How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 197.


I don’t know where it came from or how I did it but suddenly I heard myself saying the words that saved me from total public humiliation.

In 2009 I was the presenter of the Breakfast Show on TFM Radio in the North East. I got booked to appear at a local lifeboat station’s birthday celebrations. Gigs like this are usually easy, you show up, everyone is nice to you for a couple of hours, you grab a mic, introduce a couple of local dignitaries, thank everyone for coming and go home. There’s nothing to prepare and they don’t expect much from you. It turned out to be a bit different this particular Sunday afternoon.

I found myself in front of a couple of hundred people sitting on a stage in a row of VIPs including the Mayor and the local MP. After we’d all sung the “Lifeboat hymn” and a chaplain lead us through the “Lifeboat Prayer”, I was called upon as “Guest of Honour” to say a few words!

Wait, I’m the ‘Guest of Honour’? Me? What do I know about the Royal National Lifeboat Institution? I’m a commercial radio DJ! These people save lives, I tell fart jokes for a living!

With sweaty palms and a dry mouth, I got up out of my chair and walked to the microphone, I had nothing. Silence descended on the lifeboat station. In the next couple of seconds, if I couldn’t think of something to say in my “prepared” speech that they were clearly expecting, the only thing that could save me would be if the lifeboat was suddenly called out! As I couldn’t see a distress flare on the horizon, it became clear that I was the one one who needed to be rescued.

Then suddenly, it came to me! I managed to make a link between what I did every morning on TFM and the RNLI.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great honour to be called upon to speak to you today. Without the RNLI, I wouldn’t be here. They didn’t save my life but because of this lifeboat station and the 236 others around our coast, we now have commercial radio in the UK. You see commercial radio broadcasting was illegal in this country until 1973. It only became possible after brave pioneers set out in ships in the early 60s and set up pirate radio stations offshore. They wouldn’t have been able to do that if they didn’t have the RNLI available if they got into trouble in those unpredictable waters. In fact the crew of Radio Caroline were rescued twice by the RNLI. When you listen to your favourite tunes and DJs on TFM and all of the other commercial radio stations today, remember that it all started with the pirate ships and they owe it all the Royal National Lifeboat Institution”.

There was a round of applause and later the chaplain told me how impressed he was that I had gone to the trouble of memorising my speech so I didn’t need to refer to any notes.

Craic on!

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