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Obituary Hugh Nolan 1944-2009


Hugh Nolan was born in Australia in 1944 and came to the UK when he was nine. He studied at Kings College in Wimbledon, but, in true rock’n’roll style he was expelled for smoking in the toilets.  

      On finishing his education Hugh Nolan was a junior journalist in local newspapers.  He then became the editor of the Scene page of the pop music paper Disc. In 1969 he worked for a time with the music management and promotion company Blackhill Enterprises. He was a record album reviewer with International Times (It) and he maintained close connections with the Friends underground and music newspaper, which had been formed by former staff members after Rolling Stone magazine closed its UK edition.

       Hugh Nolan became involved in radio in 1969 through Bill Hayes of Opus newsletter.   In early August 1969 Bill Hayes produced the first (and never broadcast) Radio Andorra tape in his front room in Muswell Hill in London.

     Jumbo Blimp Works was formed in October 1969 by Hugh Nolan, Geoffrey Bass and Terry Yason with financial backing from Tony Secunda and Jimmy Miller of Ringmaker Music with the aim of producing alternative radio programmes and to charter air-time on Radio Andorra.  

       Hugh Nolan became the one constant, from August 1969 until October 1970, in the Radio Andorra and Radio Monte Carlo programmes under the names of Jumbo Blimp Works, Radio 428, Radio Rupert, Radio 205 and Radio Geronimo. Various people dropped by the wayside in those 15 months. 

      At this time Hugh and his wife Jackie lived in Manchester Street in west London.  A son named Benjamin was born in November 1969, joining a son named Marcus who was born in 1963, and the family eventually moved to Denning Road in Hampstead. But by 1971 Hugh Nolan and his wife Jackie had broken up.  Jackie, Marcus and Benjamin eventually moved to Devon.

     Hugh went off to Afghanistan for a time.   He was not to reappear on the airwaves  until the summer of 1973, when Ronan O’Rahilly, the owner of Radio Caroline, and Andy Archer, the programme director, decided to launch the Radio Seagull as a progressive music radio experiment. Hugh and former Radio Geronimo colleague Barry Everitt were approached to take part and they went out to the radioship Mi Amigo off Scheveningen, in the Netherlands, with the record collection from Radio Geronimo.      

      Hugh Nolan stayed on board the Mi Amigo for one stint, from 11 August 1973 until 24 August 1973.  An article in the Observer newspaper named Hugh the best DJ on radio, but he refused to go back on board, despite the persuasive attempts of Ronan O’Rahilly.  He said that he was never paid for his two week stint on board.

      In late October 1973 the Geronimo record collection was piled up separately in the downstairs record library Mi Amigo.   But the records were never returned, despite attempts to do so, around about 1977.   Some were believed to have been stolen and others went down with the sinking of the Mi Amigo in 1980.

      Between August 1973 and 1975, Hugh Nolan moved north to Scotland, settling in the Black Isle for about five years, leaving behind journalism and radio, and taking a job with the Forestry Commission.   Debbie, who had been the girlfriend of Barry Everitt, joined Hugh and Debbie and Barry’s son Blue took the surname Nolan.  Hugh and Debbie had a daughter called Mauve in 1976.

      At the end of 1976 Hugh visited Shetland briefly, looking for work in the emerging oil and gas industry, and he stayed in the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen.   However at that time work was being processed outside Shetland.  Hugh, Debbie, Blue and Mauve Nolan eventually moved to Shetland in 1980, where Hugh worked for the oilfield services company Schlumberger. They stayed in a converted church at Strom and then in new oil worker housing in Hillswick and they made many friends.  Barry Everitt even paid a visit to Shetland and saw his son.

      The Nolan family left Shetland in 1985.  In recent years Hugh Nolan had been a journalist in Vietnam.   When he became ill on returning to Australia, his daughter Mauve went to Australia to look after him.

      Hugh Nolan died in Australia on 3 November 2009 after a long illness at the age of 65.



Ian Anderson, 4 November 2009

Ian is a director of SIBC, the radio station of the Shetland Islands Broadcasting Company

About this obituary: On 25 September 1980, when Hugh Nolan was working for the oilfield services company Schlumberger in Shetland, he and Ian Anderson had a long conversation about the past. The conversation was recorded and written up into articles. The article on Hugh was published soon afterwards in Air magazine, with Hugh's full approval. The part of this obituary up until 1980 is taken directly from that article.

Click here for Hugh Nolan obituary by Barry Marshall-Everitt






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