Veteran pirate radio and BBC anchor man lifts the lid in his new book on his life

Tom Edwards of Heckington is bringing about his life in TV and radio. EMN-181119-163514001
Tom Edwards of Heckington is bringing about his life in TV and radio. EMN-181119-163514001

A retired TV and radio anchorman who learned his trade on the high seas in pirate radio is to release his memoirs in an emotional and potentially controversial new book of his life.

Tom Edwards, 73, who has made his home in Heckington for over 20 years, is due to release Is Anybody There? through Kaleidoscope publishers next month, something he describes as “a raw read” reminiscing on his high jinks with airwave pirates Radio Caroline, his sexuality, his successful battle to overcome alcoholism and his experience of ‘the Jimmy Saville years’ at the BBC.

Written in a conversational style, Tom says the exercise has been “cathartic” bringing out some things he has never shared except with some of his closest friends, but also recalling the lighter moments of his exploits with some legendary names in showbusiness too.

He said: “I was writing about some pretty personal stuff and horrendous things that happened to me, but it is all in there, otherwise, I was told I would regret it.

“I am excited, but also apprehensive how people might react. I have always wanted to do this and I love to write.”

The veteran broadcaster said he had a pad and pen by his bedside handy for when he suddenly remembered things to add and found himself becoming quite reclusive during the writing process.

The foreword is written by Tom’s former boss at BBC Look East, who had to let him go and the height of his alcohol problems which led to him being checked into the Ferdowse Clinic in Heckington for three years and put back on the road to recovery.

The book begins with his birth in 1945 as a German flying bomb zoomed overhead in Norwich. He recalls his love of Norwich City FC, the loss of his father from tuberculosis when he was still a boy.

Defying expectations of going into the family grocery business, he got a job as an announcer on campers radio at Pontins playing request records before getting a job with pirate station Radio City under larger than lfe boss Reg Calvert who was later shot dead in a high profile murder. Tom moved on to run programmes at Radio Caroline and recalled: “Non-stop music, DJs ad-libbing and having fun attracted me.”

He has numerous photos of these hedonistic days before the outlawing of such stations led him to find work with BBC Look East as a news anchor aged just 22. He said: “I have always loved news and reading bulletins and learned my craft on live TV.”

He moved on to Radio 1 and 2 and there the age of the celebrity began. He recalls the night when DJ David Hamilton played an outrageous practical joke on him live on air as crews often would to pass the time. “If only the public knew what happened at that time,” he said.

Freelance work followed with independent networks Thames and Harlech television before a spell in the United States, before returning to work for Look East.

Tom says: “Working freelance I was working seven days a week and I found the only way to wind down was drinking and I crossed that invisible line from social drinking to dependency. The booze and drugs just flowed at that time. I’m glad it has changed.

“I also lived through the Jimmy Saville years without realising it, even though the evidence was there. He was a magnet for fans. He even wrote a letter of support to me in the Ferdowse Clinic.”

The ensuing revelations about other presenters that followed shocked him.

Twenty-four years sober, Tom admits: “I cannot believe what an idiot I was. But it is an illness.”

The book launches on December 8 in Birmingham with friends and top executives from TV and radio invited. Prior to that, Tom will be at Heckington’s Christmas Fair in the village hall on December 1 from 10am to 2pm with signed copies for sale.