British Ocean Radio


Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about freedom by David McVey.

David McVey lectures at New College Lanarkshire. He has published over 120 short stories and a great deal of non-fiction that focuses on history and the outdoors. He enjoys hillwalking, visiting historic sites, reading, watching telly, and supporting his home-town football team, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy FC.

David started writing in the 1980s, and has won or been placed in a number of national and international prizes, especially for his short stories.

‘British Ocean Radio’ follows a strange group as they form a new, free radio station.



Before they found themselves reading excerpts from Macbeth in a deep swell with a force nine gale battering the boat, the thespians had been safely in rep in the nearby seaside town of Grimtoft. Robert had persuaded them to come aboard and broadcast some culture to our expanding audience and their theatre wages must have been pitiful since they agreed right away, for the widow’s mite that Robert offered them.

‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,’ one of them recited, tremulously, ‘creeps in this petty pace from day to day…’ and then he paused, clapping a hand to his mouth and breathing deeply, trying to fight back the rising bile.

‘You’re doing fine,’ Robert mimed, encouragingly.

Then another blast of wind and wave slammed into the vessel which shuddered and shook. The actors lost all interest in Macbeth and two of them fought pathetically for the door handle of the one toilet on board.

Robert’s success in persuading the actors to give this performance on the boat from which we broadcast to the east coast shouldn’t surprise anyone. Robert had confidence and enthusiasm; they were often misplaced, but they were infectious.

He had been a respected engineer at the BBC in London and had graduated through to production. He earned a reputation for work that was innovative and intelligent even when addressing popular topics such as dance band music or sport. But he chafed at the confines of the BBC. ‘They don’t understand radio,’ he once told me, ‘yet only they are allowed to broadcast on it.’

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