My adventures with Radio Aquarius lasted from August 1973 to February 1975 and it was an exciting and sometimes hair-raising experience. In the early 90's I wrote a series of six articles all about Aquarius for Pirate Chat Magazine and got great feedback from people who like to read about this kind of thing.
You can now read the six articles by clicking on the files below.
Aquarius began life as Radio Lancashire, broadcasting in the 49 metre band every Sunday before moving to 227m MW. This is probably the oldest bit of memorabilia in the collection.
Right: Our Aquarius card from 1974. This had spent nearly 30 years nestling in Frank's wallet.
October 1974. just over a year after I signed up. 'Pirate radio on air in City!' - Cripes, this will never do.
Aha! Playing with the law, eh? I've a good mind to make an example of you, you long-haired beatniks! If I hear you've been on the wireless playing that awful beat music again, I'll have you publicly horse-whipped!
Bah! We were raided at Disley in May 1974, doing a VHF FM broadcast from Lantern Wood. This article appeared in The Daily Mail in December 1974 after our court case. The text says this raid was 'the beginning of the end' for Aquarius, but in fact we remained on the air until February 1975.
From the archives (a few old shoeboxes in the cupboard) we have the following photos:
Here's Bob, a wizard with tape and full of ideas for spoof ads and sketches. If we had had an 'Artistic Director', he would have been it. This photo was taken in the Autumn of 1973, and shows Bob about to do something with the compressor/ limiter which is on top of the milk crate. The other milk crate is supporting the Philips cassette player. It had to be held away from the ground or the RF made it honk.
Oh dear, look at the hair! This is just before we were raided at Parr's Wood in the early Summer of 1974. Stuart Randall is in the middle, Barry Derv on the right and I'm afraid the shy individual on the left is me. Our pants weren't really fluorescent, it's just that these photos are poor copies of poor originals.
Gah! Caught red-handed again, this time in deepest Sale, Cheshire. I'm busy twisting some wires together on the TX (another junk-box special) and Frank is..er, Frank. All Hell broke loose later on when the place began crawling with the police and army on an exercise. We took refuge in a nearby pub and listened to the tape end, followed by hours of dead carrier.
Below: Tim mans the decks. This was very late in the Aquarius story, when I had almost given up. I made it to this 'farewell broadcast party' though, sometime early in 1975
I've been going through a few old tapes and found lots of old Aquarius bits. Getting these clips in a suitable form for t'Internet was an adventure in itself. The first tape I found was a compilation of various bits & pieces copied from earlier tapes, and it sounded quite rough. I knew I had lots of tapes somewhere, but where? So I made do with what I had. Applying a modest amount of noise reduction and speed correction helped things along, and eventually I had half-a-dozen short files ready to post here. For those who like to know these things, I used 'Music Clean' by X-OOM, blagged from a friend....
Then, just when I was looking for something else I discovered a box of cassettes, many of them marked Aquarius 1974, Bob's Dateline show August 73 etc. These were much better, so I decided to make a fresh start.
I hope it's all been worth it. Just click on the links to listen to the MP3's.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/1.mp3 From early 1973, the Barry Stuart show. Lots of chortling going on.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/2.mp3 A few jingles, then it's up off to see the Judge. Piccadilly Radio reporting..
http://g1hbe.webs.com/3.mp3 One of Bob's spoof ads, in the style of 'K-Tel'.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/4.mp3 Bob, from the early Summer of 74. Refers to an earlier raid.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/5.mp3 Stuart Randall (the Boss) from the Summer of 74.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/6.mp3 Tony Greaves calling Europe, Autumn 1974.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/7.mp3 Oh dear, it's broken! Tim Small and a poorly TX, Christmas 1974.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/8.mp3 Another tape, more jingles from Bob.
http://g1hbe.webs.com/9.mp3 Here comes the Judge (another one...).
http://g1hbe.webs.com/10.mp3 Radio Aquarius just for you.. Here's part of a jingle I made more as an experiment rather than something to be played on the air. Good job too, as this was February 1975 and Aquarius was virtually finished. Steve England would have been proud of me (I think).
There's more Aquarius stuff on Aquarius Two. Please use the page menu at the top left of the page.
My fellow Aquarian Bob has put some more photos here:
Interested in land-based pirates? There's a load of stuff and a forum here:
|The Heald Green Getaway|
There are a few photos of this (mis)adventure, so I thought I'd give it its own little section. After being chased from Hatchett's Wood, Bob and Tim found themselves cornered in a cul-de-sac, actually the approach road to Heald Green railway station. Then Gordon and his minions arrived, blocking their escape:
Oh-oh! Here comes the man himself - Gordon, and he's clutching a wad of paperwork. He's so keen to get to these scum-of-the-Earth pirate Johnnies that he's walking at 200mph and has to hold his hat on.
Gordon inspects Tim's MG. He's probably wondering how a low-life pirate can afford to run a sporty model like this, while he has to grub around in a Marina. Allegedly.
Gordon peers in through the window to see Bob's cherubic face grinning back at him. He hands Bob some er...outstanding paperwork that may need Bob's attention....
...while Tim adjusts his trousers. Those minions look jolly pleased with themselves. Yikes!
Here's how the newspapers dealt with it:
I've been rummaging again and found a few old Polaroids (remember them?) of the 400-Watt mediumwave transmitter. You can read the full terrifying details in the Pirate Chat articles on Aquarius One, but briefly it went like this: A transistor crystal oscillator (running at twice frequency and divided by two) drove a valve - an ECC83 if I remember correctly - which in turn drove a 5763 which, in the early version pictured here drove a single 813 which had about 2.5Kv on top. I later added a 6146 and an extra 813 for more smoke. The original plan was to anode modulate the PA with a pair of 811A's via a specially-wound modulation transformer, but we couldn't get good audio this way. In the end we kept the modulator as it was and modulated the screens of the 813's. Plenty of mod and excellent quality too.
These old photos had gone very brown over the years and were also developing sparkly bits. A session on Photoshop got them looking remarkably good.
As the smoke clears... sorry about the mess. In theory this was my Mum's back room, but I claimed it as the Aquarius Reasearch Lab. Here's the TX in it's early 'lash-up' test. You can see the whopping HT transformer at rhe right front and the string of electrolytics. Ive counted at least six transformers, but I'm blowed if I can remeber what they were all for. The two large valves sticking out of the vertical chassis are the 811A's.
Update Jan 2009: I've just received a very nice e-mail from Alastair, a friend from the early 80's. He tells me that this chassis now rests in his garden shed and has had a different MW transmitter built on it. I suspect this was used for the MW outlet of KFM.
Another angle. Now we can see the single 813 resting on the floor. It had a habit of scorching the floorboards if I recall correctly. No mod transformer yet - it was on order from Magtor, who quoted us the princely sum of £18. Eighteen pounds? Do you think I'm made of money? That was about a weeks wage back then! I don't think we ever paid.
My fellow Aquarian Bob has put some more photos here: