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A Tribute to Dave Turner

Better known as 'Dave the Fish'

Issue 5: Updated : 28 November 2015

Dave with the Big Fish

1. Dave the 'Big' Fish (Rob Olthof)

It's was with great sadness we heard of the unexpected death of Dave the Fish who passed away on Sunday October 14th 2007

Fish Facts - Dave made 140 trips out to the Ross Revenge from October 1987 to October 1990. After the mast fell in November the seafront at Herne Bay was effectively closed as the bus & van transporting new mast sections were loaded from Neptune Jetty & taken out to the ship on the 'Fairwind'

Undercover as a Press Boat during the raid of 1989 the DTI's Jim Murphy recognised 'The Fish' & he was cautioned & later summons in London

Three years of tendering & brief appearances on air as Dave Fisher, Dave made the final tender trip to the Ross Revenge. A larger than life character Dave always had a smile on his face & was most content out at sea in his beloved boat fishing off the North Kent coast

Living in Herne Bay Dave worked the R11 "Fairwind" out of Ramsgate

A rock music fanatic his onboard radio was most often blasting out rock anthems or the output of Radio Caroline or Laser with just a second ear on channel 16 & the shipping channels, as he & crewman Jamie battled the elements, you could hear them a good nautical mile off!

With few boats venturing out into the Southern reaches of the North Sea, particularly during the late 80's Offshore Radio period, we'd often met up with Dave either as we were leaving or making our own way out to the Knock Deep & later South Falls on supply runs to Caroline's Ross Revenge

Tales over a pint or three were always fun with Dave who's party piece was to down his first in split seconds. Talk of fishing quota's & dumping catches aroused emotions, his favourite songs, anecdotes & programme boobs he'd heard were his favourite topics

At sea up until his untimely death working his latest vessel the Sarah-Louisa, Dave was a lovely guy who'll be sadly missed - Bob Le-Roi

There are skippers who do and skippers who don't, those who's arrival you can set your watch by like Life Boat Lew from Ramsgate, & those who might be called Olympic Torches who never go out in more than a force 4. But there was one unique skipper, Dave the Fish. His smiling face & infectious chuckle would make you smile whatever the circumstances. He would make best of the bad, remedy a poor situation. With no sense of fear or the much respect for the suits of authority he had far more guts than most rebels. In full knowledge of the local harbour authorities that like Dave loved Caroline he would sail with replacement DJ's & stores on the rough 2-hour haul to the Ross at the Falls Head

My most enduring memory of Dave the Fish was at the time of shipping out new mast sections. The Big Tower survived the hurricane in 1987 but was to fall down some weeks later. We had to be inconspicuous, collecting the first replacement sections from Hoo Marina, not an easy task on the Fairwind. I was already looking forward to a pie & pint at the Six Bells in Hoo before we sailed, but Dave knew no rest, he rubbed his hands, body language that the conversation was closed, chuckled & we headed back down the Medway to Herne Bay, the pie & pint had to wait. Making for Herne Bay with one crewmember stowed in the Fish Hold, he’d been recruited at the Six Bells. I don't recall his name but he was a strange shade of yellow. It sticks in mind as we left him asleep in the Fish Hold to row ashore to quench our thirst having been at sea over eight hours. Dave had no time constraints, he was out to catch Fish listen to Rock Music & Tender the Ross. Beer & leisure was a bonus. At about 1.00am it was back to the Fish Boat to head to the Ross. I was more relaxed now having sunk a few pints and a Kebab

An uneventful trip we followed the coast almost to the Foreland & turned North East to the Falls Head. By 6.00am we were in the Leigh of the Ross, tired but flushed with success, after some hooting the Guys appeared & helped unload the bulky & heavy mast sections which wasn't easy. Later loading the Fairwind from Herne Bay Jetty at 11.00pm at night & making for sea we became more accomplished & quicker. It was now 11.00am & the second mast section was finally removed from the Fairwind. Our yellow-faced crew member from Hoo, was still in the Fish Hold fast asleep. Dave was hysterical with laughter when we tried to wake him. Life was just a huge adventure to Dave. He lived in a very happy un political world, forgive me if that sounds patronising, but believe me it’s true. Dave didn’t have a nasty bone in his body. He was a genuine & decent bloke, but nobody's fool. I don't think it occurred to him that our hapless Deck Hand might have been dead!

By 11.30 we were all fairly exhausted. It was time to go but the tide was against us, so Dave decided to wait an hour. I must admit after 28 hours I was exhausted, but Dave in great humor gurgling with delight relived a recent Fishing expedition where he caught a record amount of Bass. Chicago was ready to leave the ship too so as our Deck Hand stirred after his prolonged slumber & decided the sun was far enough over the yard arm to have a drink sank a Carton of this fairly rough old wine then promptly went below to sleep. To which Peter often the architect of the understated cried 'what shall we do with the drunken sailor'!

Everyone I know who knew Dave The Fish from the Caroline days would have a lump in their throats when they heard the news of his passing

Dave & Caroline

2. Dave with Caroline Martin on finger pontoon fisherman's berths at Ramsgate Harbour

Let me say it's not surprising Dave died of a Heart Attack, he had the biggest Heart I knew like an Ox, wilful with plenty of stamina & nothing could stand in his way. I remember fishing with him for 18 hours, the decks of the Fairwind groaning under the weight of Cod, Dog, Plaice we headed for Ramsgate gutting merrily, we had been up from 3.00am, there was 14 boxes to work through. Dave would be laughing like a Lunatic, that big beaming smile, counting the money in Cod, he was relentless. I was exhausted & close to tears knowing we had at least another 4 Hours of hard labour ahead, then probably up again at 2 am. Yes I crewed the Fish Boat for a while to help during a lean times

Diabetes was the demon Dave fought; he did his best to cope with it but would sometimes get the better of him. For those who knew him, his fishing friends, colleagues & Caroline staff, there was nothing other than good words to say about Dave, heaven will be an enriched Plaice! but for Cod's sake give Rock Lobster by the B52's a rest Dave it's a sadder World without you, cheers mate, we had some memorable days - Dave Richards, Herne Bay, Kent

I first met Dave when visiting the Ross Revenge as skipper of the Henrietta F109. I wondered who the nutter was battling out in heavy seas then realised this was Dave at his best. Not only was he a good fisherman but a very good friend to Radio Caroline. When he said I'm going out he went no matter what the sea was like, he should always be remembered for the many trips to the ship in the final days at sea he virtually alone kept provisioned

After a while we used to see each other along with fellow DJ's in various drinking establishments where Dave would do his party piece of downing a pint in double quick time, no mean feat for someone who's health was not at its best. Dave suffered with diabetes, I remember sitting in the departure lounge in Vlissingen on a trip to see his beloved Caroline, waiting to board the Olau ferry for our return to Sheerness, Dave was chatting away one minute & the next on the floor, which we quickly sorted with a can of coke

Unfortunately when we got to the Ross that day she was shrouded in thick fog, but we did get a misty look at her through the mist. Well Dave I hope with all the good you have done & the people you have helped in your life your memory lives on, anchors away mate. God bless it was nice knowing you

Graham Croft - Whitstable Harbour Offices (Captain of the 'tender' Henrietta)

In two years on Caroline I experienced a variety of tenders, from the fastest the 'Swift' to the slowest the 'Henrietta'. From the most comfortable, the 'Bellatrix' to the most uncomfortable the 'Windy'!

But the most memorable of all had to be the time we loaded up the 'Fairwind'.We'd had a call from the Ross one night in ’87 to say 2 of the 3 freezers on board had packed up & if a replacements wasn't taken out, a lot of perfectly good food would have to be thrown overboard

A few phone calls later, Jeanette & I were on our way in a bright & rather tall orange rent-a-van collecting two freezers that we'd found in Exchange & Mart. We made for Ramsgate harbour & meet Dave, who promptly told us to make ourselves scarce. He'd seen a lot of unusual customs activity & reckoned it was far too dangerous to stay in the vicinity, especially in a bright orange rental van!

We agreed to meet up along the coast at Broadstairs. He set sail, we drove to the rendezvous. The road down to Broadstairs harbour passes through a narrow stone arch. We made it with an inch to spare! What followed was the most surreal experience of my life.With the 'Fairwind' tied up to the jetty, the three of us spent what seemed an eternity man-handling the two huge freezers down a narrow flight of wooden stairs onto the boats deck, all this at 3am in the morning much to the amusement of assembled local fisherman casting from the pier head

We somehow averted dropping the freezers into the drink & finally lashed them down on the open deck. Dave prepared to set out for the Ross. I said to him "how on earth are you going to explain these if you're stopped" to which he casually replied "oh I'll just say I use them to store my fish"!

God bless you Dave. Not many others were prepared to take the risks you did, & life on board was the better for it.

Kevin Turner, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

I only met Dave a couple of times he was an open hearted chap who wasn't worried about being open. Although 43 he had a free youthful spirit & enjoyed life. In the same way from his stories I felt sorry that some people used him. I never forget the first time I met him, which was in August 1987 in as we call it Horney Bay. To be exactly at 16 Charles Street. We, Ron, Walter from Radio Monique & myself were invited to sleep for a night at Fionna Jeffries place. Dave the Fish was at her place when we arrived that very Friday afternoon. Directly after we entered the living room he was sent away with the words: 'Now you have to go as I now have three other man to work with'

But there are also the moments we shared 'in the fog' in one of the nice pubs in Whitstable, during my regular trips to Kent. One evening along with Bob Le-Roi, Johnny Lewis, Nigel Harris & many others had a long session which went on until long after closing time. In the mid winter Dave told us the most fascinating stories about being on sea. Some years ago he went out on Sundays with his fishing boat into International Waters not for fishing but playing the pirate. Still, when seeing a short videoclip of this happening, I get a big laugh. With him a friend, a transmitter, a cassette machine & an antenna on his little boat was all he needed. Safely out at sea the cassette was started. Dave the Fish had something he had dreamed of for many years, his own floating Pirate Radio Station..... & with a great many cans of beer, more beer probably too much as he was a heavy diabetic. Let's never forget the times Dave did tender under most dangerous circumstances the Ross Revenge in the late eighties and early nineties. Dave we will never forget you -
Hans Knot, Groningen The Netherlands


I made a very nice photo of Dave the Fish with a huge fish in his arms for my photoarchive. (above) I only met him only once but he was a very nice guy. Rob Olthof, Amsterdam, The Nederlands

My first meeting with Dave was on the Ross Revenge when it my turn came for shore-leave, the return was aboard 'Fairwind', Dave's trusty fishing-boat. His runs took him out from Ramsgate, Margate or Broadstairs but as times got more difficult & the authorities took more interested other ports were used.

Luckily my first trip didn't involve many hours of fishing on the way in, as some had. On one occasion it kept a couple of us at sea for 12 hours on a freezing winter's night before we made land a lift home in the smelliest of contraptions, the infamous 'fish-van'. He loved being at sea & the fact that this included being part of the Caroline organiasation was an added bonus. Over the years, I've made 50 odd runs on that little boat, each one was its own adventure. I recall a trip that was so rough I thought we would be overturned. Dave preferred to think of it as a fairground ride & laughed long & hard with every resounding crash of the waves. His infectious laughter did make the trip a little more bearable, however it was still scary! Dave loved every aspect of these late-night runs out into the North Sea. They were like a second-world-war mission to him, to be accomplished at all cost

Dave with Fairwind

3. Unknown with Dave on 'Fairwind' Ramsgate Harbour

It was not all work & boats though, some of us on shore living in Kent would go out with Dave for a few drinks & laugh. His laugh being his trademark always lightened the mood. Dave was a willing & trusting man, looking back at events in the late 80's & early 90's, Dave put himself on the line on many times to get supplies to the Caroline ship. He had more to lose than any of us; his boat & very livelihood was at stake. Many times I sat with tanker-drivers on Herne Bay seafront in the dead of night, passing over pound notes for the diesel being hastily pumped into barrels on the deck of the 'Fairwind'. No other fisherman would have tolerated this scenario. Dave was unique in his dealings with Radio Caroline & I know that Ronan O'Rahilly, the station founder was grateful for Dave's comitment & determination.

So many of his friends had stayed in touch with him after Radio Caroline had finished broadcasting from the high seas which is testament to his enduring character. His parents, Brian & Ann, taught him the basic rules of life & along with his sister Sue he followed them. Dave was honest, true and loyal - Nigel Harris


I first met Dave at his home in Herne Bay in January 1989 ahead of my first trip out to Radio Caroline. We’d broken up the journey to the coast several times & it was the middle of the night when we finally made it to Fish HQ. I recall it was a fairly choppy journey out but at least I was spared a fishing & gutting on this trip, that would come later!

I made a number of runs out to the Ross Revenge with Dave between 1989 & 1991. One of the most memorable came in 1989 after the raid. We delivered a mountain of food & records that had been donated by Caroline supporters following the London Rally. With such a volume of goods ‘Fairwind’ sat incredibly low in the water, it had taken ages to get everything loaded & equally as long to get everything safely onto the Ross

Fairwind alongside the Ross Revenge

4. 'Fairwind' alongside the Ross Revenge (Undated)

Dave got a real kick out of the shows he did for Caroline. As 'Dave Fisher' he made several appearances between 1988 & 1990. During one of these shows in June '89 the famous 'Fish Laugh' appeared for the first time. While recording the links with him for his next programme he made a dodgy comment (which wasn't broadcast!) letting out a big " HA HA HA HA....OH WOT". I added some reverb, carted it up along with the rest of Dave's links & played it out during his next show. The cart remained in the Caroline studio & continued to get a regular airing!

Dave & I kept in touch over the years. Christmas won't be the same without his card, complete with a little sketch of a fish on the envelope, & usually the words "Oh Wot!". I often wondered what my postman thought as he put those cards through the letterbox!

Just weeks before his death I picked up a voicemail message which went "Nick, its Dave, who sang this?" There then followed about 10 seconds of distorted music before he returned to say "Let Me Know". In future, every time I hear 'Feeling a Moment' by Feeder, I'll think of 'The Fish'

Rest in peace Dave - Nick Jackson


Happy Dave

5. Dave on 'Fairwind' (Sue Turner)

I was very saddened & shocked to hear of Dave's untimely death. As others have said, he was one of the great sterling characters one meets but occasionally in life, a truly nice guy who would put himself out to help others. I'll always remember that he once came out especially to collect my girlfriend who had spent Christmas on the Ross with me. The last time I rang him he was out fishing, we'd arranged to meet for a beer next time I was in the area, sadly that won't happen now

Stories about Dave are legion; I too, remember the 'fish van' his love of rock music, being up to the gunnels with codfish, being fed a hearty fry-up in his mum's kitchen at 4 in the morning. He made immense efforts to deliver all the parts we needed to construct the new masts. One time we turned up at the crack of dawn on Herne Bay seafront with a double-decker open top bus from which we proceeded to unload mast sections onto Dave's boat! He seemed completely unfazed by the curious looks from passers-by happily setting off to sea with the sections protruding out each side of the 'Fairwind' like torpedo launchers!

The day after the raid on the Ross, he made a special trip to the ship at his own expense with Piers Easton & myself, with Pier's ENG camera, & some replacement crew, under the guise that we were 'news reporters'. We did indeed film some interviews that aired on Anglia TV, but on arrival back at Ramsgate, with some different people than we'd gone out with, found the D.T.I/D.O.T. waiting for us. The harbour staff escorted us to a porta-cabin on the dock & said, "we have to take your names & addresses, but any address will do, just say you are all journalists"! They all quietly supported Dave's efforts & seemed to have a lot of respect for him. Dave, however, got a serious grilling from the D.O.T for not being licensed to take passengers & probably got fined

I recently heard that he'd been in trouble for fishing with the wrong size net, the authorities were threatening to impound his boat, can't help wondering if the stress of this contributed to his death

Rest in peace Dave, your legend lives on with all who knew you - Mike Craig (Watts)


I was thinking about Dave but to be honest I was out there when he wasnt involved, then went over to Laser while Dave was doing his bit for the Ross. A real shame I didn't get to know him, considering how close our paths were. But I do recall being in the Dolphin Hotel with Nigel, Glyn with Dave. He 'drank like a fish' thats for sure. And his sister Sue kept chasing me because she had a bit of a 'soft spot' for me after I broadcast her all time Top 5 on Radio Caroline, Bless her. I remember asking Dave whether she was on her way down to the pub that night, he'd often say 'no, you're safe tonight !' God bless him - Stuart Vincent


Dave the little fish aged 9

6. Dave the 'little' Fish (Sue Turner)

I was really pleased to read all the tributes to Dave the stories reminded me of him & his character. He most definitely did not have any time constraints at all. Once fishing he switched off from everything else & put his mind on exterminating bass or cod hence the long haul fishing /tendering trips & painstaking gutting that many DJs suffered. He didn't seem to care about the cold or the state of the sea, if anyone felt sick he thought it was genuinely funny. The family have had so many nice letters it's really good to know that Dave was so popular. Dave had been really depressed about the net incident & the prospect of selling his boat Sarah Louisa. Unfortunately it was the diabetes that got the better of him. Dave's heart had been failing for quite some time within the last 7 years, poor Dave we all really miss him - Sue (Turner) Picture of Dave above when he was just 9 on our dad's boat 'Siona' Dave was to buy the Siona later on & she became his first fishing vessel

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