By George Long

In 1940 Hitler invaded Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Selective Service Act was signed in the USA, NBC put out the first official network television broadcast, and Robbie Dale was born.

In the small town of Littleborough, Lancashire, Robbie Dale came into the world. The date was 21st April 1940. He began his life as a bellboy. But his jobs were many and varied. From dealing in antiques to salesman and press agent. He also served in the Army for a time.

It wasn't until he moved to London in 1966 that his future career would become obvious. He got a job in a west London Disco, as a DJ. One night a man called Gerry Duncan walked in to the club and Dale's future was sealed. Duncan represented a pirate radio station called Caroline, which illegally broadcast popular music from a ship outside British waters. Robbie made a demo tape and in April he joined the team at Radio Caroline South. He took over the evening Caroline Club Request Show, and even renamed it as Robbie Dale's Diary.

Robbie was already an entrepreneur of sorts. He was fascinated and passionate about the freedom of being able to listen to the music you like, WHEN you like. He founded the “Beat Fleet,” a free radio supporters association. At the time, to have a theme tune for your radio show was imperative, and Robbie had many Perhaps the most famous one was Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith (listen!).

After the Marine Offences Act became law he elected to stay with Caroline and was joint Programme Controller and Senior DJ for the South ship with Johnnie Walker. He suffered a stomach ulcer while working on the ship and was forced ashore, but still worked for Caroline South. At this time he had become joint programme controller with the infamous Johnny Walker. Caroline eventually was forced off the air so Robbie's career became somewhat scatty, He joined the Dutch pirate Radio Veronica, later moving to Hilversum radio and TV. The year was 1968.

By 1973 Robbie put radio on the back shelf, forming an office-cleaning company. Later he was involved in a failed bid for the Belfast commercial radio franchise, which is known today as Downtown Radio.

In 1980 Robbie owned his first and only radio station. Chris Cary and Robbie Dale arrived in Dublin to a city where the radio dial was full of chaotic disorganised stations. In radio terms it was akin to wild horses out of control. Neither could believe their ears. A country with a broadcast act 50 years old, and just as much out of date. This was a goldmine in which very little digging was required!

There was nothing much happening on the FM dial in 1980, probably because no one listened to it. Or perhaps the chicken and egg scenario. One way or another the FM dial in Dublin was about to wake up! Robbie Dale and Chris Cary opened Sunshine radio. It's presence was immediately felt and suddenly the pirate scene in Dublin had changed forever.

Chris Cary bought out of Sunshine within months. A gang had raided the place and Cary felt there could be no real financial interest in such a volatile environment. He went home to the UK. Meanwhile Robbie stuck by his ship (so to speak!). Despite the fact that Cary went back to Ireland to set up a very successful Radio Nova, Robbie Dale's Sunshine 101 was now well established and questionably number one in Dublin. Robbie Dale's day had come. His greatest realisation had become reality - for eight years!

Although Nova had really taken the number one spot on free radio in Eire, Sunshine was always close behind. Robbie was much more community orientated and was passionate about the spirit of the people he broadcast to, whereas Cary was looking for overseas listener markets. In 1986 Robbie Dale hired a man called Bill Cunningham to spice his station up - and spice it up he did! Suddenly Disk Jockeys had to stand while broadcasting - the beat was fast on the new sunshine and DJ's spent their time screaming out a plethora of "radio speak", carefully piced slogans. Sunshine 101 was now competing in a more aggressive way - against the other two stations Nova and Q102.

In 1988 the pirates were shut down. Sunshine closed with the same moral tone it had opened up on. Dale closed his station, the love of his life, in a legal fashion. You can hear the closedown audio on this site. Robbie Dale, aka Robbie Robinson, now owns holiday apartments in Lanzarote, Canary Islands and is still happily married to Stella. He has been there since 1989. *

We would like to credit the following entities for help in research for this report:
Offshore Echoes for the audio for whistling jack smith audio
History research courtesy of:
Offshore Radio UK Pirate Radio Hall of Fame
Next In Focus: Chris Cary, owner of Radio Nova.
Stay tuned!

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