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Author Susan Moore writes book about pirate radio station owner 'Uncle Reg'

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

The daughter of a pirate radio station owner infamously shot dead by a rival has published a book about him.

Reg Calvert, known widely as 'Uncle Reg', ran the popular Radio City station in the 1960s from an abandoned Second World War fort off the coast of Whitstable.

Susan Moore’s book explores the experiences of her father, who was well-known in the town before his death in 1966.

Author Susan Moore
Author Susan Moore

“There was tremendous local enthusiasm for pirate radio, with volunteers in Whitstable helping to set up Radio City,” said Susan, who was 16-years-old when the station was founded, originally as Radio Sutch.

After Radio Caroline famously launched in 1964 and began illegally broadcasting pop music across British airwaves, Reg, manager of bands such as The Fortunes and Screaming Lord Sutch, was inspired to create his own offshore station.

“The BBC had a real monopoly on radio back then,” Susan explained.

Dorothy and Reg Calvert, outside Clifton Hall
Dorothy and Reg Calvert, outside Clifton Hall

“There was almost no pop music on the radio.

"The only way people could hear all the fantastic music that was going on, like The Beatles, and Elvis, and The Kinks, was if they could tune into Radio Luxembourg broadcasts.

“So when pirate radio stations started in 1964, it was like the genie was out of the bottle.

“The pirates were prepared to put themselves on the line for their listeners.”

Shivering Sands tower and walkway
Shivering Sands tower and walkway

While many stations operated from boats, Reg ran Radio City from the Shivering Sands fort in the Thames Estuary.

Local fisherman Fred Downs provided access to the location, using his boat, The Harvester.

The station enjoyed an eventful couple of years before Reg was shot dead in 1966 by Major Oliver Smedley, former owner of pirate station Radio Atlanta.

Reg, who was married to Dorothy Calvert, had gone to Mr Smedley’s house to confront him but was killed with a shotgun.

Dorothy Calvert with her pet monkey, William
Dorothy Calvert with her pet monkey, William

At his trial Mr Smedley said he feared Reg was there to kill him.

On October 18, 1966, a jury found Mr Smedley not guilty of manslaughter, accepting his claims of self-defence.

Susan has now written about the extraordinary experiences of her father in Life and Death of a Pirate.

It is available for £16.50 from Harbour Books.

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