an interview with

Roland C. Pearson

By Mike Corrigan


Mike:   How did you get the name 'Buster'?

Buster: My Father gave it to me when I was a baby. I never knew why, until fairly recently when I was chatting on two-metres to another 'ham' who, when I told him I'm called Buster, said "I bet your name's Pearson and you were in the Merchant Navy." I was quite amazed, and told him my father had been a merchant seaman. He explained to me that all Merchant Navy seamen called Pearson get the name Buster; I'd never known that. Perhaps my Father had the name at work and that's why he gave it to me.

Mike:   Reading through past issues of "Monitor" it's clear that you've had more than your fair share of stays in hospital. How is your health now?

Buster: Better than it's ever been! Better, in fact, than I'd ever dared hope for. You see, Mike, I was born with the incurable blood disease Haemophilia. That means there's something missing in my blood, called "Factor Eight", so that my blood doesn't clot like a normal person's would. Most people realise that someone of my condition could bleed to death if they cut themselves, which is very spectacular but rarely happens. What's more likely, and has been the cause of most of my stays in hospital, is that a slight knock or jolt can cause internal bleeding which isn't visible but is very painful and has the long-term result that frequent bleeds into a knee-joint, for example, eventually cripple that joint for good. My knees have given a lot of trouble over the years and caused me to be housebound until fairly recently. Previously the only way a bleed could be stopped was for me to go into hospital and have massive blood-transfusions for days on end. But now, as a result of years of research, a new treatment is available in the form of concentrated "Factor Eight", which I can keep in my own fridge at home and when I get a bleed I can immediately give myself an injection, which I've been taught to do under the guidance of the Royal Free Hospital in London, and then I can just carry on as if there was nothing wrong with me. It's given me a new lease of life! I can now do all the things I've always wanted to do but couldn't even attempt before for fear of triggering a haemorrhage and putting myself in bed in agony for weeks.
The treatment came along just in time for me to accept an invitation to "Flashback '67", which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. Whatever people say about old Mike Baron, he's always treated me fairly and he was the only person willing to organize anything on that scale and you've got to admire him for that. I'd never been to a Free Radio gathering of any sort before and I've the happiest memories of that one, everybody went out of their way to make things easy for me and give me a good time, and I met a lot of "Monitor" readers, who gave me a lot of encouragement and made me feel that all the hard work is worthwhile.

Mike:   Your interest in Free Radio is obvious, but when and how did it begin?

Buster: During the war I loved to listen to the "American Forces in Europe" stations. They were set up for the benefit of American servicemen stationed over here, of course, but we'd never heard anything like it! There were record programmes all the time, with all the latest American 'hits', mainly Big Band dance music which I loved (still do!), and I used to write in every week with a great list of requests which they would work through over the course of several programmes, and when they'd come to the last one they'd say "Right, Buster, it's time for you to send in another list!"
What a laugh! It was unheard of in this country; on the BBC you were lucky to get half an hour of records a week, and you couldn't get a request played. I've always liked the way the Americans do radio, they're years ahead of us. I don't know why the BBC ever let the Musicians' Union get a stranglehold on them, they should have refused to accept restrictions right from the start; and of course it was the unions that took away my listening enjoyment in the Fifties, when the BBC pushed to get all the stations beaming English-language entertainment programmes to this country stopped.
After that I lost interest in radio and turned instead to tuning in to airways; I'd spend hours on end listening to my little airband radio to the pilots calling in to the various Air-Traffic Control stations. I got to the point where I knew exactly where every aircraft in the area was, what it was, where it was going and where it had come from - practically what every pilot had had for his breakfast! I got very antisocial at this stage, because if anybody came in and started talking to me I'd lose concentration and lose track of some of the aircraft and then it'd take hours to get myself back into the pattern, so I didn't encourage callers.
I got back into radio again when the first radioship to be anchored of Holland, the "Borkum Riff", began to broadcast some English language programmes in 1960. This was CNBC, the English service of Radio Veronica. I began to write in with requests again as I had with the AFN stations and radio once more became alive and exciting. I never looked back from that point; radio ships have been a big part of my life ever since!

Mike Before producing "Monitor", you were involved in bringing out Info-Sheets for the Southend and District branch of the Free Radio Campaign. How did that come about?

