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One of two designs of QSL cards sent out by Radio Mercury
(click image for high resolution version)

The idea for Radio Mercury was formed in the latter half of 1977 when Stuart Clark and Dave Anderson talked about the possibility of starting their own free radio station. The fact that they lived over 400 miles apart did not deter the two young lads and within a few months the first tests were made via transmitters in Ireland and Denmark.

The plan was for a transmitter to be located with each and takes turns in transmitting the pre-recorded programmes. Stuart managed to get his 20 watts transmitter ready for the summer of 1978 and Radio Mercury International took to the air from the south east, normally on 6260 kHz.

Ian (Dave Anderson) takes up the story

The Scottish transmitter took longer to arrive and when it eventually did there was a fault with it! At that time the late Tom Taylor from European Music Radio was a great friend and rather than send the transmitter back, Tom said he would talk me through the repair via telephone. So, on a night when my Parents were out, I called Tom and within the hour the transmitter was fixed and loading into a 20-watt lightbulb.

As I was a one-man band at this stage it made sense to broadcast from home, so I had to work out the best way to erect an aerial. Our family home was in a block of four with limited garden space. Therefore, I asked our neighbour at the far end could I erect a pole at the back of their garden to attach the aerial. They agreed, so my Dad constructed a tubular mast in two sections. The base was around four feet high with another four feet that could be slotted in making around 10 feet in total. We sunk the base section into the ground at the far corner of our neighbour’s garden. That meant it was pretty inconspicuous when I wasn’t on air.

I decided to make the first broadcast from home as soon as everything was ready, so the end of January 1979 saw Radio Mercury make it’s first broadcast from Scotland on 6290 khz. The aerial was strung from my bedroom window to the erected pole and was a sloping half wave dipole going from maybe 25 feet down to 10 feet at the other end. The transmitter worked well and was putting out in the region of 20 watts. Many reports were received from all over western Europe.

We settled into a full schedule from 1000-1230 local time on the first Sunday in the month from the Southern transmitter and third Sunday from Scotland. Other transmissions were made during the month.

On the third Sunday in March 1979 I was up early to get things ready for the scheduled monthly transmission. It was a cold morning if I remember correctly with snow on the ground. I erected the pole and strung the dipole. Around 0940 I tuned up the transmitter and programmes started on schedule at 1000. The transmitter was plugged into the amplifier in my bedroom studio where the programme source was fed from a cassette deck through the studio mixer.

All was going well until just after 1200 and the Mark Boland Show from Ireland when the transmitter started cutting out. I checked and there seemed to be sparking between the fins on the tuning coil. I thought this might be caused by dust and tried to clean between the fins.

On going downstairs my 6-year-old nephew Paul was looking out the front window and said, “Uncle Ian, there’s a Police van parked outside!” Panic! Our house was in a cul-de-sac and sure enough, there was a Police van, but even worse on the hill approaching our house there was a Post Office detector van! It was a few hundred yards away but stuck in the snow! I immediately ran upstairs and switched off the rig and threw it in the attic. That was not before unplugging the aerial of course! Then dropping one end of the aerial from my bedroom window, running into the garden and taking down the other end of the wire which sank into the snow and out of sight. The top part of the pole was detached and again disappeared in the snow!

I then went out front to find the Police van had moved from outside our house and was now making its way around the estate followed by the yellow GPO van making slow progress through the snow. Looked like they had lost the scent! I watched them carry on around the estate and followed them as they drove around and away from my location. A narrow escape? Seemed like it.

What puzzled me was why they had taken an interest when I had made maybe only half a dozen or so broadcasts from that location. I had a couple of theories;

1)      I was causing TV Interference and had been reported. I think that is very possible as it was a built-up area and I hadn’t carried out any checks.

2)      In our town there was an overly enthusiastic group of radio amateurs who seemed to have a great dislike of pirate radio. I know they took an interest in an FM broadcast we made in 1981 and maybe they tipped the GPO.

Another factor to consider was the GPO seemed to be taking a great interest in short wave at this time. There were raids in early 1979 on Radio Solent City and Radio Capricorn. My good friend Gary was implicated in the former and whilst being questioned by the Home Office officials was asked where Radio Mercury is coming from. He replied words to the effect of, “Oh, I think they are down south somewhere” to which the official replied, “I think you’ll find they are a bit further north”.

Left is a passing GPO van identical to that which was close to the Radio Mercury QTH in the above story.  The photo is courtesy of The Scottish Free Radio Movement.

Click here for a partly airchecked recording of the Stuart Clark and Mark Boland shows running up to the time that Dave switched off the transmitter that Sunday on 18th March 1979 as written about above. The first bit of dead air is when Dave was fixing the sparking transmitter and  then later it can be heard leaving the air during the Mark Boland show.  It was recorded in Leeds from 6260kHz.

So, the problem was now, where will we broadcast from! We obviously could not use my Parents house. Then it was Martin Morris (RIP) to the rescue. I had been in touch with Martin through the FRC Scotland and he offered to broadcast Radio Mercury from his place in Glasgow. So, the April and May broadcasts were made by Martin.

