Tom Lodge: Presenter with Radio Caroline who later studied Zen


In the 1960s Tom Lodge was the morning disc jockey on the pirate radio station, Radio Caroline, and the whole enterprise was in line with his personality as an adventurer.

Thomas Odoard Marshall Lodge was born into an accomplished family. His grandfather, Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), was a physicist and inventor who became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a pioneer in wireless telegraphy and in a noted experiment transmitted radio signals between two buildings in Oxford. To this day, there is the Oliver Lodge Laboratory at Liverpool University.

Five of Sir Oliver's sons trained as engineers, but the sixth, Oliver WF Lodge, was more interested in the arts, being an author, poet and painter, and was in the Bloomsbury Group. His first wife, Wynlane, had died in childbirth in 1922. In 1932 he met Diana Uppington, a former Tiller Girl and nude model, and they married, with Tom, their second child, being born in 1936. The family left the UK during the war and Lodge's father taught English literature in America. They returned in 1946 and lived in Painswick, Gloucestershire. His father died in 1955.

When Lodge was 18 he moved to Calgary of his own accord and became a cowboy, a used-car salesman, a fisherman and a gold miner. He nearly died in a freak accident on an Arctic expedition when he was blown on to anice floe. He wrote about his experiences in Beyond The Great Slave Lake, published by Cassell in 1957. He married Jeanine Arpourettes and became an announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

On a visit to London in 1964 Lodge was sounding off in a bar about the poor presentation of popular music on the BBC Light Programme. An entrepreneur, Ronan O'Rahilly, was impressed by his views and said he was launching an offshore station, Radio Caroline. Lodge became a presenter, and when it merged with Radio Atlanta, went with his ship to waters around the Isle of Man to establish Radio Caroline North. He was in pole position as breakfast presenter, and as he did not suffer from seasickness he could replace ailing disc jockeys. Despite opposition from Post Office executives he hosted a dance for their engineers in Blackpool.

Radio Caroline North became very popular but Radio Caroline South lost listeners and hence advertisers, to Radio London, and in October 1965, Lodge returned south as programme director. He replaced the staff with younger, more enthusiastic disc jockeys; among his recruits was Peter Dingley, who became Johnnie Walker.

Lodge encouraged spontaneity by telling the disc jockeys to relinquish playlists: "Choose the record when the record before is playing. No other preparation. You listen to your show and that way you will be playing what's relevant at that moment. You will be in tune with your audience if you are the right kind of person." The philosophy worked and the listening figures soared.

In March 1966, Brian Epstein wanted to relaunch the pop paper, Disc And Music Echo, a combination of Disc and Mersey Beat, and Lodge was asked to interview celebrities including the Beatles for a free flexidisc, Sound Of The Stars. If you judge Lodge's work purely on this, you would assume he was a nonsensical presenter with a fervour for car horns.

When Lodge's ship came adrift from its anchor, the staff, including Lodge and Tony Blackburn, had to be rescued in freezing conditions. This incident became fiction in The Boat That Rocked (2009), a film that Lodge disliked intensely, particularly disagreeing with the drug-taking on board. Over the years, Lodge wrote and rewrote his autobiography and the final, expanded edition curiously alluded to the film with its new title, The Ship That Rocked The World (2010).

The pirate ships were declared illegal after the Marine Broadcasting Act 1967, and in January 1968 Lodge joined the BBC's new station, Radio 1, to present Radio One O'Clock with the Johnny Howard Band, but he only lasted two months, hating the bureaucracy. In his view, you did not need a team of people to make radio programmes.

Lodge moved to Canada, becoming a rock DJ on CHLO and establishing a course for radio engineers and producers at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. In 1979, he moved to India and wrote his second book, Success Without Goals. As a Zen Buddhist, he took on a new name, Umi. He established his International Breatherapy Association, based in California.

Thomas Odoard Marshall Lodge, radio presenter: born Forest Green, Surrey 16 April 1936; married (three sons); died 25 March 2012.