"If I had been born in London, I would certainly call London my Hometown, but I was not born anywhere near London, indeed, I was not even born in England. However, my original university work was certainly born out of a specific interest in London, and specifically in a unique form of broadcasting that was heard in London during the Nineteen Sixties." That is how Eric Gilder, now Professor Dr Habil Eric Gilder, began his monologue that has now appeared in several journals and text books under the title of 'London: My Hometown'.
Eric's own foray into the topic of offshore broadcasting eventually united him with Mervyn Hagger and Genie Baskir. His path to meeting them began at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) where he graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a focus upon Communications and Political Science. The city of Arlington Texas is just over twenty miles to the east of Dallas; a city 'branded' as 'Big D'. Also to the east of Arlington is the city of Irving, and just over fifteen miles to the west of Arlington is the city of Fort Worth which claims as its slogan that it is "Where the West begins".
At UTA Eric Gilder took several courses, and one of them was as a student of Associate Professor Dr. Ross Chapin. He became a personal friend Dr Ross and to whom he later turned for advice regarding the subject of radio broadcasting when he was faced with writing a thesis for his Master's degree at the North Texas State University (NTSU). In 1988, which was six years after Eric received his Master's degree in 1982, that institution was renamed for the seventh time in its life as University of North Texas (UNT). When its campus-based radio station was faced with adopting the new initials, prudence prevailed. Station identification remained 'KNTU', thus avoiding the switch to a new and embarrassing station identification.
But in 1981, the university at Denton was still NTSU, and it was as a student attending NTSU that he told his former UTA professor Dr Ross that he was considering writing about 'Radio Swan'. This was a strange station located on a Caribbean island which had been made famous for the amount of its excrement known as guano. It was a regularly deposited by seabirds, but it was also harvested to be turned into fertilizer. Instead of receiving encouragement from Dr. Ross to pursue that topic, Eric received advice akin to a warning: Stay off that subject!
Radio Swan' had became a controversial station because its short life story threaded through the ill-fated invasion of Cuba which had been intended to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Its owners seemed to be a rather obscure company in New York, and their station appeared to be a private commercial operation. In reality 'Radio Swan' was a 'front' for activities controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that were related to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
The year was now 1981, and well over a decade had past by since that 1961 aborted invasion of Cuba, but its legacy was far reaching. In 1962, Cuba also became the location for the Missile Crisis that almost sparked a nuclear World War III. Then, on a bright sunny day in 1963 came the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. But back in 1981 when Eric Gilder was advised to find another topic, he asked Dr Ross why, and he was told that it was for his own safety. Perhaps Dr Ross knew something of which Eric was unaware.
Unrelated to that advice, a few years earlier, Eric had enrolled in a UTA Russian-language class (simply to meet the language requirements for his degree), and he later told Mervyn Hagger that it was common knowledge that the professors at the Soviet and East European Studies Center there had 'Intelligence' links. Eric switched from Russian to Latin after a year, because he struggled with the subject and he was the only non-Russian degree major in that class. One of his Russian language teachers was Colonel Wilmeth, who, documents show, did have such career links. Eric recently remarked that, the Russian language material was often from Russian sources and technological in nature."
At NTSU where Eric was studying speech communication related to radio, television and film, he took the advice of Dr Ross and changed the topic of his proposed thesis, which a year later would result in being awarded his Master's degree. Under the advice and direction of Dr Marilyn Lawrence-Boemer, the title of his thesis now became "The History of Pirate Radio in Britain and the End of BBC Monopoly in Radio Broadcasting in the United Kingdom.” But there was a problem which was not apparent to Eric at that time. In the early 1980s, there was little in the way of source material.
While Eric credited Dr Ross for his new focus, neither he nor Dr Marilyn could provide Eric Gilder with the foundational research materials that he needed, because they were not readily available to anyone. Professor Asa Briggs was still in the process of publishing an encyclopaedia of material about British broadcasting within the context of a focus upon the British Broadcasting Corporation. A student from the University of Aberdeen name Paul Harris had written a book called 'When Pirates Ruled The Waves', but it was primarily built upon a collection of news-cuttings containing a lot of misinformation. There was also a monologue mainly focusing upon Scandinavian offshore 'pirate' radio and the structure known as 'Radio and TV Noordzee.' It had been built upon an artificial island off the coast of the Netherlands in the North Sea.
That was about it.
There had been articles in magazines and newspapers, but their contents were both incomplete and in many instances in error. The Internet as it is now did not exist back in the early 1980s, and the concept, let alone the opportunity to research digital back issues of periodicals and newsprint was not available to any student who wanted to write a thesis. The floodgates that opened to an avalanche of books, magazines and academic monologues would all occur much later, and in many instances the fawning fans who turned the subject of offshore broadcasting into a constantly repeating topic. all seem to have been born just before or in the Nineteen Sixties. Consequently they had no first-hand knowledge to draw upon.
The source of what has become a plethora of books long after Eric published his thesis, seems to be a young lad named Ian Cowper Ross. His father was a New Zealand immigrant who divorced his first wife and married Ian's mother in London. His name is Charles Edward Ross and he became attached to a career in promoting a franchised dry cleaning business. He had two sons. One shared his father's first name and his mother was Ian's father's first wife. Ian's step-brother Charles Ross went into the restaurant, car wash and theatrical business with a partner. They based their businesses in the Chelsea district of London which is also where Ian was born.
Ian Cowper Ross was a reckless individual who first crashed a collector's motorbike, and then he crashed an expensive Jensen car into a bus. That landed him in hospital where he almost lost a foot, and then it landed him in court. Ian's father hived off Ian to the advertising business of Jocelyn Stevens, publisher of 'Queen', the fashion magazine. It was Ian who bumped into Christopher Moore who was a club disc jockey, and it was Chris Moore who introduced Ian to a young Irish school drop-out who had recently arrived in London. His name is Ronan O'Rahilly and after he was introduced to Jocelyn Stevens by Ian Cowper Ross, Ronan O'Rahilly became a 'useful fool' to Jocelyn Stevens by spreading misinformation about the roots of 'Radio Caroline'.
However, by the time that Eric Gilder began to write his thesis about British 'pirate radio', Ronan O'Rahilly had 'poisoned the well' by spreading lies and distortions to the point that O'Rahilly was quoted everywhere as being the author and creator of 'Radio Caroline'. In reality, Ronan O'Rahilly had set out to spread a lie with the help of Ian Cowper Ross and Chris Moore, and the three of them had succeeded in misleading many more than just Eric Gilder.
At that time there was no contact by Gilder with Hagger and Baskir, because the three of them were yet to meet and form 'The Trio'.
Next: Digging Deeper ....