Buster: The Info-Sheet was at that time just a single sheet of Offshore Radio gossip brought out by three girls. I was able to give them a little help as by that time I knew quite a lot of the disc-jockeys. Then one of the girls got a job with the BBC and didn't want to know about Offshore Radio any more; so one evening she came round with all the material for the next Info-Sheet and handed it all to me, saying "Here you are, you're the Editor now!"
I didn't want it! I'd never even had an education and didn't consider I was capable of writing anything. But Andy Archer was working and living in the area so I spoke to him on the 'phone and told him, and he came round right away and we put together the Info-Sheet between us. Then a neighbour got it printed - not too massive a task in those days as we had only seventy names on the mailing-list - and another neighbour came in and addressed all the envelopes for me and posted them all out. Incidentally, it was at this stage that our unique subscription system got started; or rather our non-subscription system! I didn't know if I was ever going to bring out another issue, so there was no way I was going to take payments in advance. Too many magazines had been started, accepted subscriptions for the next twelve issues or whatever, and then never produced them and the readers had lost their money. I was determined that I wasn't going to cheat anybody; if anybody was going to lose over it it was going to be me. I'd rather lose some money, little as I could afford it with only a disability pension to live on, than be under pressure to produce a magazine when I wasn't well enough to be able to do so. So I never committed myself to bringing out another issue, and I sent the magazines out on a sale-or-return basis. And it worked! The money came in and we were able to continue; and the same system has worked ever since, I'm still sending each issue on sale-or-return and it always works out that we have enough money to produce another edition. So I've no intention of changing the system; and when the day comes that we don't get the money any more then I'll know I've been given the message that "Monitor" isn't needed any more.

Mike:   When did you decide to replace the Info-Sheets with "Monitor"?

Buster: That Info-Sheet that Andy and I got together wasn't a single sheet as the previous ones had been, it ended up being seven pages long! So it really was a magazine then, and we couldn't go on calling it a sheet, it had to have a proper name. Myself and one of the girls both thought of the name "Monitor" independently; it was the obvious name really, as that was what it was about, monitoring radio stations.

Mike:   How much time do you devote to "Monitor"?

Buster: Too much! It feels like twenty-eight hours-a-day sometimes! I feel it's ironic that now I have the oportunity, after all these years, to get out and about I don't have the time to take it as I'm tied up listening to radioships all the time, and logging them and writing about them to the exclusion of all else. That's why I called a halt last Summer and took time off to get out to airshows and see a bit of the countyside, you can have a bit too much of radio really and I wanted to get away from it for a few weeks and then come back to it fresh and with renewed enthusiasm.

Mike:   "Monitor" has come a long way from the first edition with twelve pages to the latest issue which has seventy-six pages. You must feel very proud.

Buster: Yes, I'm very pleased with "Monitor" number 32, I do feel it is the best one we've ever produced and it is somewhat of a milestone in our lives. We put a lot of work into this one especially because it was obviously going to become a historical document with the background there about the "Communicator" coming in. Now I'm looking forward to doing another bumper issue when she sails out again!

Mike:   Since that first issue in Spring 1972 we've had the new format, photographs and lots more pages. Do you have any more plans for the future?

Buster: Don't forget Kevin Macey's cartoons, Mike! I think they've made all the difference to "Monitor", I always felt we were a bit too 'heavy' before we had those. I'd wanted cartoons for a long time but I can't draw; but the magic - call it 'L.A.' or what you will - that's kept "Monitor" going all these years worked again and brought us Kevin, so that "Monitor" has become a lot more professional, more of a real magazine!
I never believe in planning for the future, if you make plans something always goes wrong, there's always a disaster awaiting just around the corner! So I don't plan, I let things happen when they're ready to.
I would like to see some colour in "Monitor" again, we haven't had any colour since we changed from the old duplicated-format magazines which were printed on coloured paper. But as yet colour photos are outside our price-range. We'll just have to see how things go.
The next project we've got on hand, of course, is the reprints in booklet form of the early editions of "Monitor". We'll be working on that in 1986 - new radioships permitting! I hope to be able to publish the first six copies in one booklet before the end of the year, and include lots of photos that I had at the time but wasn't able to use in a duplicated magazine. But that's talking about plans again - and as I said, that doesn't do! We just have to take things as they come, and do our best - that's all we can do.



This interview was first published in Monitor issue number 33.
Buster died on 23rd December 21oC (1985)



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