared in Census: The First Seven Towers Anthology. He is a regular featured reader at both the Chapters and Verse Reading Series and the Last Wednesday Reading and Open Mic Series.
Seven Towers Agency is an independent, Not for profit literary agency, publishing company and eevnt organiser based in Dublin Ireland.
The Hammersmith Ram is a Youngs Pub at 81 King St in Hammersmith. Like all pubs hosting Seven Towers’ events – it has a great bar menu. it also has a great wine lists nad hosts many wonderful events fully supported by its innovative and enthusiastic manager Rory Murphy, and the great staff. it’s our favourite pub in London! more details about the Hammersmith Ram are available fon http://www.thehammersmithram.com
I was somewhat baffled to receive the following link from the Google Alert that tracks online mentions of Shiprocked – Life On The Waves with Radio Caroline around the world.
For one fleeting moment I wondered if I had wandered into a strange alternate universe in which I was cool enough for people to base clothing lines on, before remembering that one online retailer in Ireland had by accident listed the book as a T-shirt. This has obviously resulted in other associated sites using this supplier taking it on as part of their rock and roll clothing lines . .
Still, nice to know that you can now buy the book in small, medium, and extra large!
This Sunday I’ll be interviewed on a radio show with a difference – the very interesting “Sunday Scrapbook” on Liffey Sound FM hosted by Niamh Bagnell.
Niamh is interesting in her own right (see her blog, ‘Various Cushions‘) and I’ve bumped into her at a couple of readings around Dublin. Her radio show is great for anyone who likes writing or reading, as each week she devotes an hour to really getting under the skin of a Dublin based writer, be they poets, novellists, or mixed bags like myself.
On the show I’ll be reading a couple of short stories, including my first ever piece of fiction, as well as some extracts from Shiprocked, and Niamh will be giving me a thorough grilling.
That’s 4-5pm on Sunday 21st March 2010, Liffey Sound, 96.4fm in West Dublin, or online at www.liffeysoundfm.ie
Have just come back from a great evening at Baldoyle Library, where I read from Shiprocked in aid of the RNLI.
A lovely building, right on the seafront, and they gave us a 1st floor room with a dramatic backdrop view of the sea, ideal for an offshore radio reading!
Next reading is Thursday 11th March, 6.30pm at Chapters Bookstore in Parnell St Dublin, where I’ll be reading from Shiprocked, as well as some new work.
After a series of public readings from Shiprocked – Life On The Waves with Radio Caroline at venues around Ireland I’m pleased to be able to announce a pair of UK readings on March 27th and 28th.
On Sunday 28th March, I’ll be reading at a special Seven Towers event at The Hammersmith Ram (time to be announced shortly), along with a number of other Irish authors and poets. The Ram is a great, friendly pub, very accessible by public transport, just a couple of minutes walk from the tube and on many bus routes. More details here soon.
The special event of the weekend though is my long wished for return to the town of Ramsgate, virtually on the doorstep of Radio Caroline during its days at sea, and embarkation point for many clandestine tender runs in the late 1980s.
I’m coming to Ramsgate to fulfill a long-standing wish to return to the town and thank the brave team at the RNLI, whose Ramsgate Lifeboat came out to our assistance when the Ross Revenge ran aground on the nearby Goodwin Sands in November 1991.
Since the publication of Shiprocked a year ago, I’ve done a number of fundraising readings for the RNLI in Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and Galway, but I’ve always wanted to go back to Ramsgate, and give a personal “thanks” to the actual lifeboat station which came out to our assistance on the darkest day of my life. Although we were eventually rescued by helicopter, the Ramsgate lifeboat crew braved incredible seas to come to our assistance, and came close to losing lives when their craft ran aground on the sands beside us, and a crewmember was washed overboard.
As well as giving the profits of each book sold at the event directly to the RNLI, I look forward to reading the tale of what happened that morning to illustrate just how desperate things looked for us, and how glad we were to see them. Plus, there will be several of the lighter tales of life at sea with Radio Caroline too, and I’m hoping that many of the local people who remember Caroline from the 80s will come along to hear what it was all about.
The event takes place at 3pm on Saturday 27th March at Ramsgate Public Library, which is close to the RNLI station in the town. Admission is free, but a donation to the RNLI will be appreciated.
When writing Shiprocked, the tale of my days with Radio Caroline, it was never my intention to “kiss and tell” about various relations and private goings on aboard the Ross Revenge. There were enough funny, scary, and sometimes downright weird things that happened to us as a bunch without having to expose people’s private lives.
There were a couple of incidents however, which were too funny to leave out, and for which the identity of the people involved was not pivotal to the narrative. So these made it in to the book, with the identity of any parties (other than myself that is) suitably obscured.
One of them is the tale of “Lucy“, and of Carry-On style chain of events that unfolded when I went to wake her for her show one morning.
This story shows my shy, catholic-school bumbling persona to great effect, and my confusion and the effect on my morning news shift is the main focus of the anecdote. However, for the sake of the poor lady involved, who did nothing wrong other than imbibe too freely the night before and become “confused and semi-comatose” I have heavily disguised her identity in the book, with a time-shifting of her period on board, and some blurring of her physical description and origins.
I’m asked from time to time to confirm the identity of the lady in question, which of course I won’t, other than to say that her timescale of involvement with Caroline was brief (so not one of the big names then!).
All the events described in the anecdote happened as portrayed, indeed it is a morning that is vividly imprinted on my mind, even all these years later. But it’s not important to the overall tale of the last years at sea to know exactly when, and whom.
It’s the sort of thing that happened from time to time on radioships.
But not on Radio 4 of course !!
Came across the wonderful Wordle site yesterday – www.wordle.net – which allows you to generate a “word-cloud” from any given selection of text, or blog.
It handles quite large amounts of text too – I fed the entire text of Shiprocked into it, and generated the image below.
Publicity and promo work on Shiprocked has continued to occupy me recently with readings and signings in Galway and Dublin. The Galway event, as part of the Volvo Ocean Race celebration, was a particular success, with a large crowd attending the reading at Galway Museum, many of whom were from the yachting and maritime world – they particularly enjoyed hearing the grounding and rescue sequences!
A large number of other readings and events are being planned for later in the summer, through to November, when I will be doing a reading tour in the UK. In addition to this, I have also started work on my second book, which is also non-fiction, and is aimed for publication in the second half of 2010. I’m keeping the topic under wraps for now but will update here as the writing progresses over the months ahead.
With this workload, and my frequent need to be travelling around the country, I’ve had to scale back on my broadcast duties with Phantom 105.2, for the time being. The station management have been remarkably uderstanding about my frequent absences due to writing and promotional commitments, and have given me every help with my various outside projects, but I can’t ask them to do this forever.
Phantom stalwart Sinister Pete takes over the Sunday evening request show Random Access, and the Saturday hours are filled by an extended Phantom Anthems.
Broadcasting is still a passion for me, and I will still be heard on Phantom from time to time, filling in for regular presenters if I am in Dublin at the time.
Life has changed in many exciting ways for me over the past 18 months since I signed up with the Seven Towers Agency, and I have a feeling that in the next year it is going to get more exciting still.
Publicity continues for SHIPROCKED this week, with a review due to be published in the RTE Guide and a forthcoming interview in Hotpress.
On Tuesday I was on 4fm‘s breakfast show for a second time, with Gareth O’Callaghan, himself a former Caroline presenter. Gareth is very helpful about the book, and his team on the breakfast show are a nice bunch, including former Sunshine newsreader Cathy Creegan. Lovely studios with great views across Dublin too.
This weekend I will be on Phantom 0800-1100 on Saturday, and in my normal Sunday evening slot 1900-2100.
The official Irish launch of SHIPROCKED – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline took place on April 15th, attended by a good crowd including many from the world of radio in Ireland.
The book is now available in all major bookstores, including Easons, Hughes & Hughes, Chapters, Hodges Figgis, as well as through the major online retailers.
The BBC are celebrating the 45th anniversary of Radio Caroline‘s launch in 1964 by running a special “pirate” station from a former lightship at Harwich Pier all over the Easter weekend – see details and listen here.
It’s great fun to listen to, they have got a lot of the original 60s presenters from the various offshore stations, and are drawing huge crowds down to the pier, and lots of listeners around the UK and further afield.
As part of my UK visit to promote the book I called in to the Radio Caroline sales stand that is nearby to deliver and sign more books, and was delighted to be invited on board the ship to be interviewed on Pirate BBC Essex about the publication.
I also caught up with many old friends from the Caroline days, including Roger Day, Albert & Georgina Hood who used to run tenders, and now run the sales stand, ex Caroline and Laser engineer Mike Barrington, Paul Grahame and the Balls brothers.
Don’t forget that Radio Caroline themselves have special broadcasts over the Easter weekend, live from the Ross Revenge, though sadly the ship i not accessible for visitors.
Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline had the first of its two launches, in London, on Wednesday 8th April, at The Hammersmith Ram, King Street, Hammersmith, in an event attended by a number of former Caroline associates as well as media and a good turnout from the pre-Caroline pirate station, South East Sound.
The Dublin launch takes place on Wednesday 15th April, at 6.30pm in Cassidys, Westmorland Street – all welcome! For details visit www.seventowers.ie
Just two weeks to go now until Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline hits the shops.
I’ve had so much last-minute stuff to do that I’ve been short on updates here recently, but I will keep this page updated regularly now as we head towards publication week.
