Ronan O’Rahilly, R.I.P.

Ronan O’Rahilly, the original founder of the Scene Club, Mod stronghold of the 1960s in London’s Soho and founder of the UK’s first pirate radio station Radio Caroline has passed away aged 79.

A larger than life character, O’Rahilly was born in Greenore, County Lough in the Republic of Ireland. He ran the Scene Club from scruffy basement premises in Ham Yard off Great Windmill Street in London, which became the hub of the burgeoning Mod culture of the early 60s. Regular performers at the Scene included Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Alexis Korner, Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds, the Rolling Stones and the High Numbers who, under the guidance of Peter Meaden were transformed into the number one Mod group before reverting back to their former name of The Who.

All the tickets down the Scene Club: l to r: John Entwistle, Keith Moon, friend and associate Richard ‘Barney’ Barnes, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey

After O’Rahilly failed to get airtime on the BBC and Radio Luxembourg for a Georgie Fame record he’d put out on his own label, he decided the only way he could get his records played would be to start his own radio station. With funding from various sources he launched pirate radio station Radio Caroline from MV Caroline moored in international waters off the  Essex coast. This was later joined by a second ship, the Mi Amigo. Along with Radio London, Radio Caroline became the young person’s preferred voice of the airwaves during the 1960s, eventually being forced to close down when the Marine Broadcasting Act came into force in 1967 putting paid to pirate radio in Britain.

Following a suggestion from managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, The Who celebrated pirate radio with their 1967 album The Who Sell Out which included several radio jingles and spoof advertisements.

Ronan O’Rahilly later moved into film production and was executive producer on the Marianne Faithfull film The Girl On the Motorcycle and was involved in the Two Virgins album for John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Then for a short while he managed Australian model-turned-actor George Lazenby who starred as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

In 2013 Ronan O’Rahilly retired back home to his beloved Ireland where he died on 20 April 2020 of vascular dementia.

Ronan O’Rahilly 21 May 1940 – 20 April 2020



1 thought on “Ronan O’Rahilly, R.I.P.”

  1. Steve Young says:

    R.I.P. Ronan, our leader for the Free Radio Movement in the UK back in the ’60s. Funnily enough, I first heard Radio Caroline when I traveled to England in 1964 and the first song I heard being played was “My Generation” by some unknown group (ha, ha) called The Who. How was I to know that a couple of years later I would become a deejay on Radio Caroline South, playing the music I loved. Just a few years ago I took my family to see the Quadrophenia show in Vancouver….the opening sequence backdrop included a photo of Radio Caroline and, of course, the “troubles” down in Eastdown and Brighton. Those were the days….thanks to Ronan….and bands like The Who.

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