Following that there was a bit of a break before the final transmission was made in September 1979 from Mike James house, again in Glasgow. That saw the team expand to include Jack Russell and great fun was had trying to erect a dipole in a very limited space and almost coming to grief on a railway line whilst trying to find more space!

It was decided to close Radio Mercury in late September 1979 as Stuart had decided to join ABC International and as it always had been a joint venture, we felt it had run its course.

However, my 20-watt transmitter would soon see service as Weekend Music Radio, but that is another story!"

Above is a brief newsletter sent out shortly after the attempted raid on the Scottish location,
giving news of forthcoming broadcasts as well as commenting on the 'near miss' with the GPO.
(click image for high resolution version)

The second of two designs of QSL cards sent out by Radio Mercury

And below are some Radio Mercury Information Sheets
(In both cases click image for high resolution version)


Radio Mercury Audio Library

1978_08_27_sun_mercury_48mb_test_stuartclark-gh91.mp3 New Jun 2022  A short 11 minute test transmission from Stuart Clark in late August 1978, as received in Leeds. The frequency is not known but it was on 48mb. Audio quality is a bit muffled due to the old tape, but signal was reasonable. There was some morse and a bit of splatter from an adjacent free radio station, which is tuned to briefly. 8MB
1979_02_04_sun_mercury_6260sw_studio_0900-0930_daveanderson-ght18.mp3 New Feb 2022  Dave Anderson signs on the station for the first birthday broadcast. This recording and those below from 4th February 1979 were copies made in 1979 from the original studio recordings. 41MB
1979_02_04_sun_mercury_6260sw_studio_0930-1000_stuartclark-ght18.mp3 New Feb 2022  Stuart Clark from 0930 until 10am. Copied from the original studio recording back in 1979. 40MB
1979_02_04_sun_mercury_6260sw_studio_1000-1100_steveyork_markboland-ght18.mp3 New Feb 2022  German DJ Steve York is followed at 1030 by Mark Boland.  Steve York worked on other shortwave stations at the time including Radio Partisan. Mark Boland was also on the air at Southside Radio on 999kHz in Dun Laoghaire and produced an FRC Show on that station.  On his Radio Mercury show this week he features Alternative Radio Dublin. Copied from the original studio recording back in 1979. 82MB
1979_02_04_sun_mercury_6260sw_studio_1100-1130_connieferrin-ght18.mp3 New Feb 2022  New DJ Connie Ferrin between 1100 and 1130 with a rocky show. Copied from the original studio recording back in 1979. 42MB
1979_02_04_sun_mercury_6260sw_studio_1130-1200_karen-ght18.mp3 New Feb 2022  The final show for the day was from 'Super Sunday' Karen, who was one of the editors of the Dutch 'Free Radio Magazine'.  She produced a bi-lingual show in Dutch and English. 40MB
1979_03_18_sun_mercury_6260sw_daveanderson_airchecks_from_blackpool.mp3 New Jun 2022  A short and heavily airchecked recording of Dave Anderson from the day mentioned in the text above, when the GPO appeared in the area and the transmiter was switched off. This one was recorded in Blackpool from 6260kHz. The reception was marred by severe local electrical interference, but is included here to complement the later recording below. The recording is interesting as it includes the tape change between Dave and Stuart Clark, using a phased version of  'Overture From Tommy' by The Assembled Multitude, which was heard in the early 70s on World Music Radio. 8.4MB
1979_03_18_sun_mercury_6260sw_transmission up_to_gpo_activity-gh100.mp3 New Jun 2022  Stuart Clark, followed by Mark Boland with a partly airchecked recording of these recorded shows. The end of the recording is during Mark's show when the transmitter can be heard leaving the air as the GPO appear close to the transmitter location. This was the last time this particular location was used for the Scottish side of the station. Recorded in Leeds from 6260kHz. 27MB
1979_04_22_sun_mercury_6260sw_1015-1025_daveanderson-gh100.mp3 New Jun 2022  A short clip of Dave Anderson mentioning about tests on the 41mb.  Recorded in Leeds, but the actual frequency was not noted on the tape, but probably 6260kHz. 9MB
1979_05_07_mon_mercury_6250sw_markstafford_with_live_signoff_from_stuartclark-gh73.mp3 New Jun 2022  A Bank Holiday Monday in May 1979 recorded in Leeds from 6250kHz. Stuart Clark is followed by Mark Stafford who mentions John Dawson is sitting in the background.  Stuart Clark then closes the station down suddenly during the Mark Stafford show due to technical problems, apologising to John Dawson for his show not going out. Along with the electrical noise, there is some teleprinter interference. 15MB
1979_05_27_sun_mercury_7375sw_stuartclark_airchecks-gh73.mp3 New Jun 2022  Airchecks of Stuart Clark from a Sunday in June 1979 recorded from their 41mb tests on 7375kHz.  There is mention of John Dawson being on later. Some fades and electrical interference. 10MB
1979_09_00_sun_mercury_daveanderson_brief_signoff-gh51.mp3 New Feb 2022  A brief sign off from Dave Anderson, on what what was possibly one of the final broadcasts in September 1979.  Recorded in Leeds, but the actual frequency was not noted on the tape. 0.4MB



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