Normal stuff continues too – I’m still on Phantom 105.2 every Saturday (1700-1900) and Sunday (1900-2100) and am also doing a special show on Patricks Day march 17th from 2-5pm playing the best of Irish rock.
The “Love & Chocolate” reading in Tralee went very well, and made for an enjoyable afternoon, even if I am shattered after the 600km return drive.
Very close to the final proof of the book now, just writing the acknowledgements!
Seven Towers, the Dublin-based publisher and literary agency have a host of events taking place throughout February 2009, in addition to their regular “Last Wednesday” open mic night.
Seven Towers represent me for my forthcoming book “Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline” which will be published by Liberties Press on March 31st, and I’ll be reading passages from the book at a number of these events.
Highlights for the month:
Wednesday 11th February 9-10 am – Hear Eamon Carr – acclaimed poet, musician and broadcaster and author of The Origami Crow, Journey into Japan, Word Cup Summer 2002 chatting with Dave Fanning on The Tubridy show – about Beat poets, and other interesting happenings – including the publication of Eamon’s first book, the aforementioned The Origami Crow.
First themed reading of 09 Chapters of Parnell Street, Dublin 12 Feb 6.30pm – Valentine’s reading – ‘My love is like . . . ‘ with Barbara Smith, Steve Conway, Oran Ryan, Noel Ó Briain, Ross Hattaway, Anne Moran, Catherine Ann Cullen.
And for anyone spending a Valentine’s weekend in Kerry, there will be a Census launch and Valentine’s reading on the theme of Love and Chocolate in Rueben’s Cafe on Ashe St in Tralee at 2.30 on Sat 14th Feb, with Oran Ryan, Steve Conway, Noel King, John W Sexton, Tommy Frank O’Connor, Eileen Sheehan.
On 18th February (1.15 Chapters of Parnell Street) the lunchtime reading will feature bi-lingual poet Greagoir Ó Duill and Donal Moloney.
Keep an eye out for other events – including 24th Feb 9pm – RÁ performance poetry event at with Raven and Sweeney and special guest this month is London performance poet and rapper Martin Dawes.
And on 23rd February at O Bheal in the Upstairs at The Long Valley, Winthrop Street, Cork, Eamonn Lynskey will be reading and performing.
And on 25th February the Last Wednesday Series Reading and Open Mic at Cassidy’s of Westmorland Street, Dublin, featuring a full lineup of Seven Towers writers and guests. Regular readers include Oran Ryan, Ross Hathaway, Steve Conway, Noel O’Brien, Eamon Lynsky, Donal Moloney and more. Doors open 7pm, admission free, all welcome.
Further details of Seven Towers events at www.seventowers.ie
Tonight (Wednesday 28th Jan 2009) I’ll be at the regular Last Wednesday writers open mic hosted by Seven Towers, along with a huge selection of poets and prose writers. I’ll be reading a newly written short story “Of Little Consequence”.
Last Wednesday takes place every last Wednesday at 7.30pm, in Cassidy’s of Westmorland Street - more details at www.seventowers.ie
Last Wednesday Series Reading and Open Mic
January 28, 2009 (7:30 pm – 9:30 pm)
(Open Mic Night) First Seven Towers event of 2009. 7.30 in Cassidy’s of Westmoreland St. Our regular reading and open mic with Steve Conway, Ross Hattaway, Eamon Lynskey, Donal Moloney, Noel O Briain, Oran Ryan among others!
On Saturday 31st Jan I’ll be taking part in a special day of fundraising for the RNLI, with a reading at the Pavillion in Dun Laoghaire at 3pm, featuring the grounding/rescue story from my forthcoming book Shiprocked.
Also reading will be the poet Ross Hathaway.
Here’s the piec e on Shiprocked which ran in the Irish Independent on Saturday.
The cover illustrated here is still currently a roughwork, full version will be available soon.
Publication date in UK and Ireland is 31st March 2009
There is a nice little piece about the forthcoming publication of Shiprocked! – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline in the Review section of today’s Irish Independent (Sat 17th Jan 2009). it gives some info about the book, and a mention for Phantom too.(the review section is not online yet, so I can’t link to the piece)
Speaking of Phantom, I’m now on regularly on Saturdays 5-7pm as well as every Sunday 7-9pm.
Back here later this week with a review of a great album I picked up this week from a former broadcaster turned singer, Adrianne Sebastian Scott.
It will be available from that date through normal retail outlets in the UK and Ireland, through various online sales sites (including the Radio Caroline Sales operation and the Phantom 105.2 Merchandise Store ).
A special pre-order package for Caroline supporters to include extra content is currently being agreed – more details shortly.
A number of launch events and readings will take place in both the UK and Ireland throughout the spring, and I will also continue to read at the monthly Seven Towers event Last Wednesday in Dublin (next event: 7pm Wednesday 28th January at Cassidys of Westmorland street).